Summer’s gone, days spent with the grass and sun…! Luckily the onset of a long Autumn, and a jarring return to the drudgery of work, is offset for me by a swift commencement of my Autumn gig Dance Card tonight! An enticing dozen scheduled shows kicks off with the return of Nova Scotia’s finest, Alvvays, who cleaned house on the “Dirty boat” earlier this year with a sparkling set of breezy C86 influenced jangle pop, but with a hidden undercurrent of menace and subterfuge which belied their superficial innocence, an enticing juxtaposition which denotes a band of true substance. Stepping up from the sold-out Thekla, they then proceeded to sell this one out too; luckily Tim and I acted quickly!
Also joining us for the familiar jaunt down the M4 was work colleague Claudia, who loved Alvvays’ “Archie, Marry Me” on my 2014 “Best Of” CD, so decided to join us. A chatty and entertaining trip down saw us park up early doors and hit the Fleece bar (rocking up beside local gig legend Jeff before he took his customary stage front spot), before being rudely assaulted around 8.15 by a pounding and repetitive drum-roll. Thus was how support White Reaper kicked off their set, belting out a succession of bright, upbeat pop-punk numbers with nary a pause for breath, and only an echoey toy organ (played by a wall-eyed dead ringer for Willam from “Mallrats”; it’s a sailboat, dude!) to distinguish their sound from the Sum Found Glories of this world. A Knack-like chuggy powerpop 3rd number was cool; a subsequent virtual clone of Green Day’s “Basketcase” less so, and after that their knockabout sound and jumpy onstage antics got a little wearing and samey. Seen much worse, though, to be fair…
Despite the sell-out, we quite easily picked our way down the front, stage right, and at 9.15 prompt the Celtic pipe backing track heralded Alvvays’ arrival onstage; they’d been sat just off stage at the end of the bar anyway, so no lengthy trip to get there! Straight into the ebullient and fast-paced Primitives-alike opener “Your Type”, before the Rickenbacker chimes of the excellent “Adult Diversion” really got us under way, vocalist Molly Rankin announcing at its’ conclusion, “what’s up! We’re not on the boat this time!”
Alvvays were great tonight. “Live”, their joyful jangle took on extra dimensions of power and drama, and sounded more fully rounded and harder-edged. Molly’s vocals, previously detached and insouciant, are also developing nicely, conveying more emotiveness than previously, adding gravitas to the likes of the melancholy wallow of “Agency” and the soda-bar balladry of “Ones Who Love You”. The charming and diminutive vocalist was in good fooling too, informing us that fellow Canadian Mac DeMarco sends dirty videos to keyboardist Kerri on Instagram (!), joking with the crowd about her love of Oasis and Coldplay (at least, I hope she was joking…!), remarking in her startled Minnie Mouse voice, “That was punk!” to the spectacle of a punter climbing one of the Fleece’s ubiquitous poles and, when said punter threw his monkey-shaped backpack onstage, retorting quickly, “I hope there’s candy in there!”
A couple of brisk, almost Buzzcocks-like new numbers were thrown in for good measure, but the set centred largely round that excellent 2014 debut album. Thus, “Atop A Cake” was a sunny singalong joy with an underpinning of Byrds-ian jangle, “Party Police” was a melancholy confessional (Molly announcing beforehand, “we’re baring our souls to you!”) and the brilliant set closer and highlight, “Archie Marry Me”, took on anthemic qualities with the “Hey! Hey!” hookline raising the roof. A superb way to end an all-too-short set from a band who are developing quickly, and continuing to grow on me like a rash.
A solo “Red Planet” from Molly preceded a delicious and touching encore of Kirsty MacColl’s “He’s On The Beach”, a touching tribute to a like-minded pure pop soul, and a lovely way to end tonight’s proceedings. Kerri handed her set-list to me and I quickly popped back afterwards to get her and Molly to sign it, then we bumped into Andy Fenton and son for a chat before heading back to the car, all fully satisfied with tonight’s entertainment. A great gig and a superb way to kick off the Autumn schedule for me; Summer might be gone, but thanks to the effervescent pop and sly menace of Alvvays, it had a rousing send-off!