Tadhg Daly and The Secret Smiles – The Fermain Tavern – 24/01/15

Tadhg Daly at The Fermain Tavern
Tadhg Daly and his band

As often is the case the first few weeks of the New Year have been somewhat quieter as everyone recovers from the festive onslaught and does their best to stick to whatever resolutions they have set themselves. By the third week of January though, with resolutions slipping and the so-called ‘Blue Monday’ having passed, original live music returned to The Fermain Tavern with the return to the island of Jersey’s Tadhg Daly, along with local Brit-style indie band The Secret Smiles.

While the crowd was only small (and wouldn’t get a lot bigger) as Matt Ward and his troupe took to the stage they launched into their set with gusto and, while they self-consciously admitted it was the same set they played last time, it seemed to come with a much wider sense of dynamic ranging from melancholy moments to upbeat bouncy, jangling indie rock.

The Secret Smiles
The Secret Smiles

In fact their sound took me back to when I first discovered coverage of Glastonbury on TV and many of the bands that graced its stages in the mid-90s.

While that may give the impression they have a dated sound the energy and conviction with which Matt performs means that it manages to transcend this and successfully brought a surprisingly summery feeling to the Tav for a cold January night.

Even though there seemed to be some problems with guitar leads across the set the band didn’t let this slow them down and they went down well with the small audience, particularly those visiting from Jersey. Closing on a cover of New Order’s Blue Monday brought things to an end on a high and hinted that The Secret Smiles could be a band to keep an eye on once summer festival season rolls around.

Tadhg Daly and Jack Townsend
Tadhg Daly and Jack Townsend

Having visited the island a couple of times last year Tadhg Daly has proved himself to be a worthy addition to the Stoked Music stable, that also includes Jersey’s Lloyd Yates and Sark’s The Recks, Daly and his band continued that trend tonight, albeit with a slightly new sound.

Their set started out in familiar style with folk-ish indie rock being order of the day as a few more came in from the cold and, though the audience remained disappointingly small, most of them spent the majority of the set on the dancefloor.

Halfway through the set Daly swapped his acoustic guitar for a Telecaster and, after a rough and ready but effective take on American folk number Where Did You Sleep Last Night aka In The Pines (based on Nirvana’s version of the song), the four-piece launched into a much rockier set of songs than they’d previously played.

Tadhg Daly
Tadhg Daly

This new style had a much grungier edge to it, but it still suited the band with Daly’s voice coming into its own and reminding somewhat of Robert J. Hunter’s, though with slightly less of the overwrought bluesy howl to it – and I wasn’t the only one who expressed a similar comparison.

Across the set a real highlight came in the form of Jack Townsend’s drumming. With a huge sound out front, Townsend’s playing really demonstrated a wide dynamic range and power that successfully remained understated enough not to overtake the main focus of the music.

After the rockier numbers, many of which had a surprisingly danceable quality to them, Daly returned to his acoustic to close the set on debut single Learn To Live that rounded off the set nicely and brought to a close a highly enjoyable night of music that certainly managed to kick any winter blues.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

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