Gig Review: Picnic w/ Special Guests @Think Tank?
When it comes to the North East music scene, no band stands out as much as Picnic.
The seven-piece band just oozes with such creativity and charm, organically created by utter musical brilliance and a range of talent. I should throw out a disclaimer and say that the funk inspired pop music of Picnic is a genre I never thought I’d enjoy as I’m more into my punk and metal, but Picnic defy my tastes with their fantastic approach to pop music.
I’ve got to hand it to whoever was responsible for organising this show, the whole idea of it being a party was captured brilliantly with so much free cake for patrons.
It felt warm and welcoming, everyone was in the packed out Think Tank for the right reasons and it set the right vibe for the show. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Think Tank this busy in my life, not even on a Digi Monday’s event during the height of a University Term. It was impressive to say the least, something that I’m sure each member of Picnic will cherish for a long time.
The band opened the set with a cover of 'Africa' by Toto, which I would personally say I wasn’t into but the crowd went wild for. With their cover really setting them up right, they sped straight into my personal favourite Picnic song 'Bill You Murray Me', which was amazing to hear live.
That’s one thing which I feel is particularly charming about Picnic, they have a fair few songs filled with pop culture references, with 'Bill You Murray Me' being a tribute to Lost in Translation and a song with the line “Everything is coming up Millhouse” in it. As a fan of The Simpsons, I was absolutely buzzing, and when frontwoman Robyn Walker paid tribute to all Simpsons fans in the audience, it was a fantastic way to connect with people. I think people respond really well to the relatability of the lyrics due to these pop culture references.
Picnic played a lot of songs from their 2017 album 'Nothing to Write Home About', with the likes of 'Julia', 'Charlie, From Outer Space' and a beautiful acoustic rendition of 'Bath Bomb' just featuring Robyn's vocals with keys and backing vocals provided by Olivia Ord. The show was extremely dynamic, jumping from acoustic to full band performances fluidly. Along with playing the gems mentioned earlier, Picnic also performed a fair few newer songs which are yet to be released.
Although I sadly cannot remember the name of a lot of these songs, they got me excited and had me dancing along. Most importantly however, I cant wait for them to be released soon so I can hear them again!
Credit must go to all seven of the band members for what they offered in their live performance. Eddie Scott and Danny Baister have a real chemistry as guitarists, with both complementing each other flawlessly with their fantastic leads and rhythms. Drummer Matty Rawding is excellent at creating a soft beat for the melodic jazzy sound of the band. Keys player Olivia Ord plays some beautiful pieces on the piano excellently, as well as providing harmonies with Robyn Walker.
I must also give great praise however to bass player Callum Wilson, Saxaphone player Kris Gray and lead vocalist Robyn Walker as the members who stood out the most. Callum plays some fantastically funky bass lines, some of which Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers would dream of creating. To me, his bass playing is particularly impressive, especially the fact that he uses a 5-string bass for this type of music. I saw Picnic at Riverside recently and I sadly couldn’t hear the horn section, which made me wonder if Picnic need to find a new trumpet player soon. After last night though I couldn’t disagree more, as Kris Gray’s ability on Saxaphone proved to be second to none. The lines he plays on the songs are brilliant, really giving Picnic that extra bit of dynamism. I felt that the acoustics of Think Tank really helped his Saxaphone stand out in comparison to the Riverside, justice which I believe was deserved for a fantastic player.
Lastly, I must pay tribute to frontwoman Robyn Walker who has been brilliant every time I’ve seen Picnic play. I don’t think I’ve seen a performance so strong from a vocalist in quite some time. I’d describe her voice as quite sweet and charming, relaxing but also powerful, which is demonstrated when she sings a lot of the high lines in songs. Robyn was able to talk to the crowd in such a natural manner and it was humbling when she told the audience how overwhelmed she was by the size of the crowd. I really admire that, it was wholesome, Robyn wasn’t trying to be some edgy Rockstar, she was being herself and it came across in a truly genuine way.
I spoke to Robyn about the gig, asking her a few questions ranging from how the gig went to what’s in store for Picnic:
Overall, how do you think this gig has went?
“The show surpassed every single one of our expectations. It’s one thing shifting a few tickets and expecting a bit of a crowd, but having all of those people singing your tunes back to you and being able to feel the atmosphere brewing is a completely different matter. We are genuinely so, so thankful for the response that we got and it’s 100% the most fun we’ve ever had playing a show and that’s definitely down to feeding off the crowd! It’s always nice to have such a positive response to original material, especially when it’s new stuff, so that was really encouraging.”
It’s great to see a band market a gig as a party with free cake and party bags, who’s idea was that and do you think that more bands in the North East should experiment like this?
“The cake went down a storm! We’ve actually been described as a party on more than one occasion so we just thought what better way to personify that even more than blowing up loads of balloons, giving away cake and turning it into a bit of a disco? The party bags were more of a tactical move to get people to arrive early to see Ørmstons and Great Waves, as they’re such amazing bands and friends to us that it’d have been such a shame for people to miss out on them. It seemed to work though as they had all been claimed about 10 minutes into Ørmstons’ set - I guess people just really like free stuff.”
We heard a lot of new songs and the crowd loved it, is there an EP, Album or just a few singles in the work?
“There’s no plans for an album currently, BUT we have been grafting in the studio for the past couple of months. We plan to release the first of the singles very, very soon so keep an eye out on our socials for that! You can find us everywhere at @picnicbanduk.”
And finally, last night was fantastic, you can only go up from here, so what plans do you guys have for the rest of the year and 2019?
“We’ve got some class gigs booked up until the end of the year which we’ll be announcing over the course of the next couple weeks, and five songs recorded ready to release soon. Next year we would absolutely love to get properly on the festival circuit, travel to some new cities and play to some new audiences (even though nothing can top the audiences we’ve played to this year!). We’re hoping the new releases will create a bit of a buzz and get us where we want to be in the new year.”
After Picnic played their “last song” there was a massive commotion from the crowd for an encore as the band left the stage. Thankfully, the band quickly returned and out of nowhere performed a medley of ABBA songs. Not what I expected, but the crowd absolutely loved it, with saxophone player Kris Gray looking like he was having a lot of fun doing backing vocals on a lot of the hit ABBA songs. The gig ended with a fantastic performance of 'Ain’t Got No Money', ending quite possibly one of the best shows I’ve been to all year.
Big props to support acts Great Waves who really impressed with their indie pop stylings very similar to the 1975, with some very Johnny Marr inspired guitar riffs, great vocals by both guitarists, enjoyable bass lines and some fantastically heavy drumming for indie music.
I sadly only got to see the very end of Leeds based band Ørmstons, but I was extremely impressed by what I had seen, an extremely dynamic and energetic frontwoman flailing around to brilliantly catchy music.
All photography by Bethan McConnel