Gig review: JP Baron – The Spread, 4 May

jpBefore the gig JP Baron is at the bar, deciding what to take on stage with him. Forgoing the bartender’s suggestion of VK Blue he takes a traditional cider. More apt for somebody whose songs come from the rural landscape and are more blurry than blaring. After sound-checking, he introduces himself.

“Hi everyone, I’m JP, as advertised on the board. This is a sad song.”

And so it was. Poignant, finger picked melodic indie-inflected folk music that sets a scene and tells a story. The heartfelt chorus pronounces “It’s too late, I’ve missed the boat, should have made an effort, but I sat here alone”.

JP is a sensitive performer with a confidence that evidences years of practice. He has a strong and characteristic voice in both the musical and literary senses of the word: it sounds great and the narratives are enchanting. His style is comparable to, but not indebted to, Graham Coxon in his quieter moments.

Half way through “Bus stop crisis” he has a temperamental moment: “Fuck it, I can’t be bothered with that one. I’ve just had a seven hour shift and I’m tired.”

For the last song he enquires if anyone likes New Order. After only a couple of affirmative responses he says sardonically, “well you’ll enjoy this one”. He then goes on to transform the glacial Bizarre Love Triangle into a perfectly forlorn folk anthem. It is a touching finale.

A grudging encore is pulled off with aplomb. The wittily observed chorus goes: “Some people say travelling turns normal people into arseholes, trust me it does.”

This comes from someone with experience of such people, who has a knack for turning an everyday human observation into a cracking tune.

At the end I went to thank him for the gig and he felt it wasn’t a good set. He was too cold and “nervous for some reason”. As a musician, JP is held back by an admirable but limiting perfectionism and modesty. If I owned the radio he would be on heavy rotation instead of the vacuous dross that Radio 1 continues to pedal. Maybe he will make his mark on the superior Radio 6 Music yet; he is an artist who deserves to be heard by a wider audience.

Dave Mahoney

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