Skydaddy live in Bristol: Rachid Fakhre’s budding project channels songwriting royalty

B&W image of Rachid Fakhre as Skydaddy

Rachid Fakhre’s reputation has begun to precede him.

Through the latter part of the 2010s and early 2020s, he amassed something of a cult following as one half of psychedelic pop duo Spang Sisters, alongside his songwriting associate Jules Gibbons.

The project’s carefree approach to writing breezy, sundrenched melodies was a breath of fresh air for many, but with the project now seemingly on indefinite hiatus and Gibbons now busy as the guitarist for art-punks KEG, it was inevitable that Fakhre would re-emerge in some form rather than throw in the proverbial towel. This has in turn blessed us with his new solo project, Skydaddy.

Still possessing the same airy atmosphere as his last project, Skydaddy recently released his debut EP, Pilot, to critical acclaim and embarked on his first nationwide tour in support of the record. Aided by his band of seven ‘Space Pharaohs’ (as he lovingly refers to them), Rachid stops by at Crofters Rights in Bristol for a spellbinding demonstration of the five songs and more.

While Crofters Rights is on the cosier side as Bristol venues go, it’s almost guaranteed to draw in a fair congregation of in-the-know music fans, and with its backroom, complete with glitterball, packed from the outset, the promise of an excellent show is realised early on.

Of the two local supports, slowcore fivesome Swelt open the evening with a set of delicate songs that call the likes of caroline and Talk Talk to mind and, while follow-up act Windshake may seem an outlier on the bill with a proggy sound flanked by ornate folky arrangements, their commitment to throwing in an endless flurry of complex ideas doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.

With the eight-strong ensemble demonstrating a full range of emotions and dynamics throughout, there is a little treasure in every song in the Skydaddy set. Early singles ‘That Morning’ and ‘His Masterpiece’ are packed with grandeur at times, with the full band bursting into maximalist flourishes that highlight every member’s importance to the clever arrangements.

Fakhre’s more lavish compositions and heartfelt delivery draw contemporary comparisons in the likes of Ethan P Flynn and MF Tomlinson in the way they layer strings, wind and honeyed vocal harmonies without it ever seeming overcooked. At other times, the songwriting makes nods to older artists, with the odd smattering of Nick Drake and Paul McCartney-isms shining through, and Brill Building elements are dashed over the top for good measure. 

While it’s only the songs from Pilot that have seen widespread release, it isn’t just the known material that wows on the night, with a number of unreleased tracks making a solid impression throughout the set.

That said, the two standout moments come in the form of ‘Tear Gas’; a duet usually performed with Tyler Hyde of Black Country, New Road, which takes a minimalist form when performed without her contributions, and instrumental track ‘Lebanon Rising’. There is very little stirring from the audience for the former, but the latter plays to a pin-drop silent room with all ears and eyes focused on the intricately beautiful tribute to his ancestry in the Levant.

There’s a brilliant chemistry between the band and Fakhre, with the frontman seemingly in a very buoyant mood throughout the evening and regularly making humorous proclamations of “let’s rock, motherfuckers” before going into a delicate display of folky balladry.

His project may have changed, but Rachid’s command of an audience is as strong as ever, and while there’s plenty of emotion in the lyrics he still knows how to inject fun into the performance. Nothing can mar this debut Bristol outing for Skydaddy, not even the venue’s glitchy alarm system that chimes in every other song as though it were the tone-deaf ninth member.

Now that the tour has come to an end, it’s safe to say that it’s well worth catching Skydaddy next time the full ensemble appears on the road. As his songbook grows and there is more material for people to sink their teeth into, it won’t take long for Fakhre to move beyond the cult status of his previous outfit and onto greater heights.

featured image: Humothy

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