Digbeth’s Boxxed venue was adorned with the finest psychedelic, Triassic and yuletide decorations for another Sensataria event on Saturday. A diverse crowd combined people reliving past glories of the psychedelic age and a younger demographic trading on borrowed nostalgia.
Through a dense fog of machine-made smoke appeared Table Scraps. A lo-fi duo, their sound is like if The Black Keys had been raised on Midlands metal and garage rock instead of North Mississippi drone and Junior Kimbrough. Theirs is a sonic onslaught much more powerful than their diminutive personnel register would suggest. More metal than psychedelic, the two of them against the intense red lighting on the stage and the demonic reindeer at the back was a dark and horror-movie-cult image to behold. Scott Vincent Abbott takes on wailing duties three times over – multi-octave guitar wailing up at the tight end of the fretboard, wailing into a microphone for the distorted and lo-fi vocals and, somehow, managing to wail with a Theremin all at the same time. It’s impressive and it sounds huge.
There are slight times where the limitations of a two-piece mean that, while Abbott’s bashing away at the strings and Poppy Twist’s drums are holding down the rhythm, the low-end groove is lost. These instances are few and far between, however, and part of Table Scraps charm is their unflinching determination in the face of apparent adversities. They played on through technical problems with both the guitar and drums to deliver a powerful, energetic set that fitted the setting perfectly.
If the rhythm section is the engine of a band, then The Pretty Things are a reliable classic British car with shiny new guts inside. That’s a poorly informed way of saying they have a drummer and bassist noticeably younger than the rest of the group, but the veteran members do well to keep up with their more youthful colleagues.
A lot of musicians from their era have lost their chops – even Eric “God” Clapton has outsourced a lot of his lead work to Doyle Bramhall II for his live shows over the past decade or so – but guitarist Dick Taylor of The Pretty Things plays just as well as he ever did. A no-nonsense lead player, Taylor has his head down, getting the job done, peeking occasionally over the upper rim of his glasses.
Their set was, typical for a band from their scene, a mixture of classic sixties rhythm & blues as well as forays into psychedelic rock. In between songs like ‘Pretty Thing’ (the Willie Dixon song from which they took their name) and Bo Diddley’s ‘Road Runner’, they introduce newer material, which is surprisingly enjoyable. Usually, a band at the same stage as The Pretty Things are recording new stuff to capitalise on having the only audience demographic that still pays for music, but these guys have done something different, yet in keeping with their sound. It really works and doesn’t mark a low point in the set at all.
They couldn’t have paired a better band with the theme of the night, and the band themselves couldn’t have done a better job. Closing their main set with psych classic ‘L.S.D.’, The Pretty Things took the audience through their entire history and showed themselves to be just as tight and professional as ever they were.