Back at Country 2 Country this year I met up with Dexeter, and though I missed seeing them play in The O2, I made a promise that I’d go and see them play at some point. Well this past Saturday I made good on that promise, as I travelled up to Rockingham with my little boy Lucas, for a day of car racing and to see Dexeter play on the main outside stage. I’d played their EP Brighter Skies a number of times, so it wasn’t a shot in the dark, I already knew I liked their music.
It was a scorching day, the hottest of the year so far, but country music seems more at home outside on a warm afternoon than anywhere else. So much so that it had me dreaming of an outdoor country music festival in the UK, but more on that another time. Dexeter on this day were a 7 piece band, and they seem to be growing by the month! Two guitars, a double bass, drums, accordion and two vocalists. Of the singers it’s Dee who takes lead and is being manoeuvred more into the position of band focal point. With a smile to match the sun and a voice that is effortlessly glorious, that looks to be a good decision.
Dexeter kicked the afternoon off with Tired (Of being Tired), which as one of the more upbeat songs on their EP, was a great way to start. It became evident straight away that as much as 7 may seem a lot for a band, they all had their place and the sound came together very effectively. Straight away, as soon as the music started, I saw a band who were having fun and who really enjoyed playing. I think that’s very important in a live performance, because if the band aren’t having fun, then it’s pretty likely I’m not as well. The song builds to a point about 3 minutes in when Dee takes it up a key and is required to hit some long high notes. Let me tell you, with the sun beating straight down in her face, she nailed it, superbly. I swear she has one of those voices that could fill a stadium.
Dee plays off Gareth, who is the main man on guitar and the song writing force of the band. Gareth has a cheeky charisma which shines through while he blazes a trail on guitar, whilst making sure to interact with the other members of the band, no matter where they are on stage. He has a past of hard rock/metal, and that showmanship is evident here. It was actually Gareth’s first outing with a new guitar from Daisy Rocks UK, which both sounded great, and had him looking like a kid at Christmas when first trying it out on stage.
It’s hard to pigeon hole Dexeter as having a specific sound, but then do we really have to even try? They are country music, and some of that is modern country, there are hints of traditional and they even get rocky at times. I think sometimes we can get unnecessarily obsessed with labelling an artists’ style – it’s music, can we not just enjoy it for what it is? This makes it easy for them to throw in a classic like Jolene and it not feel out of place. Taking on a song from the Queen of country is brave, but they did it justice, with Dee’s vocals once again showing why she is a singer to sit up and take notice of.
On their EP it’s Grey that stood out for me – a beautiful ballad that talks of moving on to new things, and looking to the future. It’s a song that showcases both the more gentle side to Dee’s voice, but as the song builds so does her voice. Listening to Dexeter sing Grey on Saturday afternoon sent shivers down my spine, and that to me is what it’s all about. A song that can effect you emotionally, and really connect, truly is the best kind. To have a song like that, and then have it played live so brilliantly is the pinnacle of live music for me. If I didn’t have a camera in my hand I’d have fist pumped the air – such was my delight in hearing Grey sound even more incredible live than it had on CD.
Speaking to Dexeter I discovered that they are a band who don’t like playing covers repeatedly, which makes every gig unique. When Gareth told me before their set that they would be covering Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol I actually groaned. A quiet internal grown of course, or that would have been rude! But really, who didn’t get sick to death of that insipid intro that seemed to be played constantly on radio a few years back? Had this not been my first Dexeter gig, and had I not got to know them more after meeting them, I’d have known to just be patient and just see what they offered yup. In the case of Chasing Cars it was Dexeterised (I’m claiming that by the way) and to great effect, as this fresh country version of I song I’d grown to hate, became a song I liked once more. So much so, that I now I want to see what they can do with other songs I’m not keen on. Could they really make the Shoop Shoop Song bearable? No, I think that may be even beyond on the capability of the mighty Dexeter.
I mentioned earlier that there were 7 members of the band playing on Saturday, and while I talk a lot of Dee and Gareth, I do need to mention Paul on double bass, Jim on drums, Rachel on vocals and Pete on accordion, and new Dean Plays guitar, slide mandolin and resonator. In fact Paul was playing an electric double bass of the sort I’ve never seen before – all neck and strings, no body! It sounded great, as did everyone else. However, within Dexeter there is an undeniable sub-unit consisting of Dee and Gareth, who have an almost Charles and Hillary of Lady Antebellum type dynamic. They have a great chemistry and seem to feed of each other, which inevitably leads to more energy and fun in the show – all good for us watching and listening.
They finished the set with Older, a song that isn’t on the EP, but a lot of the crowd actually knew, and so went down really well. There were definitely some people watching who have played this teaser video of Older a lot! Live it sounded great, and after the Brighter Skies EP, it’s evidence that what comes next for Dexeter will be at least as good as what I know and love.
It was a 3 hour round trip to see Dexeter, and the car racing, and it was well worth it. They are an absolutely fantastic live band, with an infectious energy and the endearing quality of not knowing just how great they are, especially in the case of Dee. Not that it really matters as much as the music, but they are also really nice people, and I came away feeling like I had a cracking band to add to my favourites, and some new friends to boot. Lucas has since kicked his first love Kacey Musgraves off the top of his ‘most loved’ country artists list, to make way for Dexeter. That right there should be all you need to know.
I’m going to see Dexeter play again on Friday 30th May at a gig headlined by Jeannine Barry and also featuring Tom Price-Stephens, which is at The Garage in London. The tickets cost just £5, which makes it almost criminal to igonre – so get yours here, and I’ll see you there.
You can see more of Dexeter here: