On Tuesday night, Bop English brought his short UK tour to Brighton for a sold out gig at Sticky Mikes Frog Bar. The artist, James Petralli, was formally known as frontman of the Texas band White Denim; in more recent years however he has been acting musically under the name of his alter ego Bop English. Constant Bop, his debut album released in April of this year received critical accreditation and acclaim by such prominent musical outhouses such as Rough Trade. Since he has gained an allegiance of fans, some being unbeknownst to his prior existence in White Denim, this was showcased at the gig, the small basement packed to the brim with excited onlookers of all ages.
The crowd varied from pretentious arty Brighton types to 20 somethings, drunk and ever increasing in rowdiness. The support act ‘Spit Shake Sisters’ received cheers and whistles from the audience, especially at their shoutout to George Osbourne being a ‘Supervillain’. During their last song, Petralli came out with his guitar and joined them, creating a triumphant end for the Brighton locals set.
After a short break, Bop English then came on stage amidst whooping and opened with Dani’s Blues (It was Beyond Our Control). Constant Bop is an album filled with such intricate and specific production techniques, paired with so many different sounds and genres; blues, jazz, rock. Sometimes it’s hard for an artist to live up to their album in a live show, and the music loses something however Petralli maintained the precedent set by his album throughout the show. Instead of trying to replicate the way it sounds on record, he adapted the songs and swayed them more on the side of rock, with heavier and stronger sounding electric guitars, giving songs such as Fake Dog a Jimi Hendrix effect. He merged Fake Dog and Long Distance Runner, prolonging the end and integrating it with the start, somehow making the transition almost unnoticeable. Not only did Petralli give a soul and jazz vibe to Trying and Struck Matches, he also revealed new material.
After performing what he claimed to be the last song of his set, he reappeared on stage to the mantra of ‘encore’ from the crowd and handed the microphone to his bassist. What followed was a seemingly spontaneous cover of Steppenwolfs Born to Be Wild, to which the slightly elder members of the onlookers appeared to get very excited about. The mic was then given to another member of Petrallis band, a cover of The Creations’ Making Time then preceded. Much to my disappointment after the second cover I had to leave in order to make my bus, whatever madness followed, I am unknown to. However the gig in general, for someone like me who has been listening to Constant Bop nonstop for the past month, was amazing, and a showcase of the artistic talent Petralli possesses. It also offered a positive inclination to the future of Bop English, his new music sounding like an evolvement of his enjoyable debut; Bop English is only getting bigger and better.
Words by Daisy Lester