Coming from the roots of a self-starting band, experimental folk-rockers Sweet Billy Pilgrim didn’t begin recording in studios until third album Crown and Treaty in 2012, with everything preceding that famously recorded in a garden shed, including 2009 Mercury Prize-nominated sophomore album Twice Born Men. And it is that struggle to get themselves out there and heard with really limited resources that lends itself to their quirky and local-band feel.
With fourth album Motorcade Amnesiacs due out in May, the four-piece – expanded to six on stage – hit East London’s Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen to preview their forthcoming release. Stating from the outset that the band would be playing new material which may go wrong and joking that he’d likely trip over things on stage and set things on fire, front man Tim Elsenburg gave a shout out to some of his students from the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, where he teaches song-writing, before launching into new album track Make It So.
Amnesiacs track Slingshot Grin was next before Elsenburg looked out to the crowd, shielding his eyes from the stage lights and asked if Victoria was out in the audience. Once he’d shared a wave with her, he explained to the crowd “I’m just trying to identify people I know from the Internet”. He then asked if Isabel was there; “She’s travelled all the way from the planet of Spain” he told of the somewhat embarrassed girl stood in front of the stage. New track Tyrekickers was dedicated to Isabel by Elsenburg as he handed over lead vocal duties to the band’s American singer and multi-instrumentalist Jana Carpenter.
Crown and Treaty track Joyful Reunion was next, prompting engagement from the crowd to a known favourite, followed by Twice Born Men track Future Perfect Tense. The song ended with what Elsenburg jokingly referred to a “Queen salute”, which he suggested all future Sweet Billy Pilgrim audiences would perform upon closing of the track. This prompted calls from the crowd for a repeat performance, which the band obliged to by repeating the last few lines of the song and, of course, the salute.
Drummer Alistair Hamer quipped that the band weren’t used to playing gigs so they hadn’t produced a setlist, and while the show clearly didn’t flow perfectly smoothly, with one of the band’s on stage laptops crashing, the band were fully aware of the order of material sans running order and were perfectly tight in their delivery. “To all the lovers in the house, you’re at the wrong f***ing gig” the bespectacled front man jested inducing laughter from the East London crowd.
The main set closed with the first single to be taken from Motorcade Amnesiacs, Coloma Blues, of which Elsenburg and Carpenter argued over the true title. The frontman then suggested that the song would encourage mosh pits at Sweet Billy Pilgrim gigs in the future. Crown and Treaty song Kracklite closed the night with the frontman making a call for the band to stay on the stage in-between main set and encore.
Elsenburg is a clear extrovert, seemingly gaining as much from conversational engagement with his audience as from sharing new material resulting in an entertaining show. And while Carpenter isn’t quite as vocal between songs, her quivering bluesy voice compliments the overall sound resulting in an engaging forum for storytelling.
Photograph and Words by Kalpesh Patel. Sweet Billy Pilgrim @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on 14/04/2015.
and the whole shoot here on RockShot: http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/Sweet-Billy-Pilgrim/G0000ifpAnYnKAbM