The first time I saw The Taskers, there were only two members; Jack and Sophie Tasker. They were supporting a band at The Sugarmill in Stoke but rather than taking in their music, I spent most of their set wondering why the frontman was wearing wellies with shorts. Little did I know, four years later, I’d be sat in a hockey club in Stafford, watching them launch their seventh album.
Walking through the doors of Stafford Hockey Club I was mildly disappointed. The dress code was fancy dress, although a very small number of the audience had decided to participate. That hadn’t phased The Taskers though, who were milling around the stage in glorious attire. Adrian Tasker was on ticket duties as well as being the loyal merch man and number one fan of not only his son and daughter, but the five piece as a whole. He had every reason to be proud. ‘Wolf Party’ is undeniably a masterpiece, with all five members adding their own personalities and ideas to the music.
The evening began with Don’t Call Me Ishmael, an alternative folk band fronted by local music figurehead Gary Wilcox. Sporting his ukulele and King Thrushbeard costume he seemed relaxed – if not a little sweaty. The combined heat of the lights and the nylon of his costume were causing him to periodically wipe sweat from his brow, as he said to the crowd “I may either melt into a puddle or self combust right here on the stage”. Joined on stage by multi-instrumentalist Matt Plant (dressed an Hansel) and funky guitarist Jack Tasker (the Huntsman), Wilcox seemed to enjoy his set, playing tracks such as ‘Monument’, ‘Weight Of Responsibility’ and ‘The Bugler’, all from his current album ‘Underdog Songs’. A couple of covers came our way too, including ‘For A Friend’ by The Communards, also from his album, which DCMI performed in their own very moving way.
A last minute addition to the line-up was Matt Toner of Matt Topowski & The Wailing Synagogues, who played a short and sweet two track set on acoustic guitar. His acoustic blues sound was soaked up by the audience, who remained silent until the end.
The final support of the evening came from Nixon Tate & The Honey Club, a band who certainly aren’t strangers to the stage. Nixon Tate was the most relaxed I’ve seen him yet, interacting with the audience and looking entirely chilled despite some sound issues with his acoustic guitar. The Honey Club were on top form too, although you don’t really need me to tell you that. They played a lengthy set with tracks including ‘Dancehall Blues’, ‘Heady Redwood Days’ and ‘All Over Now’, their current three singles, along with ‘Joyce’, ‘Never Be A Boy Again’ and ‘Drifter’. One thing that must be noted about their live performance, is how NT&THC don’t hang around. It really is all about the music for these four men, who seem to be growing in following and in sound.
After watching their friends put on the best warm up performance possible, it was time for The Taskers to take to their stage. Appropriately dressed with balloons, streamers, banners and a light up balloon complete with scary wolf mask, it really was their stage. SBT was by far the best fancy dressed Tasker. Wearing a black lacy top and creepy green lenses, she was the wolf of your nightmares. As for the others, well JT looked dapper and Jack Rennie made a beautiful Little Red Riding Hood. Sarah Pickwell and Laura Ellement seemed to have come as members of the wolf party, wearing party hats and looking ready to dance.
Audience members were now left standing, some huddled around the bar and others leaning or perching on whatever they could find. Once all five members were in position, it was time to get the party started. Kicking off with album opener ‘The Wolf’, The Taskers were loud and ready to rock. JT looked untameable at the wrath of the guitar, whilst Rennie moved around excitedly in time to the music. Both violin and cello came together at the end to hush the eager audience, bringing the hairs on my arms to stand to attention.
Much like the alcohol, the music kept on flowing, with some tracks from ‘Pleasure Point’ even making an appearance. ‘Chemical War’ gave the chance for JT to explain how Jack Rennie came to be a Tasker – uploading a track a day to SoundCloud, before JT managed to convince him to be a part of something great. ‘Chemical War’ was one of those tracks, which now seems significant in The Taskers landscape, and the band played it proudly.
Japanese Disco Funk track ‘Harajuku Nights’, Bowie inspired ‘Girl Kissed A Boy’ and old favourite ‘Pleasure Point’ followed suit, before the band made their first stage switch around of the night. An anxious looking Laura Ellement stepped up to the mic for ‘Misery & Me’, a song she told me she’d written in her room in 10 minutes. It’s a powerful track, mainly due to her exceptional vocals, that bounced off the walls of the room and silenced the crowd completely. The onstage rapport and strong connectivity of the band was evident, with Ellement looking across to SBT whose accompanying harmony left you awestruck, a smile forming on their faces.
The Taskers powered through their set, with Rob Haubus of TMC joining them for a special rendition of ‘Feeling’.
The band briefly left the stage for SBT and Rennie to have their moment behind the electric piano for ‘Shooting Star’, a song about when first dates go wrong. It was another touching moment and a definite highlight of the evening, as we seemed to observe a truly intimate moment between the pair, and as the song concluded, they both shared a kiss before inviting the rest of the band back and ramping up the volume.
And then it seemed the night flew by in a Tasker soundtracked blur. ‘Dig Up The Dirt’, ‘Undone’, ‘Oh, Jeremy’ and ‘Sure Of Your Soul’ were all present on the set list, one that seemed may go on until the early hours. With seven albums under their belt and the passion Jack Tasker has for making music, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if we were watching the sun rise before they’d concluded their set.
The band exited the stage once again, although this time it was for SBT and JT to revisit the old days with ‘Litas’, a track taken from their 2013 album ‘No Shit, Just Shoes’. They talked about how it all began five years ago and how they got to where they are today, but ultimately this was a chance for everyone to observe how The Taskers have grown. Like proud parents, we watched the pair perform a poignant song that they hold dear to their hearts. Before entering their final part of the set, JT and SBT embraced and I may or may not have felt a little teary.
In the closing few moments, The Taskers rounded off with ‘Trials’ and the concluding track from ‘Wolf Party’, ‘Cry All You Like’, before inviting two members of Nixon Tate’s Honey Club to perform three covers they’d never even rehearsed before. Playing two Pearl Jam tracks ‘Better Man’ and ‘Daughter’, they wore their influences proudly, basking in the rockstar glory.
Eventually they came to their final song of the night ‘Rocking In The Free World’ which they dedicated to “papa Pickwell”, the biggest Neil Young fan in the room. It was a perfect way to close their set, with SBT giving a foot stomping hard hitting drum solo in-between. The room erupted as they stepped away from their instruments, with listeners gathering at the back of the room to purchase a copy of the album.
It felt like a night of celebration; The Taskers had launched their album, yes, but this felt like something more than that. It was a showcase. A night to remember. A chance for everyone to see The Taskers at their strongest.
Jack Tasker looked exhausted. The last twelve months had led up to the this moment and it showed in his face. “How was that? Was that alright?” he asked me. You just rocked a hockey club like it was Madison Square Garden JT. I think you did just fine.