By Max Modell
Every time I go to a gig downstairs at Clwb Ifor Bach, I am always overcome by a feeling that I wish more people were in attendance. It is a small room; however, it never seems to be full, despite always proving great music. Sean McGowan was no exception to this rule, with him and his band providing the energy needed to get you going on a Thursday night.
Sean has been grafting at his craft since 2009, creating melodies, gathering stories, and playing the club/pub circuit in between pulling pints himself. This hard work seems slightly undermined by the suggestion that he is a ‘new artist’, as he’s been working at this for quite some time, slowly building traction. However, this is often the label he is given following the release of his debut album Son of Sam (2018) which is allowing Sean to start making a significant impact on the scene.
In line with label mates Beans on Toast and Frank Turner, both of whom have been prominent supports, Sean’s music combines the writing style of folk music, with the aggressive tone and aesthetic of punk music, as a folk-punk poet. This aesthetic also informs lots of Sean’s lyrical content, attacking modern consumer culture, lamenting about our current political situation and how the working classes are misunderstood by the elites. This content is provocative and the perfect material to engage a crowd, and the small crowd in attendance at Clwb Ifor Bach were certainly engaged.
Yet, Sean’s music is anything but one dimensional, mixing personal tragedy and impactful emotional through lines with the political, creating a more personal experience. This was most notable when he picked up his acoustic guitar and dismissed his band to play ‘Springhill’, an autobiographical tale of coming of age, dedicated to the Mum of Sean’s best friend who died when he was younger. During this part of the performance, it really felt as if Sean removed some kind of barrier between him and the audience, allowing us to content with him in a much depth way than before. This feeling continued throughout the rest of the show, adding weight to the subsequent songs.
Last night Sean McGowan really showed Clwb Ifor Bach a good time, and is definitely worth checking out. Particularly if like me you are left dateless on Valentines Day.