“I have two loves, music and football,” says Ben Smith, lead singer of The Quotes. “And when we are playing a gig and the audience is singing our lyrics back to us it feels like I’ve won the Champions League.”
Well, the indie-rock foursome from Reading must have trounced the opposition judging by the reaction at their dazzling unplugged single launch party that packed out the Firestation on Royal Wedding night.
Forget fictional football stars, it was clear pretty quickly that these guys are on their way to being big in their own right and nothing was amiss in the impeccably designed set to suggest otherwise.
As soon as you stepped into the auditorium the glitz of exclusivity surrounded you, from the sparkle of fairy lights that wove their way around the swathes of flowing white material, centred around a glittering chandelier to the stargazer lilies that wafted their heady perfume through the room and the chic vodka bar tucked into the corner, the room sat poised for the true stars of the evening.
To mark the launch of the band’s new single, Gypsy Man, the set was inspired by the legendary Nirvana MTV unplugged session – if you don’t think you know that performance you probably do, and if you do you will know what a memorable moment in pop history it was.
Producer Melanie Gow, Lighting designer Joe Atkins and set dresser Terry Tiffin managed to capture all of that magic, and the anticipation was tangible as people filled the tables along with every other available space in the room as the night began.
To get us suitably entranced before The Quotes played, support act Shannon Wardrop slinked up to the mic and drew us in with her hypnotic, raw tunes.
With a modesty that dwarfs her huge talent, she had everyone gripped as she opened up her set with an electric guitar solo and let rip with her penetrating yet delicate voice. Echoing the sounds of Florence and the Machine, there seemed to be no limit to her vocal range as she soared to ethereal heights during a cover of Waterloo Sunset, and surrounded by the twinkling stars the experience was truly heavenly.
Then, it was time. The Quotes took to the stage to cheers from the audience, many of whom were clearly members of an already strong fan base.
Looking comfortable in the intimate surroundings the band’s sound fit in seamlessly with the shimmering set. The stripped down versions of their tunes were personal but you could tell that these songs had the potential to fill stadiums.
They may look like rock stars who could have any groupie at the drop of a hat, but a sincere and romantic depiction of love came across in many of their lyrics and with Ben’s big belting voice it was enough to make half the audience fall for them.
We were even treated to some of the bands older tunes from a few years back, which were one of the highlights of the evening for me, a bit more raw and rough around the edges, they proved that the band can stray from the big, major key belters and mix things up.
These tunes were also testament to the fact that The Quotes have known what they are doing for quite some time now and as they pass through the Firestation Arts Centre on their way to big things it was clear that their success thus far was well earned.
The new single Gypsy Man, a rocky, anthemic belter of a tune was made available for download on the night of the gig, but in keeping with the mood of the evening the band had prepared a stripped-down version of the song.
And it finished off the evening perfectly, a sparkler in the glittering, fairy-lighted, be-chandeliered fantasy so to speak.
The song grooved with a sassiness that you couldn’t but help move to and got all the new listeners singing along with the hard-core fans, Ben must have felt like he’d won the world cup, particularly when they got a standing ovation at the end.
Inside sources tell me that the band rehearsed for 18 hours to prepare for the gig that was inevitably a key moment in their musical career. From their polished sound to the impeccable surroundings, it was a night to remember. And when those present look back on the experience there will undoubtedly be one phrase in their heads:
“I was there.”
Photography by resident gig photographer, Gill Aspel.
Find more about lighting designer Joe Atkins here
Find more about set designer Terry Tiffin here
With thanks to Mark Burnett at Stage Electrics for the lighting
Find more about producer Melanie Gow here