7th September | Exchange

After a two-month wait, Nicholson Heal’s album (re-)launch was finally here. The first attempt ended in a disastrous power cut, which meant they couldn’t perform. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Nicholson Heal were back and ready to perform a mesmerising calypso-stained set. The stage was lit with fairy lights along with abundant tropical plants by the monitors – a sweet set-up that was inviting and reminiscent of living in student halls (minus the damp).

First support, Flat Rufus, greeted us with angsty grunge tunes, an impressive set-up of lead guitar, rhythm guitar and a drum machine that was propped on two bar stools. A DIY-kinda feel that packed a massive punch was filled with dark riffs, elements of punk and abrupt endings which left us wanting more.

The folksy Swallow Cave then entered the stage; their set was filled with jangly western-style riffs and dreamy vocals. They also did a pretty mean cover of ‘I’m Glad’ by Captain Beefheart. If you’re a fan of folk and straight-up rock and roll, these guys are definitely worth a listen.

When he’s not kicking ass with Human Bones or The Gnarwhals, Jamie Cruickshank is serenading us with stunning folk songs. Switching between his banjo and guitar, Jamie performed a medley of cosy tunes such as ‘New Shoes’ and the sombre ‘Loserville’. His knack for writing is beautiful. I’ve been to my fair share of Breakfast Records gigs and they’re always a great laugh. You usually get friends heckling and, in this case, Jamie Cruickshank’s dad taking pictures.

After their prolonged postponement, it’s fair to say that Nicholson Heal were very much ready for their much-anticipated album launch. George Cusworth on trumpet was first on stage; a low humming intro echoed throughout the room. A quavering trumpet riff played over this and the atmosphere built, as did excitement. The rest of the band then joined on stage and the audience let out a cheer that had been held in for too long. The band performed a rendition of ‘Fingerprints Of A Confident Man’, a tune from their almost-new album Big Jupe. With a brass intro and a lullaby backdrop of synth and alto sax, Nicholson Heal’s lead vocals were soothing and sweet.

Literally plunging into the next tune, ‘Diving Bell’, there was no time for applause. A poppy lead riff was then joined by an overlapping tropical riff. It felt as though we were on the ocean’s floor. Intertwining big band elements via trumpet and trombone added a whole new layer to this oceanic endeavour. “This is nice,” frontman Nicholson announced before performing the frantic-riffed ‘Homespun Shotgun’, a number with great breakdowns, frenzied rhythm and fat horn sections.

The nostalgic ‘Worse Things’ was a cool side-to-side sway number, cemented with a colourful middle section, reminiscent of a hectic jam session. Nicholson retold an anecdote about the album and how it took its name ‘Big Jupe’. After being under anaesthetic for an appendix operation, he had turned to the nurse and uttered the words ‘big jupe’ clumsily. “We want to operate on you!” came the response from the irreverent crowd.

The night ended with ‘Lost At Sea’, a dancey and melodic number which was buoyant and classically Nicholson Heal – massive brass sections, tropical riffs, playful lyricism all topped off with a deafening jam. An overdue gig for sure, but memorable.