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After many, many years of attending gigs around Manchester, I eventually find myself within the hallowed surroundings of The Castle for the first time.  As a pub alone, more than well worth the visit, a fine selection of beers available in traditional Northern Quarter hostelry surroundings. Why I’ve never frequented before is frankly ridiculous, the amount of great bands / artists who’ve played this venue over the years, The Castle quite simply an alternative folk hub of the city.  But, here at last and after admonishing myself with a pint of Iron Maiden ‘Trooper’ ale in hand, I walk a couple of metres down the hall and enter the intimate confines of the band room.  

Unfortunately as Jonny Breakwell takes the stage, just a smattering of people are present to witness a good set of solo, picked acoustic  folk based songs. Breakwell’s main attribute a strong vocal, with a slight quaver on occasion reminiscent a male Liz Green, without the inert quirkiness.  Just finishing his last year at University, Breakwell reflects on where life may take him before heading back to Winchester, hopefully music and more gigs he suggests.  His art however a tough one, the solo performer guitar in hand, frequented by many and while an endearing performance, at this stage not quite enough to stand out from a heavily populated crowd.


As Fitz enter, a swell of people also follow. I’ve heard excellent things about the Birmingham quartet, although tonight I really can’t make a connection with band or their music. Perhaps an unfamiliarity with the material and six hours in a car playing metal affected my senses, I found Fitz disjointed, the frequent change in tempo and volume admirable, but stronger melodies required to draw me in. Matters not helped on occasion as stage conversation and re-tunings became elongated and the general vocal buzz around the assembled, suggested not just my attention lost. There’s no question over the musical ability and Sam Fitzpatrick also possesses a fine voice, but Fitz really passed me by tonight.

Over the last year, Feldspar has become a stand out outfit within the Nu / Alternative folk genre.  While comparisons to Mumford and Sons arise (primarily due to “Let The Time Run” from ‘The Flat and the Paper Sky Vol 1’ EP I’d suggest) for me, Feldspar have far more depth and edge musically, equally at home with swirling psychedelic inflections as strong acoustic chord structure. Opening with “The Flat and the Paper Sky” the sumptuous harmonies of Will, Ben and Woody truly envelope the room and crowd, drawing everyone’s focus immediately to the stage before switching tack to the sturdier timbre of “Lady Danger.” Feldspar also providing between song entertainments, a self-depreciating sharp wit emanates particularly within the stage banter of Will and Ben. References made to our presence being due a lack of opportunity for Beyonce tickets at the M.E.N, although this far from the truth, the audience far more ingratiated by music with profundity, rather than over produced shallow chart fodder.  That said, a brief mash-up of “Bootylicious” within the evenings highlight “Bright Blue Eyes” applauded rapturously, although the true focus of the song, Will’s emotive, yet controlled vocal, plus the gorgeous tone and playing of James Foster’s lead guitar, facial expressions suggesting every note truly felt . 


The majority of tonight’s set taken from both “Flat and the Paper Sky” EP’s, both available on a pay what you wish basis over at Bandcamp, although new material also making an appearance, hopefully some will feature on a further recording later in the year.  “Song without a Chorus,” having definite suggestions of darker aspects arising.

As a style of music becomes more familiar over the years, it can be so easy to overlook those entering within the later stages.  We shouldn’t allow this scenario to arise with Feldspar, they really are worthy far more attention.

Review by Andy Barnes