Live Review | Cafe #9, Sheffield | Review by Allan Wilkinson
There’s a sign on one of the interior walls at Cafe #9 in Sheffield, which reads, in fancy blue letters, ‘Everything is Brilliant’. This seems to sum up the overall feeling at tonight’s little get together with Dave McGraw, Mandy Fer and Thom Lord, during their two sets at this cosy and intimate venue. Rain trundled down Nether Edge Road as the late October darkness descended, with the cafe’s proprietor Jonny Dean offering a warm welcoming smile and rather good coffee. The three musicians prepared a limited space for themselves in the centre of the room, quite possibly the absolute minimum space required to play a comfortable gig. Between a redundant upright piano and an almost hidden double bass, together with a number of curiosities, Sway Wild effectively launched their eponymous album, as the San Juan Island, Washington-based trio introduced a handful of songs from their new album, including one or two slightly older songs, notably the infectious “Serotiny”, complete with Mandy’s engaging riff throughout and the beguiling “Dark Dark Woods”, from Dave and Mandy’s earlier duo albums Seeds of a Pine and Maritime respectively.
Describing themselves as “a band with a soft heart, and even softer t shirts”, a reference to their merch, Sway Wild soon had the audience on their side, from the first to the final note, Dave alternating between guitar, drums and djembe, Mandy holding her prized Fender Stratocaster close to her and long time friend and now fellow band member Thom Lord maintaining the rhythm throughout on no fuss electric bass. Their two sets were rich and varied with at least a couple of standouts, the highly rhythmic “Shake”, which at one point veered dangerously towards “Love Shack” territory, as well as the commercially viable “Chimney Fire”, a hit single if ever there was one. The trio played intuitively, each performance an exercise in confidence, with a little Spanish thrown in at strategic points. It would have been a perfect gig had “Forget the Diamonds”and “So Comes the Day” been included, but despite this, any night topped with a note perfect cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Dreams”, makes up for everything in spades.