Enticed by the offer of free beer by Nik’s kind promoter, who was I to turn down a free gig with free beer? Turned out to be pretty decent as it happens…
Date: August 24, 2015
Venue: Rough Trade, Nottingham
With an awkward gait, a resemblance to Graham Coxon but without any of the political rhetoric or self-righteousness, Nik Aslam takes to the Rough Trade stage bespectacled and donning an attire which screams can’t be arsed (think Jake Bugg, holler Alex Turner). But it’s not a criticism. His non-plussed geek chic is part of his charm.
“I’m not a country singer; Nottingham already has one” he resolutely declares, in reference to the city’s country wunderkind Jake Bugg. But despite his denial, you can’t help but compare his black-clad acoustic oeuvre with that of Nottingham’s finest musical export.
Although with that said, he lets more of his own personality into his songs, something Bugg shys away from, preferring instead to mask his Clifton roots with a Nashville twang.
Even with an ode to 1960s American pop nugget Bobby Vee, Nik isn’t fooling anyone. His Midlands accent (Burton upon Trent to be precise) is far too strong, which is where the similarities with Alex Turner come to the fore.
“I’ve got a new EP out which is available downstairs”, he says hopeful of a few sales of his four-track EP, Scraping for Change. A benefit of playing in an actual record shop
But with a low attendance, and this being a free gig, Nik can forget about giving up the day job just yet. But if he carries on writing deliciously lifting country-indie songs like Welcome, he may earn himself a few bob yet. That song is one of a few that displays his amazing dexterity and skill with his acoustic guitar, fingering his fretboard with breakneck speed
“This is a new one so only I know it”, he announces before Derailed, a song that somehow sounds like Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain with Banarama’s She’s Got It at its base. Confused? Well don’t worry, it worked. Somehow
Waiting in the Kitchen drills home those Jake Bugg comparisons with more power. It’s a rollicking blues-folk song with modern values and a whistled chorus
Occasionally he’ll peek and troth between high and low notes; a nadir that has him rolling words off his tongue and a maxim that squeaks out a falsetto unexpectedly.
He finishes with This City is Ours, again mesmerising his small yet captive audience with his trembling fingers swiftly fondling his strings to deliver his most indiest of songs. It’s like The Manics jamming with Future Islands and it’s excellent
He may still be a newbie on the music scene, but there’s an appetite for this kind of artist, and with a bit of luck he’ll make the break.