I often feel old at gigs these days, but rarely as old as I did tonight. As I waited for the The Duchess to open its doors for what was my first visit there this year, I decided to stand closer to the nearby bus stops than the venue itself, so as not to draw wondering stares from the crowd of teenagers. Once inside it was obvious that I and, eventually, my gig-buddy for the night were going to stick out like the proverbial sore thumbs. Not only were we among the oldest, if not the oldest, there but we were two of the very few not sporting either ultraviolet paint and/or an array of glow sticks. I made my way almost to back of the venue and hoped that nobody, except that gig-buddy when he turned up, would notice me…
Now, the back of a venue isn’t the best place to listen to music and this may have affected my opinion of The Black Lagoons. This young band opened loudly, with thrashing guitars and a pounding drum beat. Musically interesting, especially as the track progressed, the lyrics (what I could hear of them) got a bit repetitive. Their second track picked up the pace even more. I’m sure it must have contained vocals but I’m darned if I could pick them out. Surprisingly, for a band billed as crowd pleasers, tonight’s crowd seemed, so far at least, a little shy, both in terms of approaching the stage and applauding the songs. A staccato drum line kicked off the next, shorter, track but it was soon drowned out by the guitars. Reining things back and slowing things down, the next song featured what I hope was deliberate pseudo-feedback rather than the real thing and a drone-like guitar sound. This time the vocals were strong, if still mostly unclear (the bane of so many bands). The effort these boys were putting in was impressive and shown particularly by the drummer’s green face paint which he had already sweated almost completely off. A darker, slower opening led to a lively end and lyrics I could actually hear and then the pace was upped again for a track that, musically, reminded me of Black Sabbath. There was definitely variation both between and within each song and, with this one, the second half was so different that I’m not sure whether or not it had segued into another one entirely, one that was both epic and just the right side of brutal and brought the set to a rousing close. If nothing else this opening set was impressive for the energy brought to it by this young band. Nothing about it was particularly unpleasant, it’s just that I, personally, like a bit more of a tune and a melody and this was a bit too “modern” metal for me. If you like that sort of thing, though, this band is worth looking out for.
After a short break, during which the crowd seemed to thin slightly, Little Resistance took to the stage and opened their set with a slightly funky sound and vocals that immediately made me and my gig-buddy take notice and venture forward. Fronting the trio, as well as playing acoustic bass, Sophie Walmsley’s vocals were not only strong but razor sharp and as clear as crystal. The opening track started slow, morphed into something faster and eventually faded away. Continuing with A Way To Go, those lovely vocals were never allowed to be overpowered by the music, increasing in power and volume when required and always sung with a smile. Strive featured alternating jangly and choppy guitar sounds and, again focusing on Sophie, some well-held notes. I didn’t catch the title of the next track – the band’s guitarist played over the introduction – but it was catchy enough to bring forth an audience clap-along. Perhaps just slightly too long, it eventually ended with more superb vocals. Please Take Me Home (I think) started in almost sultry fashion before turning more pop-py and featured some stand-out drumming and then Stink (apparently the trio couldn’t decide on a name and this one has just stuck), showcasing the band’s tight playing and a scratchy guitar sound ended this too short set of steady, uncomplicated (in a nice sense) soft rock and drew cheers from the crowd. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this band again.
We hard started with a four-piece, moved onto a trio and next came a duet. Lion Papers are an acoustic pair who proved to be, in my experience anyway, both original and interesting. Lead vocalist Curtis Pearson also plays drums but, rather than a full kit, just a couple that he stands behind at the front of the stage. Mixed with Jimmy Ingham’s guitar it makes for a lively, catchy sound and he makes it look effortless, although by the end of the second track his jacket had been removed. The drums came in later during Velveteen, a song with a retro feel – sort of sixties by way of Oasis. A cover of The Vaccines If You Wanna was followed by Amelia, the b-side of the duo’s debut single and, by now, a few in the audience were dancing along. Another cover, this time their own take on Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, received the biggest cheer so far. In m opinion, though, it wasn’t their best song. Ingham fully revealed his Oasis t-shirt before they played Champagne Supernova – thankfully not a vocal copy and lacking the drawl of the original – which prompted an audience sing-along. During Amelia I had wondered whether the a-side of the single had been as good. I got a chance to judge when Beautiful Disaster was announced as the last song. It was back to a fast and furious style, both in the drumming and the short guitar excerpts that peppered the song. The dual vocals were nice, but I preferred the b-side.
