Stepping through the kitchen and down a set of stairs brought me to the warm basement of Beachland Tavern to meet The Melodic.
Their show on Aug. 31 was both quirky and intimate, catered to a small hovering cloud of people near the front of the stage.
The Melodic usually consists of five members, but on this night they performed without their drummer, instead doing a charmingly acoustic set. “We’re meeting up with him in New York and doing the rest of the show,” noted singer/guitarist Huw Williams.
Williams and bassist John Naldrett played the only two conventional instruments in the show. Band member Lydia Samuels assisted with singing, and also played the autoharp and melodica (melodicas are basically a keyboard with a tube sticking out of one end that you blow into). Rudi Schmidt also played a second melodica in a few quirky duels, but primarily plucked at a charango.
The tiny armadillo-shaped stringed instrument was fascinating and added a childlike flare to The Melodic’s sound. “A lot of the style I play on it is influenced by Andean music, and also South African,” said Schmidt.
With all their different instruments, it could only be expected that The Melodic’s sound would be just as varied.
These South London natives have been touring in the United States for a while now. “We’re releasing the album at the start of November, and so we’re touring the U.S. until that’s released,” said Williams.
Effra Parade will be the first album The Melodic has created. Other than that, their EP, “On My Way” is available online.
The concert itself started late because of no-show opener Nick Zuber. Second opener Rebekah Jean took the stage with her calm, folky country sounds. All of her songs were slightly depressing, and at one point she even seemed surprised that the crowd responded to her music at all.
“Ya’ll are bein’ so nice for such sad songs,” admitted Jean.
Her music was nice and the simple show was relaxing.
But it was just that: a simple show. Jean had musical talent for sure, and her crooning notes floated above the audience, bringing back memories of young heartbreak and sunny days.
However, her music never formed any interest that made you wonder how she did it. No crazy melodies, no complex lyrics, no off-the-wall dancing… nothing. It was a girl with a guitar playing simple songs to listen to while you’re having a conversation with someone else.
Then, The Melodic took the stage with “Hold On.” The music meshed well and never felt like it was missing anything (which is kind of interesting, considering they were actually missing their drummer).
Samuels, Williams and Schmidt all played together at the front of the stage, bobbing up and down with each other and communicating through their music. Oddly enough, Naldrett stayed in the back behind the stage lights, looming like some dark bass-playing ghost. He didn’t interact with the audience once throughout the show.
Later, they played an Irish-jig-like melody and it was during this song that I started to hear drum beats. I looked all around the Beachland Tavern and saw a man at the bar holding a djembe between his legs, quietly tapping at it with his fingers. Later, the band welcomed Chester, random audience djembist, to the stage to play their final song, “Piece Me Back Together.”
Of course, the night the band doesn’t have a drummer to perform with, there was a man with a djembe. How convenient!
Though The Melodic primarily played folk, Latin and roots music at this show, they reminisced about different kinds of music and venues.
Samuels talked about an experience the band had in Los Angeles. “We went and played a show in a punk club in L.A., and we were a bit apprehensive because obviously we’re a folk band and we thought these punks wouldn’t be interested at all,” she said. “They started getting a bit into what we were playing… and they turned out to be the most receptive audience we had in L.A.
“We started playing a song called ‘Piece Me Back Together,’ which is a love song. About four couples started kissing, winding and grinding. It was pretty sexy, kinda X-rated,” said Samuels. “So after that, we realized that maybe the fan base we should be aiming towards is more punks rather than folk lovers.”
Despite their experience with the song “Piece Me Back Together” in Los Angeles, the performance of it at Beachland Tavern instead led to some modest hand-holding and swaying to the melody.
It seems like The Melodic’s experience in the United States has been full of variety, as shown through the starkly different encounters with their love songs. Regardless, it’s been a nice change of pace for the band. “Promoters are a bit dismissive in the U.K. They just don’t really give a fuck,” said Schmidt. “In America, it’s different. It’s like very supportive, which is very nice.”
Williams agreed. “They just look after you and show you some respect.”