It's back on the NME tour for us; once again the venerable old music rag actually pieced together a couple of intriguing bands as part of their annual new band showcase tour, so I sorted tix for Rach and myself. The interesting thing about this line-up is that, for us at least, it was back to front, with the 2 opening bands the ones we wanted to see! Needed an early departure then, but could be an early night...
We set off at 6.15, parking suspiciously easily in the usual multi-storey at 7.15 and getting in just as much-championed Florida band The Drums were due to take the stage. I'd picked up their mini-album CD earlier this year, finding it a real throwback to the innocent, optimistic jangle-pop of C86, with perky harmonies and melodies aplenty, and expected a polite set of innocent twee-ness which I'd either tap a toe to, or be so irritated by I'd want to slap them with a wet fish. Luckily my expectations weren't met, as their June Brides-like songs took on a real punch live, and the vocalist displayed a strong, strident voice hitherto only hinted at, which recalled such as The Wild Swans' Paul Simpson! Praise indeed. New single "Best Friend" was a highlight, although this was topped by the subsequent "Make You Mine" (Rachel's favourite), and the inevitable "Let's Go Surfing" got the first sing-along moshpit going. A splendid start from a highly promising new band.
Quality was maintained by next band, The Big Pink, although in a totally different vein. Their "A Brief History Of Love" CD made a real impression on me last year, with its' melange of shimmering soundscapes and ethereal melody, backed with pumped-up big beats and dance tracks, proving an intoxicating blend, recalling an updated Pale Saints or Curve, and with "At War With The Sun", featuring a bona fide top top track. The live set up featured a huge mixing desk, in front of all the hot-pink coloured monitors, and when they took the stage it was unexpectedly as a 4-piece, with the 2 main guys backed up by a bassist of indeterminate gender, and a female drummer wearing a skimpy black bra and the merest of leather hot-pants. Nevertheless, they set to it with gusto, playing a glorious cacophonous mess of melody and noise. Opener "Too Young To Love", clunky on CD, was groovy and jet-propelled, and the subsequent "At War With The Sun" brilliantly swooping and shimmering. A strident and powerful set finished with the sing-along of "Dominoes", the climax of which saw the scantily clad drummer jumping on the bass drum and throwing roses to the crowd.
I totally failed to get a set-list for either of the above bands, the object lesson being never trust a roadie in a Yankees cap. Bah! At this point we decamped to the back bar for drinks and debate (if our daughter became a drummer and dressed like that, would we be proud or scandalised?), then popped back in for The Bombay Bicycle Club. Unfortunately they didn't impress, with some indistinct New Wave style pop, like a forgettable Franz Ferdinand. Headliners The Maccabees were better, with some more memorable sing-along stuff which went down a storm with the very young sell-out crowd, however their blend of horn-blasted perkiness and slight ska flavour reminded me of an updated and punked-up Madness, no less, so after 4 or 5 numbers we left, secure in having already seen 2 very different yet equally promising bands on show!