Live review by Tony Rounce. Photos by Keira-Anee Photography.
A wonderful career: the final curtain for one of the finest bands of the past few years …
Once upon a time there were two men and a woman who made a truly joyful musical noise in the studio and on stage. Their fan base was expanding with every show they played, and their future potential was looking limitless.
Then all of a sudden, three became two. The drummer got very sick, very suddenly, and died at just 30 years of age. The others missed their friend and colleague greatly. Rather than looking for a permanent replacement, they decided to close the door on that particular chapter of their musical careers, and find new projects to challenge that limitless future potential.
Thus it was that Jade Ellins and Sam Asbury – plus a trio of percussive pals – gave their friend and colleague Alessandro ‘Al’ Salzano a truly memorable ‘going away party’ at Long Teeth’s last ever gig at Dalston’s Shacklewell Arms (with excellent support slots from Gold Baby and Mango that need to be acknowledged, but I hope neither band will feel slighted if that’s all I do here).
It was cold outside, but the venue was filled with a near capacity crowd displaying warmth and appreciation for a top musician – and, according to those who knew him as a friend as well as a drummer, a totally top bloke as well. If you never got the chance to see LT, let me offer you these musical comparisons: think early Talking Heads with a side order of Gang Of Four and/or their female counterparts the Delta Five. If you caught any of those bands in their pomp you would recognise LT as being kindred spirits, with Sam’s pithy, perceptive lyrics and his urgent delivery thereof being complemented by jagged and all-powerful guitar work – underpinned in a thunderous manner by Jade’s rock solid bass playing and crucial vocal contributions. If you have ever seen Jade fronting the currently-on-extended-hiatus DOLLS you will be well aware of her own extraordinary abilities as a guitarist and vocalist, and she carries herself as a bassist in a similarly dominant manner.
With the assistance of not one but three of their chums occupying Al’s drum stool at various points, they performed 11 songs in an ecstatically received 40+ minute set with the exhilaration of a band that was just starting out, rather than one that was saying goodbye.
And what of those songs? Well, the other purpose of the evening was to launch a limited edition, beautifully packaged vinyl mini-album containing 8 tracks that comprise almost their complete discography. Four of those songs had previously appeared on their 2017 ‘Canned Laughter’ CD EP, while four were new and had been completed with Al shortly before he passed away. It was and is a worthy project that I hope everyone in the Shacklewell purchased at least one copy of, as all profits made on the sales are going to the North London Hospice.
The magnificent ‘Canned Laughter’ and ‘Nice Guys’ got the loud part of set underway in earnest after Jade brought things in calmly with ‘Walk In The Water’. After a brief dialogue from Sam about the purpose of the evening three of the LP’s new tracks got their final public airing, the fantastic and lyrically wry ‘Never Wanted A Job’ particularly stressing what we are going to miss.
‘URA Winner’ from ‘Canned Laughter’ paved the way for a couple of great numbers from the trio’s deep catalogue, their 2015 CD single ‘Famous Girls’ and the even earlier ‘Little Machine’, before the LP’s title track ‘White T-Shirt’ gave notice that the end was nigh – and that it was inevitably going to come with the mighty ‘Pangea’ which – in a truly magical moment towards the end of the song – featured all three of the drummers who had subbed for Al playing simultaneously in a Burundi like manner, while Sam riffed relentlessly from the audience and Jade screamed the chorus line “My Name Is Pangea, I’ve Had A Wonderful Career” like the lives of all present depended on her doing so. It seemed a somehow fitting way to end a final set by a band that really should have had a much longer ‘wonderful career’, had The Grim Reaper not decided otherwise.
It was an emotional night, but in a happy and positive way. A great send off for a great musician, and a great group. I did suggest to Sam afterwards that they should make it an annual event, but he was adamant that we had all seen the last of Long Teeth and that there would be no repeat performance, ever. He and Jade now have their relatively new project Big Sea Creatures, while just the night before I witnessed Jade’s great debut gig on bass with the excellent Abjects at the Windmill in Brixton. DOLLS may be on hiatus, but that concept is not done and dusted either. The pair have plenty to occupy them going forwards. Whatever the future brings they can look back on this part of their past with extreme pride – and an exit that concluded Long Teeth’s own career on the highest of highs.
Big Sea Creatures have upcoming gigs in December at the Hope & Anchor on the 4th and the Finsbury on the 9th. Hopefully there will be more Abjects gigs to come soon, too…
If you were not there last night and would like to buy the ‘White T-Shirt’ album please find LT’s Facebook page and proceed accordingly!