“Tonight’s show will be loud. Earplugs are available at the bar,” was the gist of the sign on the door to Fibbers. It wasn’t long into the support set that Andy wandered back to said bar to get some. I decided to tough it out.
Maybeshewill are a five piece, instrumental band from Leicester who have been around since 2005 and have released three albums. They came on stage to a piano backing track, and played atmospheric, moody rock, inevitably bringing forth thoughts of Engineers or York’s own Lost From Atlas and Tears Of Ishtar, the latter especially given that two tracks also featured voiceovers, which were a feature of Ishtar the first time I saw them (if not any longer). However, their performance was much more energetic and less shoe-gazing than any of those bands. Imagine something halfway between the hippy space-rock of Ozric Tentacles and grunge. Keyboards featured heavily, especially during the third track which featured a lovely interval before the music swelled back to its previous, pseudo-orchestral heights. Even behind two guitars the keyboards were never swamped and were allowed to both breathe and accentuate the tracks even through the heaviest sections. The only track that was introduced by name was To The Skies, From A Hillside – a somewhat appropriate title, given that it was this evening that Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumped from a balloon twenty-three miles up. The band paid tribute to him, pointing out that it was like falling all the way from York to Leeds and that he had done, “pretty well. He’s not dead…” I’m reliably informed that the band’s musical style is not original – Andy compared them to Godspeed You! Black Emperor – but, compared to similar bands that I have come across, they are are one of the best at what they do. If this hadn’t been a busy period of gigs for me, with CD purchases already planned, I would definitely have taken the plunge at the merchandise table. As it is three more albums have made it to my wish-list.
It’s evenings like this that make me realise how out of touch I am with music. Not the “popular” stuff (I quite like being out of touch with that…) but with what, apparently is truly popular with, apparently, the student-aged audience. I only stumbled across …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead when their 2011 album Tao Of The Dead was reviewed in Prog magazine, a review which piqued my interest by mentioning that the album was going to be accompanied by a comic (comics being another interest of mine). Eventually, I picked up an on-offer copy of the album, sans comic, and it ended up being one of my favourites of last year. Given that the band hail from Austin, Texas, I never thought I would have an opportunity to see them play live. After all, how many people in the UK, let alone in the York area, would have heard of them? Well, it turns out that quite a few had and Fibbers was about as full as I have seen it since it was re-opened a couple of years ago. Most of the audience was (you guessed it) of student age, with a surprising number of groups of females, making me not only feel old, but also slightly less smug about having come across the band.
Trail Of Dead have already released seven albums with an eighth being released imminently and, while I didn’t recognise any of the tracks played tonight, the rest of the audience seemed to know a fair few of them. Although covered by Prog magazine, there is more than a hint of punk in their music, which is often complex but rarely subtle, with the bass-line delivered by Autry Fulbright II (looking like a more sinister version of Kid Creole) occasionally managing to vibrate your skull. I particularly liked his somewhat original style of playing during towards the end of the set, when he alternated between helping out the drummer and playing bass by hitting the strings with a drum-stick. The note on the door was right – but it wasn’t just that the music was loud and the vocals unintelligible, even though rarely below shouting level (except for one quieter song during which they were slightly more audible). The band were energetic, ploughing through songs with barely a breath taken to introduce the next one. Guitarist Jason Reece and drummer Jamie Miller swapped roles a number of times and the band swigged “medicinal” Jack Daniels from the bottle before, just prior to the last song, handing it into the crowd where it eventually made its way to the girl standing right in front of me. Sadly, she seemed not to grasp the concept and didn’t really know what to do with it… If all this reads as though I didn’t enjoy the gig, it’s not meant to – OK, I didn’t know the songs, couldn’t begin to piece together a set-list and, for the most part, couldn’t understand the lyrics, but I had to admire the overall performance. And it seems that the rest of the audience did as well – this is the first time I’ve seen a proper mosh-pit at Fibbers.
…and, at the end of the night, I was slightly surprised that my ears weren’t bleeding…