On of the joys of going to gigs either on-spec or on somebody else’s recommendation is that you occasionally come across a band that you wouldn’t hesitate to see again. Hence tonight’s solo outing to Stereo.
It’s not often that I’ve seen a band from outside the UK play in York, so it was a bit of a surprise to find that Freaky Age, tonight’s first support, were from Belgium. They play in the time-honoured choppy guitar style and their first song reminded me a bit of One Night Only. The start of their set was a bit disappointing. Despite having their own sound engineer the mix seemed all wrong. The vocals were drowned out by the guitars and the guitars themselves were almost indistinguishable behind the too loud drums. It wasn’t until the third songs in, Never See The Sun, that I managed to catch a title, let alone any of the lyrics. The introduction to the next song was just guitar and vocals and, without the battle of the sounds, I started to make out that the vocalist did have a good voice. Throughout the first half of their set, some interesting guitar noises threatened to surface above the rapidly becoming tiresome drums and backing vocals were non-existent – you could see mouths moving, but could hear nothing. It was a bit of a relief when, starting with the sixth song, the drums faded a bit into the background, the guitars were allowed to come to the fore and I started to hear lyrics with some clarity. Where Do We Go Now spent four weeks as a Belgian number one in 2008 and was slightly more “pop” than the rest of the set. This was followed by a cover of Pinball Wizard and a final song which I didn’t get the title of but was the best of the set. The band are all young – nineteen or so, but have already released two albums and toured across mainland Europe. There was a lot of enthusiasm and energy on stage. It’s unfair to write them off on the basis of poor sound and the second half of an unusually long set for a support act was hugely enjoyable.
Second to take to the stage were York’s own The Blueprints, who are billed as “alternative/indie/new wave”, which either means all the same thing or that they don’t quite have a distinct style. Their first song was light and airy while the second started off much darker and added keyboards to the mix before lightening up again for the main section. Staring At The Sun was, for me, just a tad too repetitive, Skylines was a much slower, less bouncy, more melodic song while the next was true rock and roll. Spectrum Versus Commodore must be the only rock song written for the 1980s geek generation while So Melancholy was anything but. Their final song was, again, the best – heavier and louder than the rest. There wasn’t quite as much energy on stage, but there did seem to be what can only be described as in inherent “cheekiness” in the performance, helped by a small amount of barracking (and, in the end a minor stage invasion) from members of fellow York band The Buccaneers. Like many local bands, The Blueprints aren’t exactly my type of thing, but are well worth seeing perform live.
Engineers aren’t exactly a York band but I believe that Mark Peters does live here. They have had a major line-up change since I saw them at Fibbers last year. Mark has moved from bass to guitar and vocals (and is also the main songwriter), Daniel Land now plays bass and Matthew Linley plays the drums. Keyboards are provided by Ulrich Schnauss who is now a full time member after previously playing live with the band. Original member Simon Phipps, on vocals, guitar and bass, completes the current lineup. Despite the membership changes, their sound has stayed more or less the same. Engineers weave the individual instrument sounds together, crafting music that hangs in the air, music that you can almost touch, that envelops you and is almost hypnotic. So hypnotic, in fact, that I couldn’t actually say how far into the set we were before a song was played that could actually have been said to liven things up. Most of their songs simply sit there, refusing to be moved, resonating in a bass-line that vibrates the floor. Despite touring to promote the third studio album, In Praise Of More, tonight’s set comprised of songs from all three albums. One song, simply announced as “from our first album” opened almost discordantly and was a little jarring before it settled down, but this was the only blip in an otherwise superb set. Whether you describe their style as shoe-gazing, ambient or prog (they were recently covered in Classic Rock Presents Prog) there is no doubting that Engineers are excellent.