Photo credit: Emma Swann, DIY Mag.
The real question is can Joseph cook… *BA-DUM-TSSS*
Now that atrocity of a joke is out of the way, let’s get on with the very serious matter that is this 20-year-old’s pioneering talent and penchant for ear-wriggling hooks. I’ve followed Cook ever since his debut EP You Run I Jump from two summers ago, in which he exhibited the kind of breadth of genre and influences indicative of only the most promising newcomers. One spin of his debut album, released a mere few weeks ago, reveals him as a product of a childhood doused in late-2000’s indie-pop. All aboard the Thekla then, on a warm Bristolian spring night. You’d be hard-pressed to not find tonight’s gig as I am guided in the right direction by a group of lads unashamedly singing ‘La la la / Girls like me don’t come around anymore’ (I’m afraid I did join #undercover).
Upon arrival, I’m welcomed by the surprise that support comes from Ten Tonnes, another newcomer whose track, Lucy, I discovered last summer. Lately, he’s been working with Felix White from Maccabees, who recently produced upbeat track Silver Heat, so there’s a lot to look forward to from this artist. However, unlike his recordings and festival appearances, there seems to be no backing band; through fluke or not, he is armed just with an electric guitar and a mic. Unfortunately, the solo dynamic of his performance does not do his songs justice, despite a few of his fans in the audience going hell for leather (me included), and you are left in want of the embellishment of a full band. Still it’s early days for him, and George Ezra’s very capable little brother is sure to have made a splash by the end of the year.
The set-starter takes the shape of album title track Sweet Dreamer and we set for a night of wide-eyed, youthful abandon. One of the album’s standouts Treat Me Like A Lover ensues, followed by tropical Plastic, which boasts the sprawling and breezy production of Jack Steadman from Bombay Bicycle Club. Last summer’s release Take Me Dancing is greeted by an elated crowd, pushing one particular fan over the edge – to whom Cook cheekily ripostes ‘I’ll take you dancing…’.
Another highlight of the album comes to the fore in the form of For Thursday, whose backing vocals are brought to life by a full band setting; whereas some touring bands appear nonchalant, even indifferent to the music, being on this particular tour and playing these sunny songs certainly would bring a smile out of the gloomiest salaried bandmember. Unexpected wildcard ‘Daisy Chains’ from the debut EP makes an appearance to my utter delight, and is twinned with folk-pop gem and debut single ‘Message’, for which he whips out his acoustic for a gleeful front row. Seeing as he has gone unplugged, he then plays jaded album closer ‘Water’s Gone Cold’, which in my opinion makes the album end with a whimper and not a bang. So I go to get a drink… ONLY TO COME RUNNING BACK at the first notes of personal album favourite ‘Habit’ – a clear fan-favourite-in-the-making which begs for future single status.
Cook caps off the regular set with the wonderful Girls Like Me in a deft and astute move, placing it before the encore splitting the crowd between people carrying on the ‘La la la’ of the song and those anticipating Biggest Fan. Sure enough like clockwork, Biggest Fan brings the crowd to new levels of adoration – self-awareness (or parody) has never sounded so wholesome and genuine. Finally, the sunny sugar rush of Beach (I Wanna Make You Mine) ends the night with a final ‘Eyyyy!’ and we leave the venue. But as any diehard fan knows, the gig doesn’t have to end there…
I hang around outside and a crowd gathers near one of the two exits (more like boarding ramps – it is a ship after all). He couldn’t leave any other way – unless he swam – and the impatient group is steadfast in their determination to meet him, so I remain with the group solely for investigative journalistic reasons (I promise). This is what happens when you write a song called Biggest Fan…
Finally, the tactical team of sweet dreamers, clad in album cover t-shirts, breeches the vessel and catches a startled and bemused Will Joseph Cook midway through loading out. Sheepishly, the group asks for a picture, with the inevitable, ham-handed and glaringly predictable reason of: ‘we are your biggest fans’. That song will haunt him till the rest of his days; I suppose it’s what you get when you write songs that haunt ours in the most life-affirming of ways.