Pete Astor


Pete Astor was once labelled the next ‘Dylan’ by Creation Records head honcho Alan McGhee who signed Astor’s then band The Loft to McGhee’s fledgling record company in 1984. Unfortunately following the demise of The Loft and his second band, The Weather Prophets, the latter being signed to the major label Warners, wider success proved elusive particularly as Warners were heavily promoting Prince, Fleetwood Mac and Simply Red at the time.

Following this period Astor briefly quit the music industry but has emerged over the last decade to gradually rebuild his career alongside his day job of Lecturer in Theoretical and Practical Studies at the University of Westminster. He has released a number of critically acclaimed records via small independent labels, the latest, One for the Ghost being issued on the lovely German based label Tapete, and his reputation is once again growing following endorsements from contemporary musicians such as James Hoare of the recently split London art pop janglers Ultimate Painting.

Prior to Astor’s arrival on stage we are treated to a well-received set by up and coming London based band Ski Saigon. There is a lo-fi slackerish charm to their indie pop songs and an intriguing vocal interplay between their male and female vocalists with a nice lyrical turn of phrase on songs such as ‘Iran Tourist Dream’. Definitely ones to watch out for in the future.

The casually suited and dapper Pete Astor arrives on stage to a warm welcome from the lively Castle crowd and he begins acoustically with recent album highlights ‘Mr Music’ and ‘Watertower’, both of which perfectly illustrate Astor’s kitchen sink love life tales. He is soon joined by his backing band to go electric amid a jovial chant of ‘Judas’ from the crowd emanating the infamous Dylan Manchester Free Trade Hall episode. His band providing sympathetic backing to Astor’s songs as he ups the tempo to include a run through The Loft classic song ‘Why Does it Rain’ where Astor’s penchant for the electric strum of The Velvet Underground crossed with a Byrdsian jangle comes to the fore.

Astor’s set focuses mainly on his last two album but with songs as strong as ‘Walker’ an ode to therapeutic effects of strolling around London and ‘One for the Ghost’ with its reference to the passing of Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway are all enthusiastically appreciated by the crowd.

For the encore after apologetically turning down requests for songs he can’t remember, he starts with ‘Dead Trumpets’ but stops after a few bars to admonish himself for poor quality playing before he begins again without microphone to serenade the audience. He need not have worried as when he leaves weaving through the packed crowd there are many smiles and pats on the back from the audience who have lapped up the evening’s entertainment.

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Jonathan Roby

Overgrown indie kid with a penchant for americana, psych and weird folk.