What’s in a name? First impressions, usually. While I’m never one to judge a book by its cover, I had been slightly put off seeing tonight’s headliners because of their name. To me The Filthy Piece suggested something grungy, possibly even punk. I was to be proved wrong. “Good evening you bright, shiny people,” came the welcoming shout from the stage, prior to a fantastic, old-style rock opening to At War from Alex Higginson and Josh Sissons’ guitars, with Isis Dunthorne’s drums and then the vocals building into a superb first track. And yes, there was the sort of tune I was looking for at the beginning of the evening, proving that rock doesn’t just have to be noise. My only worry was whether this level could be maintained through the set. The momentum continued as the trio moved straight on with Fag Ends And Gos and then the less rock-y, yet still lively, older song Chest Line Mind, one of those annoying songs in that it reminded me of something and yet wasn’t long enough to give me time to work out what. With any band I can do without Arctic Monkeys covers, so I’m going to brush over When The Sun Goes Down and, later, Dancefloor as if they didn’t happen, at least in part because the band’s own material was so much better. Sissons moved onto acoustic guitar for the popular “oldie” Money Spider, which continued the indie sound from that cover. Dunthorne’s subtle opening drum line and the hollow guitar sound gave Let’s Fly To The Moon a nicely atmospheric sound. Not all covers are bad. Staying with the acoustic sound the band kicked off their cracking version of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters with an impressive instrumental opening. Then Dunthorne ventured forward, taking up a third acoustic guitar for the popular I Didn’t Want To. A very nice song, completely different to the rest of the set, I didn’t hear properly hear Simmons’ story behind it, although it sounded emotional. It was back to electric guitars and drums for Salt, whose opening riff somehow reminded me of The Rembrants’ I’ll Be There For You, but whose deep and echo-y vocals definitely didn’t. By now a mosh pit had started up, leading to glow-stick carnage on the dance floor. Two new songs followed. Other Way saw a return to the style of the opening track, a tuneful wall of sound with vocals punching through, while Seven Missed Calls, receiving its first ever play, saw the band joined on stage by Ingham from Lion Papers for another hard rocker with powerful vocals and a hard sound. During this song I got a text from my gig-buddy, standing next to me, who said that he thought it was based on The Rolling Stones’ Midnight Rambler. He would know, I wouldn’t… There was no pause for breath before World That Seems So Small, it’s brilliant drum line leading a track that was still rocky but less hard and which proved to be the last of the set. Inevitably, after barely time to get off stage, the band came back for an encore, which started with that second Artic Monkeys cover. Then, with the crowd chanting, “Isis, Isis,” came the final song of the night. It’s a good job it was as the end of What’s Left saw Higginson’s guitar smashed to the stage, with Ingham also reappearing to destroy an acoustic. A proper rock and roll ending to the set or Steinman’s “no way to treat an expensive music instrument”. Take your pick.
I had another preconception about tonight’s gig, given the age of the bands and, perhaps, the fact that I had barely heard of any of them let alone seen them before. I thought it would be full of those awkward amateur moments when band members talked amongst themselves, not quite knowing what was the next song they were playing. Or hardly interacted with the audience because they weren’t quite sure what to say beyond the likes of, “thanks” and “this is <song title>”. I couldn’t have been more wrong. These were assured performances sometimes way beyond their years. Some in the audience might have seen me and wondered why I was there tonight. The answer… to support some great local bands and to hear some bloody good music.