Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Sand Creek Massacre @ Brixton Telegraph, London

29 May 2005

Desolate, haunting, beautiful – perhaps not the description you’d expect of a band named after a horrific American Indian bloodbath in 1864. Indeed, The Sand Creek Massacre, a five-piece who hail from Reading (home of Morning Runner, The Cooper Temple Clause and The Race) seem to only touch on aggression on some of their heavier tracks, otherwise it’s nocturnal alt rock all the way, with even a touch of alt-country thanks to their frequent use of the slide guitar.

Having played at Water Rats the week before, the band continue their London stint at the Telegraph in Brixton, a venue tucked away and far from the tube stop but is nevertheless legendary for staging The Clash‘s first ever gig. Basement Jaxx also recently played there. But now it’s The Sand Creek Massacre’s turn, who, under the dim red lights, look every bit a rock ‘n’ roll band with large barnets and tight jeans. Especially when bassist Mark Turner’s hair flies dramatically like Marilyn Monroe’s dress over a floor fan left on the stage.

Kicking off with the instrumental, Handgun, the lads ease their captive audience into their nocturnal world of shimmering guitars and plaintive though rocky melodies, frontman Matt Cowen on keyboard duties at the back. Cowen then steps into the fray with second song Love Will Take You Away, rasping out his distinctive high voice that some liken to Feargal Sharkey, though it’s more of a saccharine and breezy Neil Young. You either love it or hate it, but whatever you think, Cowen has all eyes locking on him when he belts out those lyrics – eyes closed and tenderly holding the mic stand.

Their piece de resistance is undoubtedly Feeling It Once Again, a song that is so hauntingly delicate yet boldly life-affirming that you’re left semi-stunned when they finish, not sure how to feel at all, but certainly wanting to experience it once again. The band add a shade of alt-country when guitarist Tom Hastings plays a languid slide guitar on following three tracks, Lonesome St (a new song), World Revolves and Future Diamonds (another new song).

Ending with their most aggressive song, Won’t Let Us Down, a long brooding block of keyboard, bolshy drumming and pissed off guitars underpin Cowen’s gently snarling vocals singing: “I never liked you anyway”. Well Sand Creek, we like you. We like you a lot. Catch this band if you can. And remember, you read about them here first.

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The Sand Creek Massacre @ Brixton Telegraph, London