The Trades Club in the little West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge is a cracking venue that artists and fans alike just love. Only last night Laura Marling played her new material here live for the first time (we’re not allowed to talk about that, though, sorry). When the club’s promotions manager Mal Campbell asked why they were chosen above all others, Marling said she’d heard so much about the place from so many performers that she just had to come.
Marling joins an ever-expanding list of big-time artists and breakthrough bands that have graced the Trades’ stage. January 22nd-25th saw a raft of acts converge on the town to celebrate London-based label Heavenly Recordings’ 25th year and 300th single release. The place was packed out, day and night, for matinee and evening shows from the label’s roster.
The Wytches whipped up a charged surf-psyche racket, The Voyeurs channelled distorted Velvet Underground intent, and Mark Lanegan was a dark, vampiric presence croaking through an enigmatic set. Hooton Tennis Club smashed out some urgent stuff, Jimi Goodwin overcame some technical glitches and gave a good account, and Cherry Ghost lifted a grey Pennine afternoon into a worldly-wise, heart-warming get-together.
Extra-curricular activities included sets from Pete Wiggs and the Heavenly Jukebox DJs plus screenings of How We Used To Live and Lawrence Of Belgravia, followed by a Q&A with directors Paul Kelly and Bob Stanley. All up, it was a fittingly eclectic Heavenly knees-up. When the dust settled Campbell said, ‘‘I just love the whole ethos of Heavenly – they’re music lovers, above everything else. I could quite happily sit and talk about great records with Jeff [Barrett, label founder] for hours.”
The standout set of the four-day bonanza was by the aforementioned Cherry Ghost – a Sunday special session for an eager crowd. One couple at the bar had even travelled over from Holland, specially. The group dispelled the daytime dampness of the matinee slot by connecting with the venue’s intimacy and beautiful lighting to create warm, magnetic alchemy. Stained glass colours gave the Trades a midnight mass stillness, with singer Simon Aldred captivating in language that further moved the crowd into his poetic realm: “And piss all the promise away, my God betrays,” he crooned with baritone bitterness. Aldred’s idiomatic phrasing and playful lyricism was nothing short of compelling throughout.
At times, an acoustic delicacy combined with the bigger band sound to create climactic resonance, with organ, drums and piano swelling proceedings from softness to sublime, soaring jams. Aldred charmed the crowd and pulled, perhaps unknowingly given his modest presence, some unmistakeably Johnny Cash postures and shoulder bounces, aiming his guitar across the stage towards his entourage. It all slipped down like the amber nectar lubricating the capacity crowd, and the band finished on an obvious favourite – the Heavenly hit ‘People Help the People’.
Campbell gets the final words: “It was great to drop something ambitious and uplifting into the gloomiest time of year. The reaction has been quite overwhelming – from the bands, the label, the gig-goers. I really couldn’t have wished for more.”
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Words: Nick Rice
Photos: Neil Thomson