Walking in on him with his hand buried up to his wrist in his guitar body was quite bizarre, yet the pre-gig activities and soundchecking were as entertaining a warm up for the gig itself as any I’ve seen. While various dogs and local characters wandered in and out and with all sorts of offers of “I’ll go home and get me practice amp”, watching the set up of what looked a little like developing into a Heath Robinson style PA system was quite fascinating. The standard crack of ‘how many musicians does it take to amplify a guitar and voice’ plus the catchphrase of Reggie Perrin’s brother-in-law Jimmy and his ‘bit of a cock up on the catering/amplification front’ immediately sprung to mind.
Not to detract from the main attraction though, Will Varley is another outstanding young folk/acoustic artist who has produced a startling second album in ‘As The Crow Flies’ (appraised most highly in the Mudkiss September reviews) and despite a deserved reputation for his sardonic outlook in much of his material, is developing into a songwriter who has much more depth and much more to express at a different level. And he’s a jolly decent and unpretentious chap to boot.
With a small but most appreciative and attentive audience gathered cross legged round his feet like a well behaved infant class it was very up close and personal yet quite relaxed, and technical issues aside, more than well worth the wait. Playing a selection of songs from his two albums, he switched confidently between some of his more mirthful musings such as the marvellous ‘Self Checkout Song’ (taken at a slightly less frenetic pace that the recorded version to allow the audience to savour the humour) and ‘I Got This E-Mail’ which sat very effectively alongside his gentle love song ‘Until The Grass Gets Greener’ and his closely observed yet biting song of growing up, ‘King For A King’.
The topical lyrical content of the songs from his ‘Advert Soundtracks’ album, ‘They Wonder Why We Binge Drink’ and ‘Monkey On A Rock’ – introduced as ‘the Simon Cowell song’ –raised a few titters and the first of several mid song diversions as you’d expect from a Will Varley gig. As an encore request he ran through his first album’s ‘Sounds Of the Markets Crashing’ with its similarly titled resemblance to Dylan’s ‘Chimes Of Freedom’ (which incidentally also crashed in his vision of sheltering in a thunderstorm), and seemed genuinely touched by the warmth and appreciation shown by the evenings observers. While the rest of the year holds some support slots to the musical comic talent of Beans On Toast (google him) 2014 will hopefully see Will Varley getting the wider acclaim he deserves.
Review and photos by Mike Ainscoe