It was a cold Sunday December evening and I was planning a nice night in front of the fire, Country File (or whatever was on the tellybox) and maybe a glass of wine, then I got a call from my photographer urging me to get in the car and drive to Exeter as a band called My Baby were performing at Exeter Phoenix, I made my excuses and promptly drove to the venue and took my position on the balcony and waited for the entertainment to commence….
Thundering drums and grungey, squealing licks courtesy of a rather fine looking resonator guitar kicked off the evening at Exeter Phoenix. Bristol based True Strays are a blues rock n’ roll 4 piece who have dazzled audiences at weddings, pub gigs and festival stages with their heady blend of blues, rock and grunge citing their influences as Muddy Waters & Howlin’ Wolf to the more modern day acts such as Pearl Jam & Queens of the Stone Age.
Consisting of double bass, keys, drums, guitar/vox these guys certainly delivered the goods and it was great to see such a young band playing a style of music associated with more ‘mature’ bands, clearly their parents had done a great job of bringing them up on proper music rather than the over produced ‘celebrity’ acts of today who won’t be around in 50 minutes, let alone 50 years.
New tune ‘Like a Shadow’ which was all about telling lies and eventually getting caught out went down a storm as the auditorium gently filled in readiness for the main act of the evening. The keyboard player was belting out some great tunes in an almost Hammond organ style, incredible stuff indeed!
The tracks changed tempo mid set but even the slower offerings matched the more upbeat numbers in sheer musicianship alone, these guys are VERY talented. Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS is proper music, music that deserves to be heard, music with heart and soul, forget about being brainwashed by X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent and get yourself to a True Strays show as soon as you can, you can thank me later!
By the time My Baby took to the stage, the auditorium was FULL of Sunday night revellers who have fallen in love with their blend of roots driven, hypnotic, trancelike rhythms. I first saw this band at Beautiful Days festival in August this year and hoped it wouldn’t be long until I fell under their spell once again, appears my wish came true as here I am, sat on the balcony, watching 400 people bobbing along to the pulsating sounds that are circulating the room.
What should have been a sedate Sunday evening, catching up on music and preparing my next radio show was replaced with a scene that resembled a night club from the late 90’s, the whole room appeared to be one, swaying, dancing and breathing in the atmosphere created by this incredible trio. In other words, “It was proper goin’ off’, a rare treat for the folk of Exeter on a Wet December Sunday evening!
Even their occasional downbeat tracks, which were reminiscent of Massive Attack and Portishead had an underlying energy, one that you knew was gently simmering away waiting to be turned up to ‘11’ and build to a boiling crescendo on the next track.
Cato managed a few costume changes throughout the set, opening with her trademark ‘boho’ style floaty dress with tassled arms, to a cocktail dress from the 1920’s complete with a black bobbed wig, she looked amazing in all of them and despite the outfit, her output was always on top form, enchanting, goddess like vocals coupled with some of the funkiest bass playing I have seen for a long time! Costume change #3 was a spangly gold catsuit get-up, the room turning into a European dance club as the beats grew and grew until all hell was let loose in the room, a sight to behold indeed!
My Baby have been spreading their psych-blues-indie-rock to audiences all over Europe since 2012 and have graced many festivals including Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, Lowlands and Pinkpop, I expect that they’ll be making a welcome return to Michael Eavis’s back yard in 2019 and I hope Beautiful Days but only time will tell!
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Rhodri Cooper