Recreating their studio sound live proves to be a tall order for Tall Ships
"It is the still, small voice that the soul heeds, not the deafening blasts of doom" - William Dean Howells. It's this quote by the American author that came to mind after going to see Tall Ships at the Oobleck, Birmingham. Usually, it's a great experience seeing an up and coming band at a small venue. That's the initial thought I had when buying tickets for Tall Ships who released their debut album Everything Touching in late 2010. Formed in the small seaside town of Falmouth, Tall Ships combine playful melodies and catchy guitar riffs with good use of live instruments and sequencers. Everything Touching is a well produced, fun album (read my review here) and this, combined with a good radio presence, lays the foundations for what could be a bright future for the young trio. The Oobleck in Birmingham is your typical small venue, stage at the front, bar at the back. Doors open at 7pm and the support band are on stage. You can hear the bass booming through the wall of the adjacent pub and I decide to take a look. Sound quality can sometimes be hit and miss at small venues and for the support band it's very much in the 'miss' category. Miking up amps you practice with in your bedroom and then cranking them up to eleven is not the way to make new friends. I quickly step outside and decide to wait for them to finish. With any luck, Tall Ships will be on next and the sound will improve. An hour later the support band finish. And then another unknown band come on stage. I’m hoping for something different this time but it's more of the same. The walls, floor and windows are shaking and after ten minutes it's just too much to bear. I retreat outside where the bass is leaving ripples on the water feature opposite. It gets to 9pm and surely Tall Ships are on next. Alas, no, there's another ear-bleedingly loud support act bashing their instruments to death at a volume so loud I'm worried I might never hear again. It's 10:30pm. Tall Ships make their appearance. Three and a half hours since the doors opened, a ridiculous amount of time to wait for a band who have only released a couple of EPs and one album. I'm hoping the sound guy will be Tall Ships' own, someone who at least knows what levels the band and each of their instruments should be at. Unfortunately, I'm wrong and The Oobleck's sound guy, who must have a side job selling earplugs, is still there. I stand at the back of the venue, rolled up toilet tissue in my ears, trying to stop the volume inducing a heart attack. When vocalist Ric Phethean urges the small crowd to gather round the stage so he can see everybody, it's my cue to leave. I didn't want to get any closer to the speakers than I had to. After three hours of waiting, Tall Ships had delayed and disappointed. There was no effort here to uphold any of the production of their only album, or to provide a good live experience for those who turned up to see them. Disappointing, but this band are still one to listen out for. Just from a distance.