REVIEW: The Pug Uglies at The Robert Gillow

Gary Denman, Ben Davies, Sam Hubbard and Nick Lakin are The Pug Uglies
Gary Denman, Ben Davies, Sam Hubbard and Nick Lakin are The Pug Uglies

It was after only a small number of rehearsals in Halton, fitted in around family life and work commitments, that this recently-formed band of four unsuspecting blokes on the cusp of middle-agedom were welcomed onto the Robert Gillow stage by open mic hosts the Howling Clowns.

And after a quick set up and slightly nervous introduction, the Pug Uglies were beginning their very first live gig.

Perhaps more adept to the regular faces who work the Lancaster open mic circuit, the Gillow audience appeared a little apprehensive at first about these new old(er) kids on the block. They were however, speedily won over by the tuneful lead guitar from Sam Hubbard, reliable driving rhythm by guitarist Gary Denman and subtle beats from Nick Lakin on cajón. By the end of the first song, the confidence levels of all band members rose to slightly safer climbs. The self-deprecating humour suggested in the band name began to shine through, and I was pleased to witness a stirring yet comfortable energy settle in between those on stage.

Deep sounds from Ben Davies on vocals topped off this amiable ensemble, his tones reflecting the wonderful if not unexpected echoes of the Memphis blues. The display of musical talent didn’t stop there as Ben was also playing a ukulele, which I was later to discover was homemade! Sadly being acoustic this was lost in the mix a little, and would no doubt be better appreciated if mic’d up next time.

Unsure how to finish their final song of the short set, the Uglies’ made the candid choice to end with an acapella chorus. This was met by hearty accompaniment from all those still frequenting the pub by this late hour, followed by a warm and worthy applause indicating that a longer set would have been more than welcome had it been possible.

For some of the band members this was their first time performing on stage. Nick Lakin is an ambassador of live music in the region, yet at the age of 34 this was his first ever gig. Following the set, he commented on how nervous all the band members were feeling prior to their musical debut. When asked what had motivated them to form a band at this point in their lives, Nick jokingly commented, “That’s easy – we’ve all got kids – this gives us a good reason to get out of the house and escape the madness for a while!”

As I left the Gillow in the small hours of the morning, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had perhaps stumbled upon a small yet profound moment in Lancaster’s musical history. I was happily reminded what open mic nights are all about. And with several of them taking place every week in Lancaster, no wonder our humble city is famous for its discovery of fledgling musical virtuosos...even when as in this case the musicians themselves are far from fledgling. I look forward to what the future holds for the Pug Uglies. And I particularly look forward to the day when I can look my fellow music lover in the eye and say with pride “Ah yes, the Pug Uglies, I was at their very first gig.”

Sarah Thornton

Marketing Manager of Lancaster Music Festival