It’s only my second ever trip to Stereo, so I think I can be forgiven for not realising that the music being played in the front bar wasn’t the same as that being played in the performance area.
So it wasn’t until Andy stuck his head round the door that we realised that tonight’s gig had actually started and that Oli Stevens-Vallecillo, of heavy metal band Mantra, was on stage for an acoustic set, accompanied by a second guitarist (Cat, I think he introduced her as). The first song we heard sounded, musically, uncannily like Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead Or Alive but was, as far as I could tell, an original. Oli has a powerful, rumbling voice, which made whatever he sang very clear and he plays guitar with a mixture of intricacy and effects. Apparently he teaches guitar around York and it has to be said that his students are lucky to have such a clever player as their tutor. Adding a second guitar resulted in some lovely harmonies and Cat also provided a bit of extra vocals on a couple of songs. All the songs seemed to be originals, apart from a very nice cover of Man In The Mirror, which took away the pop trappings of the original and resulted in a much more interesting version. Thoroughly enjoyable, I could have listened to Oli all day.
I last saw rock band Raw Deal supporting The Tygers of Pan Tang at Fibbers in May and enjoyed their set. Tonight, they were joined by new bassist Michaela (whether that’s permanent is unclear – both MySpace and Facebook still list the bass position as TBC), who looked naggingly familiar to me, but I can’t remember or work out from where. Tonight, the whole band seemed to be more assured and confident, with guitarists Dan and Phil certainly living the rock and roll dream, both with their looks and antics on stage. Steph is a charismatic front-woman and, while her vocals are still sometimes drowned out by the music, has a fantastic voice. Jake on drums is good without being intrusive and, together with Michaela’s bass, provided a nice background to the music. The only criticism I would have is that Michaela sometimes looked a little lost on stage and tended to fade into the background when Dan and Phil moved together into their rock stances. To her credit, she did seem to realise this towards the end of the set and started moving out of their shadows. I can’t say that I recognised any of the songs from the previous time, but tonight’s performance sounded, to me, an order of magnitude better than at Fibbers. I’m afraid I only caught two song titles, but they were both from very good songs – Stalker Song and Breakdown.
Right, cards on the table time… I can usually find something I like in a band’s performance and there are very few bands that I definitely wouldn’t see a second time. However…
Hailing from Nottingham Baby Godzilla, a four-piece (although with only three on show tonight) psycho-blues/post punk band, just aren’t my thing. Displaying an almost total lack of subtlety, an over-reliance on feedback and a too showy performance the band mixed a fast and furious musical performance with screaming, unintelligible vocals to produce a head splitting noise. When they started their set, the place had emptied and, two songs in, I wondered whether everybody else already knew what was just dawning on me. However, word soon seemed to spread and the room started filling up again and everybody but me seemed to be enjoying the performance. Me, though, I like to at least have a chance of hearing the music and understanding the lyrics, not watching the drummer do a headstand over his drum kit or wander among the audience playing the cymbal until the stand falls apart. Sorry, but not for me.
98Pages, on the other hand, I do like. This is the third time I’ve seen them and, it has to be said, they are a superb live act, performing no-nonsense rock and roll in short, sharp and rhythmic songs. Tonight’s (very short) set comprised of a lot of new or, at least, unfamiliar songs, with Goodbye JoJo being the only one that I recognised from before. There’s very little speaking between songs as the boys let their music do the talking. A very polished performance and, hopefully, the new material means that a second album is in the offing.