This image: Skinny Lister
Jordan Worland, from local music website Slate the Disco, selects his must-see gigs in Cambridge during December
If the pairing of Christmas and music fills you with dread thoughts of carols, Noddy Holder or Walking in the Air then relax – there are plenty of alternatives on offer on the Cambridge live music scene this month.
Christmas is a time for giving. It’s also a time for raising a few glasses, dancing like an idiot and letting your hair down. Beans on Toast arrives at the Cambridge Junction on the 1st and is guaranteed to kick off the festive season with generous lashings of all three, and then some. This tour will also act as the UK album tour for Beans on Toast’s ninth album, released slap bang in the middle of the tour on 1st December. He’ll be bringing a full live band with him, including fiddle, accordion and honky-tonk piano, playing a mix of brand new tunes from the forthcoming album and old classics from his huge back catalogue.
Beans’ birthday falls in December and for each year he gets older, a new album and nationwide tour arrive with it. This time he’ll be joined by Folk Festival faves Skinny Lister. Label mates, touring buddies and drinking companions, they make a perfect match. Both bands are hardworking, fun-loving, heavy touring acts that bring a unique and modern take on the age-old tradition of English folk music. For Skinny Lister, this tour will wrap up the worldwide campaign of their third and critically acclaimed album The Devil, The Heart & The Fight.
There is some ‘math-rock-pop’ on offer at The Blue Moon on the 2nd courtesy of FES. Describing themselves as, “Tubelord meets Biffy Clyro meets Regina Spektor”, we reckon it has to be worth a listen, especially with melodic punk outfit O’Holy Ghost also on the bill.
“Our top pick is the exceptional Sweet Baboo, at The Portland"
Lau, meanwhile, have made a huge mark in the last ten years. They’ve won Best Group four times at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, seamlessly blending the worlds of acoustic folk tradition and electronica, with members Kris Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourkeall individually gaining acclaim, too. Having released their first retrospective album earlier this year, they bring their hypnotic musicianship to the Junction on the 3rd.
Our top pick for December goes down on the 4th at The Portland Arms, when the exceptional Sweet Baboo returns to Cambridge. This summer saw Stephen Black (aka Sweet Baboo) release his sixth record Wild Imagination, an album designed as something of an antidote to our turbulent, sometimes dark times. The record is a bright, wry, melodically buoyant and sweetly melancholy tonic from the north Wales singer.
There is Celtic punk rock courtesy of Chicago’s Flatfoot 56 at The Portland on the 6th, then on the 10th there is Jordan Allen, an artist who is drawing comparisons with the blues-influenced indie of Jake Bugg.
Wooden Arms are a self-described ‘genre-fluid’ quintet from Norwich. Whether it is their classical, trip hop or alternative sounds that grab you, rest assured no one does melancholy better than this chamber pop outfit who released their sophomore record in October. They play The Portland on the 13th. At the same venue on the 14th, punk legends UK Subs make their yearly appearance, and then Cambridge’s mightiest classic rock outfit The Treatment return for an end-of-year knees-up on the 18th.
Our final tip this month is back at The Blue Moon on the 14th when Dean McPhee will appear, alongside Sam McLoughlin, David Chatton-Barker and Rachel Watkins. Dean McPhee is a solo electric guitarist who combines fluid, chiming melodic lines with shimmering drones and layers of decaying delay and echo. He has a unique style of playing which draws together influences from British folk, dub, kosmische and Mali blues – his music is hypnotic with a deep sense of space.