Stafford Hockey & Cricket Club Set The Perfect Scene For Local Band The Taskers
Leah Hamer II July 26th
My night began with a healthy argument with Siri, who had led me from the train station to a fairly ordinary and particularly quiet estate in Stafford, clearly no-where near my destination. I engaged myself in that half-walk-half-run motion through unlit alleyways and winding roads until I spied a field of grass, some sporting equipment and heard the echoes of Don’t Call Me Ishmael.
Rushing into Stafford Hockey and Cricket Club I stumbled across a woman in a large mint-green princess gown, holding a fairy-wand, and my eyes wandered across the room to discover a witch, a pirate, some glitter, balloons, streamers, bunting and Gary Wilcox in cerulean, nylon, knight attire. I was in the right place.
On Saturday night, I was kindly invited to attend the launch of Wolf Party- the seventh album to be released by The Taskers. A home-grown album, recorded at DROMA HQ in Stafford and mixed and mastered at UTC Studios, it was no surprise that a homely and loving launch would be on the cards for its release. And so I entered a room filled with family, friends and fancy dress. The theme was Grimm’s Brother fairy-tales and although I left my tiara and wings at home, I was still questioned about what I had dressed up as (when I replied that this is how I normally dress, I was told I am ‘an imaginative dresser’. Make of that what you will).
A downsized version of Don’t Call Me Ishmael kicked off the night, with Gary dressed as King Thrushbeard, Matt Plant as Hansel, and joined by Huntsman Jack Tasker. Ukuleles, guitars and various other fancy stringed instruments were in the band’s arsenal for the evening, giving the audience an acoustic rendition of their simple and intelligent tracks like The Bugler and Weight of Responsibility as well as covers of Paul Simon and The Communards numbers. Sweaty and smiling, Gary has a wonderful wit and charisma upon the stage, as well as off. Melodic, sweet, and vibrant- Don’t Call Me Ishamael proved how successfully they can adapt without having their full line-up and how they transpose perfectly into any situation.
A hidden gem shuffled to the stage next, Matt Toner of Matt Topowski & The Wailing Synagogues. A quiet and peaceful performance in which Matt stepped into his own world and let us watch him unfold from the outside. His voice was comforting and warming for the audience and he left us all content, despite only playing two songs.
Nixon Tate & The Honey Club were the main support for the evening, all in black and minus the party-hats, they were as cool and efficient as always. Ignoring the hiccups with his acoustic guitar, and swiftly switching to another, Nixon breaks away from his usually reserved nature and cracks some jokes- which he then jokes about, before ushering us all into his control with his compelling voice. Dancehall Blues, Heady Redwood Days, and Drifter are all full of life and charm, yet it was the emotional Joyce that captured the hearts of the crowd, as it has done with me ever since I first heard it.
Finally it was time for the main-attraction, as the five members of The Taskers took to the stage, with cellos wearing party-hats, Barbie dolls inside the amps, a wolf mask nestled on the drum kit, and each member kitted out in their own interpretation of the theme- The Taskers welcomed us into their imaginations.
The first single from the album, The Wolf, opened their set, just as it opens Wolf Party, with the chilling combination of the violin and cello, paralleled to the intense drum beat and guitar, all wrapped up with the vocals of well, pretty much every member, it stands for everything that the band do. It is rare to see a band share the spotlight with one and other so happily, for there is no single frontman in this band. Everyone had their opportunity to shine and have their story revealed. Although Sophie and Jack Tasker are the original two members, there is no sense of a hierarchy or dull band politics in anyway, which is beautifully refreshing.
Jack Tasker caringly explains the origins of the tracks in the intervals, telling us the tale of Jack Rennie joining after producing Chemical War, their Japanese disco phase with Harajuku Nights, and how David Bowie’s passing inspired psychedelic number Girl Kissed A Boy. A truly touching moment of the evening came when violist, and latest edition to the band, Laura Ellement performed Misery & Me- a moving song of the heart, accompanied by the stunning harmonies of Sophie.
Throughout the evening, all five members were spiralling back and forth, in-between different instruments and different positions, welcoming guest singers and guest guitarists throughout in a chaotic rush. The stage was full of life and passion, which was matched perfectly by the audience, most of whom were ready to burst with pride. And they had plenty of reason to do so.
Wolf Party is available now from https://thetaskers.bandcamp.com/album/wolf-party