Experience 6 – Communion in the House – Bears Den and Matthew and The Atlas at Brixton Academy


In the year that I am celebrating being 40 years old, a musical movement/label called Communion is celebrating its life in reaching 10 years! I’ve been a big fan of Communion for a while, and whilst never making it to their monthly club nights, or their now legendary annual music festival called Bushstock (so named as an ode to a gathering in London’s Shepherds Bush), I have supported and become a fan of many a Communion artist and been to see numerous communion artists live!

Being a big fan of music (and making sure that through song writing, curating a gig and playing an open mic as part of this 40 series) aside from Ealing Jazz Festival, this was the first ‘gig’ that has made it into my series of experiences with Theatre, Sport, Beer and Food playing a more central role in my celebrations aspect of these experiences.

This was a big one, a HUGE night for two of communions artists, playing a vast space (all relative I know to the likes of the 02) in the form of Brixton Academy. It felt like a really big deal for this gig to be sold out, and for the band to announce a further date at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2017.

The sense of scale and magnitude of the evening was felt by both bands, as Matthew and The Atlas seemed really overawed and nervous as they kicked into their set, and Bears Den kept saying ‘wow’ and ‘We can’t believe we are playing Brixton’ Academy’ lots of times between their songs. The sound was brilliant, the songs poignant and beautiful, but the on stage banter and chat was less winsome.

Bears Den opened with the opening tracks from their 2nd Album ‘Red Earth and Pouring Rain’ and the full band and brass sounded great, but in all honesty, it was beginning to sound a bit too samey and safe….. Cue older material and a bit more light, shade and variety in the set list  and especially with Isaac and then the utter genius and bravery of literally unplugging and all gathering around 1 microphone to play Sophie (and later Gabriel) to a remarkably respectful, hushed and silenced venue. They had us all, hooked, silent, in awe, it was awesome, awe- inspiring and a very brave and brilliant moment.


The nerves were gone and they went full stride into the 2nd half of the set with a renewed confidence, energy and buzz which lit up Brixton Academy and had us singing along and more wide open mouthed and very happy. Clouds of Pompeii and Agape in the set along with newer tracks went down a storm and with the 2nd acoustic ‘moment’ it sealed what would have been a pretty good gig into a great night.

I do think that the band and their sound work so well in that more intimate setting (Broken Parable just seems to work with more vulnerability than when at full tilt/sound, and we lost the beauty of the Bethlehem acoustic riff in favour of a more electric  sound) but the light and shade of songs and varieties of sound worked well on the night.

Do check out the bands music and have a listen to their recent Absolute Radio live session to get a sense of the more stripped back glories of their songs and sound.

I’m really glad I was at the gig and glad to have included it in my 10 experiences of celebrating being 40. I’m expecting a more all round pinnacle and wow moment when I see Bon Iver next year, not to mention Radiohead as well, and even expect to come away from my regular pilgrimage seeing Foy Vance (another communion connection) with a great sense of awe and wonder and wow…… but to raise a glass to Communion and to Bears Den and Matthew and The Atlas, was a thing of beauty.



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