Live Review: Seafret - Thekla, Bristol 05/03/2019
On Tuesday March 5th, Bridlington music duo Seafret played a show at Bristol’s Thekla, one of many sold out nights on their European tour, with support from Rosborough.
When I first saw Thekla, in spitting rain and in the pitch black, I genuinely had to look twice, as what I first saw didn’t immediately register or make sense. But no, I was right. Thekla’s a boat! The music venue and popular club in Bristol is a boat. A boat that, interestingly enough, isn’t bolted down. Talking to some of the people who worked there on the way out, you can quite prominently feel the venue move when it gets particularly lively! Hearing this, all I could think was what better venue could there have been for a band called Seafret? A band known for their swaying acoustic melodies and beautiful imagery, quite literally based around the ocean. In fact, their two arguably biggest songs are ‘Oceans’ and ‘Atlantis’, respectively, both very nautical themes. It seemed perfect.
From the get go, climbing onto the boat, I knew this gig was going to be something else.
Fast forward a bit, past descending into the bowels of the boat early to get a good view for the bands, and a stream of catchy and recognisable indie tunes — some of which, infuriatingly, I couldn’t place — and Rosborough came on. Rosborough, from Derry in Ireland, is something else. His live shows contain a ferocious energy, whether it’s his acoustic cover of Daniel Johnston’s ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’, the slow, foreboding ‘Burn Blue’ (a song about a dying star), his energetic opener ‘Fall To Earth’ or the climactic ‘Another Lesson’, about a house party that went ‘terribly, terribly wrong’. More than this though, he came across as endearingly humble at being given this opportunity, supporting Seafret for all their sold out shows, cracking jokes and constantly smiling. ‘I’m from a small town called Derry’ he jokes before ‘Made Of Gold’. ‘It’s main export is people’. At times I wasn’t sure whether to sway and smile or to bang my head, thanks to the welcome addition of a drummer, and often in the same song. ‘Made Of Gold’ also came with a very relatable backstory, about being unsure whether to leave your hometown to pursue your dreams. I think I can speak for everyone who’s heard him live or on record when I say he made the right decision.
My personal favourite track of his set, though, was the un-stripped back version of ‘In The Moment’. It starts slowly, building towards a climactic and almost violent chorus, and when it ended the audience seemed a little stunned. I can’t wait to hear the studio version.
Having seen him in 2017, opening the second stage at Finsbury Park’s ‘Community Festival’, I knew a little of what to expect. My main memory was of his set being the highlight of the day for me, outside the headliner Catfish and the Bottlemen. As such, I’d gotten ridiculously excited to see him again, now actually know his songs (as at Community he had yet to release anything, that I’d found anyway). Safe to say he lived up to my own pre-built hype and then some.
After were the main band, Seafret. I don’t know what to say about Jack and Harry that I haven’t said before. Their music on record is atmospheric, haunting, catchy, and altogether brilliant. Live, it’s all that and more. The little imperfections that can’t be edited out end up adding to the power and the rawness of Jack’s voice and result in a set unlike any other. This was the fifth time seeing the two and, as always, I came away buzzing.
Throughout the show, the main thing I could think was how comfortable the pair looked, coming out on stage to raucous applause before breaking into Beauty on the Breeze and immediately following it up with ‘Atlantis’, accompanied by some jubilant screaming from the crowd, which always ends up, to me at least, as one of their best performances of the night.
This comfort comes across with the ease in which they talk to us. ‘We’re sharing a van this time’, Jack says. ‘It has a tv! No aerial, but it has one of those no signal signs that bounces around’ before laughing almost nervously. Even though he’s joking you can tell the two are chuffed with the reactions, both to their camaraderie and their music. After, they break into ‘Skimming Stones’ and one of their earliest releases, ‘Explosion’, from the Give Me Something EP. ‘Explosion’, if you haven’t heard it, is a brilliant track. It opens slowly, with some understated guitar and some drums under Jack’s voice, before breaking into a passionate, almost angry outburst, his voice echoing into the silence created by the suddenly stopped instrumentals. It’s just as good live!
After, the band take a minute to collect themselves, with Harry moving to Piano for their 2018 single ‘Can’t Look Away’, another personal favourite track of mine. The contrast between Jack’s raspy and unique vocals and the gentle chords on the piano created a feeling of true intimacy, playing to a silent crowd, scared of breaking the illusion.
Then comes another older one, ‘Give Me Something’, with Harry back on the guitar. Like ‘Explosion’, the song starts slowly before almost tantalisingly ramping up the sound, building to a truly mesmerising ending.
After, Jack takes another moment to interact with the crowd, telling us how the got together as a band. About Harry: ‘when I met him he was 16, he was tiny, so cute. He was playing a banjo in an open mic night at a pub. I thought ‘who’s that freaky looking kid there?’ Then his Dad asked me to play a song with him and that’s how we started’. Cue a chorus of “Awws!” Good thing they found each other, else we wouldn’t have been having such a magical night.
Then, they broke into fan-favourite ‘Wildfire’, a beautiful song about love and how it can ignore any borders in life: how it just happens, with the crowd singing every word, and ‘Breathe’, another genuinely lovely track about love. The two went perfectly hand-in-hand.
After was another stripped back moment, with Harry going back to the Piano for ‘Missing’. This version, over the gentle piano, came across as particularly loud, particularly raspy and particularly emotional. The most powerful version I’ve heard from the two, and it was stunning. In particular, the wordless melody after the chorus, before breaking into ‘’Cause I feel it’, was devastatingly haunting. It was incredible.
At this point, Jack felt he needed to clarify something. ‘I know the songs are quite sad but I’m happy! I don’t want you guys going away worrying about me!’ He says, nervously chuckling. The two come across as genuinely nice guys.
They then broke into two recent releases, ‘Heartless’ and ‘Blank You Out’. Both were brilliant, and were both well received, something I’m sure is a worry when playing newer music.
After was the title track of their debut album, ‘Tell Me It’s Real’, a lovely acoustic track — until near the end, at which point it explodes. The track, to me, is one of the most lyrically beautiful songs they’ve produced and I never tire of hearing it.
Then came the breakthrough hit, ‘Oceans’, with gasps coming from the crowd. The track seemed especially poignant given we were currently floating on top of a body of water. The real moment of joy came after though, with the reveal that the two have ‘started recording our second album which is going to be out this year!’
Now the two were onto their final songs, ‘Be There’, another builder with a climactic finish, and recent single ‘Loving You’, with Harry back on Piano, before telling us they were finished. Which obviously they weren’t, but it’s almost an obligation at shows nowadays to have the fake ending, or at least to joke about it.
But when they came back on, they were joined by their friend Aaron on drums, breaking into my personal favourite from the Monsters EP, ‘Bad Blood’, and ending on the dark and at times discordant ‘Monsters’, the title track of their most recent EP. This rapped the two sets up — with Seafret playing seventeen songs in around an hour!
I waited behind after to meet both artists as I had some time to kill before the coach back to Exeter. All three guys were genuinely lovely, with Hutchy, who by all accounts ran the tour, even giving me a signed poster for free having spent a good ten minutes chatting to him about the different gigs I’ve seen them at.
All together it was a brilliant night, with both acts 100% being worth seeing again — but the highlight to me was still the boat!
Words by James O’Sullivan