Three weeks into 2011 and tonight should have seen the whole gang making their way to Fibbers for our first gig of the year. Sadly Andy’s engine decided to blow up, resulting in him missing a cracking night out. As is usual, I arrived first – except this time, it wasn’t just first of the four of us. Apart from band members and staff, I was the first person through the doors and, therefore, could get a better impression of exactly how soulless an empty Fibbers actually is. Granted, it’s not meant to be experienced in that way and, I guess, most people don’t actually turn up to a gig on their own.
First to take to the stage, after a greeting and a brief chat, was GT Turbo (again under his Boss Caine guise – I suspect so as not to confuse anybody who might be tempted into buying one of his excellent CDs). Being on first is never easy and GT had to contend with the usual swell of noise as the crowd started to grow. Despite a concerted effort from some of the other acts, few people seemed interested in listening, standing instead at the back and catching up with people that they probably hadn’t seen for an hour or so. LOUDLY! By now, you probably realise that I’m a big fan and tonight’s set, with it’s mixture of old – Dead Man’s Suit, The Kind of Loving (I’m still guessing at the title of this one…) – and newer – Dean Street Devils, Murder On My Mind, Father Time – was one of the strongest I’ve seen him perform, even if he was struggling with the sound and general apathy. There was even a brand new song, which may have been called Down On Your Knees, which was introduced as something that he has “big plans” for, and another (which I didn’t get the title of) but which was an epic booze and drug-filled “real life” love song. Highlight for me, though, was the first live performance I have heard of The Life In Your Years in what was, I think, a change to the original set-list. For non-regulars, this superb, heart-rending autobiographical song was my favourite of 2010 and I even got a shout-out from the stage when it was played.
I had been telling people that, of the four acts on tonight, I had only seen two before. However, I soon realised that I had, in fact, seen The Blueprints back at the beginning of December, at Stereo. Tonight’s set was quite similar to that one, with the first song being performed without Tom Williams on keyboard, before he joined them for the rest of the set. Song-titles I picked up included Breaking Walls, Three Minutes (with its dark opening eventually turning into a more dancey number), Staring At The Sun, the superb City Skylines and Walk Away. As last time, there was a degree of cheekiness, epitomised by vocalist Stuart Allan’s mischievous grin, in their playing and a lot of fun on stage and, for some reason, I found myself enjoying their music a lot more tonight that I did last time. If infectious indie pop is your thing, you could do a lot worse than to see these guys.
Last time I saw 98Pages I was a little disappointed – despite being the headliners that night, they performed a very short set which came across as a bit underwhelming. Tonight, however, they were on very top form, proving once again that, however good their debut album – Broken Homes And The Halfway House – is, they excel themselves with their energetic live performances. I’m afraid I have no idea what the first song they performed was, but it had a very definite Led Zeppelin feel, thanks to the riffs. Nor did I recognise the second song, while the third was the band’s “anthem”, Goodbye Jojo, from the album. I also recognised Only Let You Down, but I’m fairly certain that the rest of the set was new music. Extremely good new music, some of which will, hopefully, be released on a second album soon. (There was also talk of some EP releases, but I’m not a big fan of that format – no sooner have you put one on and sat down than you have to get up to change the CD…) As usual, there wasn’t a great deal of interaction with the audience (hence the lack of titles above) as the band let the music do the talking. And a very interesting monologue it was.
So to the only band on tonight’s bill that I hadn’t see before, The Buccaneers. Perhaps best described as rhythm and blues for the indie generation, they provided the longest set of the evening, with their eleven, mostly fast-paced, songs including Out Of Sight, Singing The Blues (with its rather abrupt ending), Take My Soul, Ride with it’s superb solo and slightly more rock ‘n’ roll sound, the very repetitive Don’t Break Down, a nice cover of blues standard Baby Please Don’t Go and, best song of the set, The Pistol’s Warm (it’s your groove that’s killing me) – the video for which can be seen on YouTube – with it’s metallic sounding guitars and slightly chaotic ending.
I might have switched the bill around slightly but, overall, this was a very enjoyable evening with four very strong acts. In terms of live music, a great start to the year.