The Struts–Fibbers, 27/10/14

Somehow, when browsing the listings for October, I had skipped over tonight’s gig. Perhaps I had confused the headliners with The Slits, I’m not sure. Anyway, it wasn’t on my radar until somebody, through my wife, recommended it to me. Sit in on my own or check out the recommendation? You have to ask?

First up were Titan’s Troubadours, a five piece alternative rock band from (I think) Leeds. There was a distinct difference in sartorial styles between the rhythm section of Hep and Keet, in their sleeveless t-shirts, and the front-line in their smarter red, white and black shirt and tie combos. But we’re not here for the fashion… Frontman Crowther immediately started pogoing to the fast, furious and too loud (in the sense of it became muddled) opening to their first track. It may or may not have been called Fall From Grace. It was definitely infectious and gave this relatively new band a chance to show off their talent and stage presence. As usual, it was nigh-on impossible to pick out what was being said between songs. (Is it my ears? Where I stand? Or is it something else?) The set continued with some impressive guitar work, more pogoing and powerful vocals. The performance was slick, even guitarist Immy stealing a swig of Crowther’s beer seemed perfectly timed, yet still spontaneous, between quiet and loud sections of Spectrum. With Crowther explaining that the band were going to “up the ante and go crazy”, the opening to the next track was deceptively quiet, until rapid fire vocals and an even more frantic drum line took over. After just five songs a track just as infectious as the rest brought to a close a set of powerful rock and roll, with just a hint of punk to the performance and a great start to the evening.

I hadn’t come across York band Hello Operator before tonight. Nor had I come across the term “desert rock”. As far as I’m aware, there are no deserts in or around York. One thing that did strike me, though, was frontman Max Dalton’s resemblance to Phil Lynott. The twanging, jangly guitar opening of their first track slowly built through something that sounded blues-based into pounding drums and chugging guitars, while the second track started faster, with a resonating bass line before not only changing pace halfway through but changing style as well. And it was apparently this sort of thing that put my gig-buddy for the night off. “They’re all over the place,” he complained, whereas I liked the fact that there was little formulaic to their music. A lighter guitar riff just about pushed its way through the rhythm section before the next track exploded briefly into life, then morphed into something much darker. Eddy Ellison’s loud rat-a-tat drums provided the backing to a guitar line which alternated between light and power and an audience participation section of “Oosh, sha la la oosh” and an ending of powerful rock and roll. The band’s penultimate track had another hint of blues and more throbbing bass from Robin Elliott and resulted in guitarist Peter Greenwood breaking a string. He purloined Dalton’s guitar for the final track, leaving the vocalist more chance to cavort energetically around the stage during some impressive instrumental sections. Another intriguing set and another local band to look out for.

The Struts came on stage to a backing track combination of what could perhaps be described as fairground music and a quote from the film RocknRolla. While guitarist Addo Slack looked like he would fit in with bands such as The Temperance Movement, frontman Luke Spiller’s makeup, hair and gold-sequinned jumper gave the impression he had just stepped out of a 70s glam rock band. There was an immediate audience clap-along during Roll Up and Spiller played to the crowd, encouraging their screams. Could Have Been Me was anthemic and energetic and the audience, a good turnout for a Monday night, seemed only too happy to sing along to Kiss This, while Spiller performed like an evangelist preaching at the altar or rock and roll. Not content with clapping and singing, Put Your Money On Me saw a large proportion of the audience now dancing. “I need you all to bounce up and down,” said Spiller at the start of My Machine. Did the crowd oblige? Of course they did. Spiller is a frontman with the swagger of Jagger, the stage presence of Freddie Mercury and, just occasionally, a touch of Robert Plant in his vocals. And boatloads of energy. After slowing things down a bit with You & I, he left the stage for the long guitar introduction to Dirty Sexy Money, returning in an even shinier gold jacket which didn’t last long before being ditched, presumably too hot on stage.

A cover of T-Rex’s Get It On fitted in perfectly with the rest of the set and saw the crowd eating out of Spiller’s hand. Halfway through he left the stage to stand on the bar (cracking his head on ceiling in the process) then returned to the middle of the mosh pit and got everybody around him to sit down, leading to a sing-along that brought to mind a combination of left-side, right-side pantomime competitions and Mercury’s wordless audience participation sections. All that was missing was a “f*ck you” at the end. With Spiller back on stage, Let’s Make It Happen and Black Swan brought the set to an end and the band left the stage to increasingly loud shouts of “more”.

After a few minutes Spiller and Slack returned. “Would you like to hear another one?” Did he need to ask? Matter Of Time started the encore in a less energetic manner than Where Did She Go, which saw the return of the rest of the band (Jed Elliott on bass and Gethin Davies on Welsh dragon-draped drums). At the start of this final song of the evening, Spiller asked everybody to crouch down and then, when the music started, jump up and have fun. It was no surprise that, once again, the entire moshpit and a few beyond, did so. Throughout the set more than one person had been reliving their childhood while others in the crowd could have been experiencing glam rock, albeit a modern take on it, for the first time. Kids barely student age mixed with older music fans and tattooed men danced, possibly drunkenly, with each other. I can’t remember seeing a crowd so “into” a performance and so willing to follow a frontman. I definitely won’t be skipping over The Struts again and the only thing that stopped me leaving this gig without a bigger smile on my face was the fact that there were no CDs for sale afterwards.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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