Joel RL Phelps and the Downer Trio, David Sanders

The Tin Music and Arts, Coventry

15th September 2014

Following the release of the excellent Gala album, Joel RL Phelps and the Downer Trio embarked on their first European Tour. Louder Than War’s Adrian Bloxham caught up with them in Coventry.

The Tin Music and Arts is a venue that is almost hidden, it’s tucked into the side of Coventry’s Canal Basin so you find yourself walking around truncated areas of water and silent barges to get there. Inside its curved ceilings are low and bricked. A warm friendly venue. Tonight decked out with tables and candles in anticipation of Joel Phelps and his band.

First on is David Sanders, he and percussionist Marc take the stage from the table just in front of it. Marc plays drums with his hands on a wooden box that sounds like a drum kit. David introduced himself and plays guitar. It’s gentle and soft folk music; they are slow building torch songs, sad and lonely. He jokes about a Dylan cover being obligatory for acoustic sets and his is heartfelt and loud. For the most part the music is maudlin and sad with the odd moment of strummed noise, it’s a good set and I will look out for him again.

Joel RL Phelps sits on a small, black wooden table and sings up to the microphone. He is slight, wearing a hoodie and jeans and is utterly absorbed in the music he is making. William is a solid presence behind the drum kit, playing either with brushes or sticks depending on the song, he keeps it all going, Robert, possibly the tallest man in the room, stands and plays the bass, all of them intense and all fitting together perfectly.

The first song is long, slow and dark. The darkness seeps into the set, captivating you and making you feel the wildness just under the surface. It feels like music you would listen to on a cold winter’s night as you are running out of Rum and cigarettes. It feels like the noise is one step away from breaking out completely but the band are holding it in check through sheer willpower.

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