Xtra Mile Recordings have a whole family of acoustic songwriters on their label, all with a reputation for fist-pumping folk songs, energetic live shows and die-hard fan loyalty. Against big names like Frank Turner, Will Varley, and Beans On Toast, Rob Lynch is one of the lesser known members of the tribe. But here’s a hint: it may not be that way for long.
Playing the newly-refurbished Camden Assembly (formerly The Barfly), the crowd was a talkative, ready-for-action bunch of maybe fifty souls. Lynch had support first from ‘Jeff Havana’ (Deaf Havana’s James Veck-Gilodi, who’s pseudonym wasn’t fooling anyone), then from fellow Xtra Miler Jim Lockey. Both solo acoustic, they did a stellar job of putting the crowd in a dancing mood.
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Lynch took to the stage with a bang, careering into the spirited ‘Prove It!’ and showing the amplified full-band college-rock sound he’s embraced for new release ‘Baby, I’m A Runaway’.
From there, things only got livelier. Lynch’s songs are devilishly singable at any time, but in a room jam-packed with loyalists every chorus became a rallying cry. More than once, such as in old track ‘Hawking’ Lynch left the mic entirely and let the crowd take lead vocals. Wearing a scampish grin that was just as infectious as his song-writing.
But Lynch isn’t just a passionate performer. He’s also an understated master of stage-banter. Not in the Springsteen-Dylan balladeer mould, but more the ordinary bloke with a sharp sense of humour. Ever one to give quick-fire quips and laugh at his own in-jokes.
This culminated about forty minutes in, when Lynch proceeded to derail the set to tell the rambling story of how an old mate got expelled from school, dragging said mate onto stage for the experience. All this whilst ‘Jeff Havana’ was creasing in the side-lines. There was no music for nearly seven minutes as Lynch told his tale, and sent the audience in fits of hysterics. He then capped off the episode with a rendition of the acoustic ‘Tectonic Plates’, a heartfelt ode to this friendship, with Veck-Gilodi on crisp harmonies. From humorous to heartfelt at the drop of a hat, Lynch worked the room’s emotions like a ragged conductor.
But it wasn’t all about good vibes and grins. Lynch wears his heart on his sleeve, both in the youthful hijinks that populate most of his catalogue, but also in the more sombre moments. Encouraged by Veck-Gilodi, Lynch gave a solo rendition of brand new track ‘Red Lion Square’, about a conversation with his deceased father. Tender, frail, and impassioned, Lynch gave his crowd a serious attack of the feels.
Naturally, Lynch brought the energy back for the final stretch. He ended with the double shot of ‘Runaway’ and ‘My Friends And I’, and his enthusiasm ran through the crowd like a pint of espresso. Lynch gave it all he had, and sang his heart out. Not that he needed to bother; by this point, the crowd were doing most of the vocal work for him.
All said and done, this gig was a remarkably familiar affair. Despite the pop-rock sensibilities and all the head-bopping, this didn’t feel much like a performance. It felt like a few beers out with your oldest friends, reminiscing on the good times and the bad. That, more than anything, is Rob Lynch’s gift. He lets you in, makes you laugh, shows you his scars and earns your loyalty.
Once you’ve experienced his live show you’ll feel like part of the gang. And when Lynch is playing venues ten times this size, as he surely deserves, you’ll feel nothing but pride.
Main photo credit : Sally Walker