The Boiler Room upped the ante on its previous gig by booking Clemencie and support act Charley Westing for a powerful sold out show.I entered with Wareham-based Westing in full flow as he belted out his acoustic rock at the top of his lungs with a playing style that could leave you with ‘blisters on your fingers’. Furious and quite dark material with a political edge emanated in tracks such as There’s Blood and Good Men Don’t Need Kings.
Ridiculously young and precocious, his sound was reminiscent of early Radiohead and, in the cluttered vocals style, The Smiths. That doesn’t quite cover it, because there was also a folk and a progressive element. He wasn’t afraid to meander around the fretboard a bit and improvise. Oh yes, and his strident demeanour somehow reminded me of Billie Joe from Green Day. There were a few covers too, from the Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer to the finale, Twist and Shout, by that Liverpudlian band I referenced earlier.
The bar was already set quite high, but Clemencie was in no danger of being outshone – by anyone. As they lacked their bassist for the evening, we didn’t get them at full power, but it was more than enough. A few tracks were performed acoustically, but then they brought in the keyboard and drum-kit and it became epic.
Clemencie, by all accounts, are a fairly accomplished indie power-pop band based in Bristol, with their lead singer and cofounder Grace Bland hailing (I think) from Poole. Bland had seemingly popped home for the birthday of her mum, who was in the crowd. Clemencie have toured the country, played on a side-stage at Glastonbury Festival, and recorded one single, Formal Wear, which has done quite well on Spotify. I can confidently predict now – they will be stars. They’ve got the talent, and also the cool factor.
Back in the small room in Dorset, their performance really reached 11 when the full band (minus bassist) played Forgive Me. The chorus would not have seemed out of place in the titles of a Bond movie, Bland’s impressive vocal range almost reaching Shirley Bassey or Tina Turner territory. I’m a layman, so don’t quote me on that – the point is it was a bit good. Bland, without an instrument, danced elegantly as the emotion poured out of her. This was a real show, done on a small scale, with nothing held back. I Like Boys was another memorable highlight, where a lesbian infatuation between female friends was depicted. Obviously that captured the imagination of a red-blooded male, but aside of titillation it also seemed honest and genuine. It was poignant in the way Katy Perry couldn’t manage with her cherry chapstick.
Bland’s mum was treated to her favourite song of theirs in Pity Party, which seemed to be a sarcastic tale of loneliness. The vocals were quirky and structured in a way that wasn’t obvious, not unlike Westing was doing in the warmup slot. It was possibly this song where Bland went a bit Shakira, with the cadence going up at the end of lines. While we’re making comparisons to place Clemencie’s sound, No Doubt could be a good one (without the ska), as well as The Joy Formidable (without the harder rock). Bl
ondie is one they cite themselves, which you could make at a pinch, although it’s not a perfect match. Essentially Clemencie do power-pop well, and put dynamic vocals over the top. Does what it says on the tin, as the old creosote advert used to have it.
Between songs, Bland was charming and friendly, without any aloofness. She was quite pleased with herself, perhaps, but then why wouldn’t she be? The sky is the limit, and the band seems to know it. Incidentally I don’t know why ‘Clemencie’ is not spelled as ‘clemency’ (an official pardon) should be. Perhaps another band somewhere already took that.
The closer was their first single, Formal Wear. A sad yet slightly bitchy response to a terminated relationship, the song mourns the ‘funny teenage boy I used to know’, who has now become a bigshot in fancy clothes with a glamorous new girlfriend. Perhaps the narrator has seen a picture on social media of the couple at a formal occasion, and is feeling bitter. t’s a simple but effective premise which many would relate to. My only criticism of the track is that the lyrics are a bit unclear at points, with ‘sexy’ fluid vocals prioritised over annunciation (in my grumpy middle-aged man file see also 'actors don’t speak properly anymore’). Most importantly it is catchy, energetic, and is short and sweet. I’ll leave the Spotify link at the bottom so you can check it out.
And so ended another successful live music event for Poole’s independent record store. I repeat, for a fiver, this is great value. Knowing the entire sum goes to the artists makes you feel even better. The future seems as bright for the Boiler Room as it is for the high calibre acts they’re hosting.