Around this time last year, we were bemoaning the lack of cheap weekend gigs featuring local bands so it is, perhaps, appropriate that our (me and Andy) first gig of 2013 falls squarely into that category.
Screen People aren’t local. They hail from Cambridge and, indeed, bass-player Ed is still there tonight, leaving Alie (vocals and guitars) and Becca (drums and all introductions) to hold the stage. This fairly unusual line-up inevitably brings forth comparisons to The White Stripes, one of the acts on Screen People’s long and varied list of influences. Apparently, there has been an aborted plan to use a backing track to fill in the bass-lines, and Alie admitted afterwards that he was trying to remember and play them as well. I think this may be what led me to note down “quite inventive” in reference to the music, as he added the bass sections into what would have been gaps in his playing. Whether the performance suffered because of the lack of bass isn’t for me to say as I have nothing to compare it to. I can say, however, that I enjoyed their set (as did Robert Hughes of tonight’s headliners who, taking up a forward position in the somewhat sparse audience, not only cheered and applauded loudly but also gave them a particularly nice shout out during his set. Sadly, I think Alie and Becca had already left by then.) There was an occasional Ian Anderson-type twang to Alie’s vocals, which were for the most part clear, helped along a little by backing vocals from behind a drum kit which was being played with gusto by Becca. The playing was tight and contained a fair amount of variety – the background riff in Trivial brought to mind Black Sabbath while snatches of lyrics from one song brought to mind a slowed down Muse. I understand there’s an album on the way. It may well be worth looking out for.
The Holy Orders are slightly more local, coming from Hull, and were added to tonight’s bill just a few days ago due, if I heard the story correctly, to the aforementioned Robert Hughes owing one of them a favour. The set started with loud alternative rock and vocals a little on the shouty side. The standout performance came from drummer James Cooper, who was clearly enjoying himself – playing with a huge grin and drumsticks flying in and from all directions, including from behind his head and, occasionally, swinging around above it. For their second song, the band introduced a more jangly, indie-type guitar sound and, the music being on the loud side (something they seem quite proud of) the vocals were a little swamped at times. Not, however, during Breathe which, after an unusually minimal opening, eventually burst into choppy, angry life. One song started with frontman Matt Edible (!) singing from the stage barrier, eschewing a microphone and giving us a clear view nearly all the way down his throat and a much more mellow, slower opening before the song again exploded. (There was a bit of a giveaway that the explosion was going to happen as Cooper could be seen coiling spring-like over his drum kit just before the loud section.) This was a short but exciting and interesting set. This time, there is definitely an album on the way – it’s due in April.
We Could Be Astronauts are local, from York. I last saw then back in 2011 on an open air festival stage in York and liked them. They are influenced by classic and more modern rock, with specific emphasis on the likes of Led Zeppelin. Indeed, you can’t look at energetic and flamboyant frontman Hughes and not be reminded of Robert Plant (or, alternatively, Marc Bolan). At different points tonight, Hughes can be seen seemingly fighting with his mic stand (and nearly losing) and kicking it across the stage after an apparent problem leads him to switch to a different mic. It’s Stuart Fletcher’s birthday and, with drinks being brought to the stage by various audience members, there is a bit of a party atmosphere which is only enhanced by a group of female fans vigorously dancing at the front. The music is old-style, riff-driven rock with two, sometimes three, guitars playing in front of a thumping rhythm section to provide a hugely entertaining performance. The set is comprised mainly of songs from the band’s debut album, with the added bonus of a few new songs, one of which was to feature that staple of rock instruments the ukulele, which Hughes eventually gave up trying to tune and replaced with… a kazoo (!) for what was the lightest and most fun song of the set. Lost At Sea was my personal favourite of the night but something which might have been called Game Over – an angry song which, speed-wise, could give Ace Of Spades a run for its money - came a close second. The set ended with a brilliant cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs with Hughes using a megaphone to provide the vocal effects. There is definitely and album available but, apparently, not tonight. Shame, as I would probably have bought a copy.