It’s not often we venture out during the week but Roj had been sent a recommendation for tonight’s headline act at Fibbers. They are Engineers and are about to support Porcupine Tree. That was enough information for me to decide to go along. Well, that and the fact that they had album of the week in the Sunday Times a short while back. (It’s worth pointing out that I don’t read the Sunday Times and had picked that little fact up from a magazine advert for the album…) More on them later.
When we arrived the first act was already on stage (and seemed to have more than a few friends in the audience). I’m afraid I wasn’t concentrating too much and didn’t catch his name but it was another man-and-guitar act. He played a couple of covers that I recognised – Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer and (I think) Queen’s Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon (although we both thought it was The Kinks at the time). Other than those, there wasn’t a great deal to hold my interest. I’ve said it before and, no doubt, I’ll say it again, but it takes a lot of courage to perform on stage in front of any sort of audience. So I take my hat off to the guy and, if by some slim chance he reads this, I apologise for not being able to at least name him.
Leeds four-piece Sketches took to the stage next and upped the noise level a tad. Three guitarists with a drummer hidden somewhere in the dark at the back of the stage, with two of the guys sharing vocal duties. The guitar playing was, at times, incredibly atmospheric and reminded us a little of Coldplay, although I thought they were brasher and louder. Whatever their influences are, they sounded pretty good (and it helps that the Fibbers sound guy seems to mix the instruments a lot better than you used to get in the venue). The lyrics were a little indistinct but the overall effect was something that I could get used to.
And so to the band we were waiting for. The Engineers have been around for years but, due to a restructuring of their original record company, only released their second album Three Fact Fader this year, four years after their full debut release Engineers. As I said above, they are about to support the excellent Porcupine Tree and it was on the basis that they would probably sound a little similar to them that I decided to see them. Billed as a five piece (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards and drums) they were joined on stage by a second, female, vocalist. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t been able to find any reference to her on any of the band’s various web-sites but, to make amends, here’s a
(fairly poor) photo…
Given my comments above about the sound mixing at Fibbers, it’s a little hard to understand why this band’s keyboards were mixed so loud that you could barely hear the guitars behind them (literally – both guitar and bass were, unusually, placed at the back of the stage). However, I’m assuming it was right otherwise what would be the point of a sound-check?
It may just be that the Engineers’ sound was just too big for a venue the size of Fibbers. The music hung heavy in the air, keyboards as thick as fog and drums pounding at the audience. The guitars were there, it just took an effort to pick them out. The vocals, it has to be said, were muddy for the most part and indistinct at best but that didn’t seem to matter. Space Rock? Psychedelia? Shoe-gazing? Atmospheric Rock? Industrial Rock? Who cares?? Bloody good would just about cover it. “We’re going to calm it down a bit,” said lead singer Simon Phipps about halfway through the all too short set, before trying to project his vocals through a song that ended with a blistering instrumental. Calm indeed…
I don’t think I’ve heard anything like the Engineers’ sound before but I certainly hope I get a chance to hear them again. Superb.