I’ve only been to the Social once before, and didn’t stay for very long, so I’ve not had the opportunity to see how it measures up as a music venue. I’ve been to the Thekla in Bristol a couple of times though (which is run by the same group), and had a lot of fun, so I was hopeful. Arriving having not eaten dinner, the first port of call was the menu which, while short, I can safely say, hand on heart, was the best pub menu I’ve ever seen – purely for the inclusion (right at the bottom) of spaghetti hoops or baked beans on toast – grated cheese optional. I had spaghetti hoops, of course; I’m not some kind of heathen. Tonight was the first night to be put on by Fractions of One – a weblog who run interviews and features about bands they genuinely like, rather than bands they feel they should be promoting. I had a bit of a chat with Josh on the night and was quite taken with his attitude – the vision behind the nights is to put on actual events, not just loads of bands who he doesn’t know anything about, with the focus on more of an acoustic-y, laid back sound; both of these elements were evident in tonight’s offering, as the bands complemented each other perfectly and were very enjoyable to listen to. Shoes And Socks Off reminded me of Semisonic back in the days of Feeling Strangely Fine, and while I think this was due to his voice rather than the music, it was good for a heady dose of nostalgia (Feeling Strangely Fine being a seminal album of my teenage years) and got me in the mood immediately. A singer/songwriter with a huge amount of facial hair which makes him look far older than I’m sure he must be, Tobias Hayes has arrived at solo work following stints with Meet Me In St Louis and Shield Your Eyes, and is now on his second release as Shoes And Socks Off. His music is guitar driven and emotional, with lyrics from the heart and song titles that made me smile (‘Vice Magazine Has A Lot To Answer For’). Not music to dance to, but certainly music that’s impossible not to be drawn in by. With the prevalence of singer/songwriters in the music scene at the moment, it’s a treat to find someone who clearly puts so much of himself into his songs. The venue wasn’t terribly busy at this stage, but the people who were there seemed to be really enjoying themselves – there was some slight chatter from the back of the room, but this was noticeable only because the crowd nearer the front were listening in captivated silence. Definitely someone to keep an eye on. Mechanical Bride boast three members and a variety of instruments, which they switch between with an ease borne of practise and familiarity. During their set I counted a guitar, piano, glockenspiel, accordion (which seems to be making a resurgence in music at the moment), flute and an 8-stringed ukulele, if such things exist (a glance at their myspace tells me it was probably a mandolin). They also pulled a violinist seemingly out of thin air (well, from the audience) for one of their tracks. The venue was busier now and they got a very good reception – the crowd really took to their skilful blend of soft folk and electronica, topped with vocals that managed to be breathy and ethereal without sounding contrived – a difficult feat. The Social was a very good venue for this type of music as people were able to listen from the comfort of sitting around a table with their friends. The size of the stage (small) and the soft lighting also meant that you didn’t get the usual 6 foot gap between the band and the crowd (no-one wanting to seem over-keen) and a lot of people were sat around the edges of the ‘dance floor’ giving the whole evening a very intimate feel. Both of tonight’s acts showcased very skilled instrumentalists; something which is always good to see and which I hope will be a characteristic of Fractions of One nights – I’m definitely keeping a space in my calendar for the next one. What say you on this? Sound off in our Fourum!