Mike Scott – The Freebutt, Brighton

By paul

Support: Lester Allen // eLad

What happens when you decide to take a break from the brute noise of hardcore punk in favour of the more sociable musings of acoustic music? For Mike Scott, tonight the answer seems to revolve around playing to a handful of people who may not quite have expected what he has to offer.

Opener eLad brandishes his influences ten feet high for all to see. Playing two Johnny Cash classics, the Lutonian singer/songwriter is obviously partial to a little bit of the Man in Black, a move that initially works well. Unfortunately, a mid set out-of-tune guitar manages to halt any momentum and the rest of the set crawls to its finish.

Lester Allen starts out like Bob Dylan, mouth organ and all, but quickly develops into something a little more home grown. It?s slow paced folk that has potential and is well received by the partisan Luton gathering. In ?Good Old Luton Town? Allen has a gem of a song (?gangster stabbing/mobile jacking/youth binge drinking?) that may be tongue-in-cheek but certainly seems spot-on.

Since his appearance in Luton six months ago Mike Scott has put out a new E.P. (?At The Slaughterhouse) by way of the increasingly popular medium of free download; received national radio exposure; played shows with the likes of Sundowner, The King Blues and Mike Park; and in general looks to be paying closer attention to this whole acoustic solo thing. Hunched on a low stool, tonight Scott plays to a dozen, mostly quiet and respectful pub dwellers, a far cry from the slam dancing, windmill filled pits of his time with UK underground punk veterans, Phinius Gage.

It?s his punk background that sets Scott apart tonight. Whereas the undercard has been all gentle strings and chirpy content, the South Londoner is aggressive, curt and raw. He plays with the weight of the world is on his shoulders, merging a bleak opinion of today?s political climate with a seasoned sense of delivery. It?s a mixture of snarling attitude and burdened intensity that?s highlighted in a cover of Propagandhi?s ?Haillie Sellasse, Up Your Ass?, the ?Fuck Religion? chorus of which seems to surprise a few of those in attendance.

Songs like ?Sweatshops and Slaughterhouses? and ?The Provocation Song? are performed with a deliberate sense of impact, well honed from a lengthy time on the touring circuit. Even the intrusion of what can be politely referred to as some ?loud/ manners-lite? patrons doesn?t faze Scott (I guess it?s the plight of any pub-playing acoustician), who professionally carries on in a manner that the younger performers tonight should take heed of.

Packed it may not have been, but tonight?s show proves that the acoustic scene out there isn?t just about forlorn love ditties by fashion-conscious players. The scene can still be political, and it can still make a difference. In essence, this is socially-aware acoustic punk rock and it?s great to hear.

Reviewed by: Alex Hambleton