It used to be a mainstay of our then gig-going-group’s Friday nights at Fibbers – a handful of English pounds to see three or four bands, some local, some from a bit further afield. Generally back in those days – and it’s not that long ago, certainly not ancient history – the place would be reasonably full and most of the bands worth listening to, even if one of our merry band would occasionally comment that we had to get through the, let’s say, not-so-good to get to the better stuff.
Sadly, such nights are few and far between these days. Maybe it’s the economic situation. Perhaps it’s just that Fibbers is run differently. I don’t know. (Before anybody points it out, I do know that other venues are available and that it is still possible to see local bands play for a few pounds, or even less, but I have my reasons for not going to them regularly.) Anyway, tonight felt like a throwback to those halcyon days of musical goodness – a mix of local and not-so-local acts, half of which I already knew and liked, costing barely anything to see and, I’m happy to say, there was, in my opinion, no not-so-good bands to get through.
Opening the evening, and in the unenviable position of having very few people in the audience, at least to start with, was Unfinished Drawings, with a rare for recent times solo line-up. “My band is me and this pedal down here,” explained Toby before he kicked off his set with Mistakes, soft his guitar work fighting to be heard above Fibbers’ infamous air-con unit before the addition of his distinctive vocals and a fuller guitar sound cut through the background noise. (It has to be said that, tonight, the bar staff were quicker to realise that the unit was still on and soon turned it off – admittedly, I felt slightly guilty for being thankful when, later in the evening, one band member told me how hot it was on stage…) Welcoming those who were, by now, swelling the crowd he continued he set with a song about judging people in the moment, a short piece that, once again, started out simply before adding complex percussion effects. There were more effects during Today, as the loop pedal was used to add distortion to the music. Then came, “a silly one, by Ray Parker Jr.”. Obviously it was a cover of Ghostbusters, performed in the unique style – turning a fast-paced disco track into a laid-back, soulful version – that drew me to Toby the first time I saw him busking on the streets of York. The applause was getting louder by the song and the crowd, also growing, seemed to really like this one. The lovely Ciara Star, title track of Unfinished Drawings latest EP, brought another set by York’s king of “scattershot pop” to a close, the track featuring looping, guitar shaking and the most complex, two-handed, percussion and yet the simplest lyrics.
Next up were Fronteers, a new band young from the Hull area. They suffered, again in my opinion, from Lloyd Tuton’s drums being too loud in the mix. During the first song it was particularly hard to pick out lyrics from the nice sounding dual vocals and the two guitars seemed to meld into one, except during an interesting, if brief, mid track section from one of the guitarists. By the second track, a fast and furious rock and roll sound with some very tight stop-start moments that was much more interesting than their opener, it seemed as though the band may have been brought up on their grandparents’ vinyl collection. The third was different again, with an echo-y guitar sound from Andy Towse (I think) and a vocal style that reminded me of sixties pop. The opening of It’s Up To Me Now, a changeable track with an unexpectedly abrupt ending, reminded me slightly of Queen’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love but the overriding sound was that of the over-liberal and, perhaps, slightly unnecessary use of crashing cymbals. I didn’t catch the title of the new song but it was followed by Elysium Fields, a less-identifiably retro song that reminded me a bit of The Littlemores and was the best of a set that finished with Youth, a track that started out lively and was ramped up throughout its length.
Whitley Bay’s Lisbon were next to take to the stage. Older and more experienced, they brought a wider array of instruments and equipment from the side-lines – additions to the drumkit, multiple guitars and in-ear monitors – and the impression was of a band that were more used to headlining. In fact, this gig was included on their own “headline tour” poster. There was no mere bottle of lager on stage for the for the band’s frontman, as he took delivery of a two-pint stein, apparently liberated from the Bierkeller. The backing track opening of Bluelove led into an almost jangly-pop sound that was lighter than I expected from the band’s image, as were the clear vocals. After an even livelier and lighter track, featuring a nice guitar line, the audience were encouraged to dance along to the next track. Personally, I thought the previous two were more danceable but the band’s guitarist and bass-player obviously disagreed. I’m not sure what it was that the bass-player moved onto for Hey You – some sort of mini-keyboard/synth – but it seemed to be producing an even deeper rumbling sound than his bass during a track that also featured one of a number of unusual guitar riffs heard throughout the set. The next track was heavy on the percussion in the middle, with the band’s guitarist joining in to help the drummer, while Ambient, in both name and sound, was slower and more atmospheric, with a hint of Pink Floyd in the vocal structure at the beginning. It was also short. Too short. I Don’t Know returned to the alt-pop-rock sound that was representative of most of the set, with the guitarist knocking out another jangly riff. It would appear that the vocalist was having problems with his monitors during this track, although I doubt anybody would have noticed if he hadn’t been fiddling with them so much. There definitely didn’t seem to be a noticeable drop in quality. Hustle was built around more of a tune than a short riff and the next, definitely danceable, track’s drum opening, while loud, was never allowed to overpower the music. There was more of the same, perhaps slightly rockier, to end an enjoyable.
Headliners Everlate are one of those bands that I feel old when watching and I can’t help but think that there are people in the much younger audience looking at me and wondering where the teenage daughter they assume I’m escorting is. Truth is, even being a relatively old f*rt, I still enjoy good music, especially live, and Everlate are one of my favourite live bands. They don’t necessarily perform as often as some bands – not at gigs, anyway – and, because of a lack of recorded output, their songs aren’t as familiar as those of some other bands. That will change after tonight, though, as this is the launch gig for their Vitals EP. As they set up, I noticed that they have another new guitarist, Dom Bennison, in the line-up. I also noticed that the crowd have finally moved forward while still leaving an area in front of the stage clear (perhaps put off by the smoke machine which is, tonight, pointing off stage). Where had all these people been until now? And, more personally, why did the tallest person in the room, apart from bass-player James Rodgers, chose to stand directly in front of me…? The set-up seemed to take so long that I feared for the length of their set. It was a good job this wasn’t an album launch. Eventually, alone on a darkened stage, Si Humphries kicked things off with cymbals over a backing track. There were cheers as the rest of the band came on stage. As usual the songs were enhanced by triple or four-part vocals, with the first from the EP, New, coming three tracks into the set. Its atmospheric guitar opening leading into a short, pleasantly brash drum section before full band came in. Ferris Wheel Feeling was comfortably familiar from previous gigs and I was glad to hear that it also featured on the EP. Frontman Andy Doonan moved onto the keyboard for the next track and gave his strongest vocal performance so far, with the band providing a powerful ending to the track. Older song Here You Are saw Andy back on acoustic guitar, then it was back to the keys for a new track which, in the band’s style, opened slowly and with atmosphere and built throughout. The fantastic Chemicals And Electricity continued the flow of the set and then, all too soon, Andy announced the last song of the set to be Sky On Fire, another oldie, which drew big cheers and shouts of “Doo-nan” from members of his previous bands. It may not have been the longest set I’ve seen from Everlate but this was another great live set from a band I think deserve to be playing bigger venues and to bigger crowds and it is a mark of how much I enjoy their music that I had no hesitation in buying an EP. I’m just sorry it wasn’t an album.