Friday, 7 July 2017

1,045 MARTHA, Supp. Joyce Manor, Happy Accidents, Goodboy, Southampton Joiner’s Arms, Thursday 6th July 2017

A scorching jaunt down to the South Coast on a sun-kissed evening; not for sunbathing, though, but gigging! This was another chance to see one of my favourite discoveries of last year in Martha, Pity Me’s ruffian bunch of crunchy post C86/ emo/ popcore purveyors, albeit this time supporting California’s emo/ pop-punk lot Joyce Manor. Next week’s Bristol date coincides with another gig (ironically also in Brizzle), and I just didn’t fancy the carnage that is Oxford traffic and parking, where there was an alternative!

So, t’was down to Southampton Joiners again, a venue fast becoming one of my favourites, not least due to the ample (and free) street parking virtually outside! So, after parking up an underarm stone’s throw from the front door, I hit the venue at 10 to 8 with openers Goodboy already midway through their set. No great loss, this; despite sporting an entertaining elastic-limbed motormouth frontman, they were a bit hard on the ears with some rather clumsy screamy emo, which, rather uncomfortably,  almost bordered on that late 90’s nu metal sound. Don’t give up the day job (or college course, I suppose), boys…

Much better was to come, however, in Happy Accidents, next band up. Recommended by Mr. Andy Fenton, and I could immediately see why, as this trio set about a gauche but charming ramshackly C86-esque jangly indiepop set, recalling the likes of Razorcuts and even early Soup Dragons, with harmonies in their heads and sunshine in their tunes. Then, just as I thought I had them sussed out as enjoyable Talulah Gosh wannabees, the bespectacled, angular vocalist (who reminded me of Silver Sun’s James Broad) announced “Facts And Figures” as being, “about being bombarded with all the horrendous events in the news and becoming sanitised to them,” the subsequent slow-burn, morose intro hinting at more musical and lyrical depth, before exploding into a more characteristic brisk jangle fest. Good stuff overall, and if some songs seemed to feature more words than they could comfortably accommodate, that’s no bad thing either!

A quick and fun chat with HA drummer Phoebe and her dad (!), manning their merch stand, whiled away the interval before I took a spot down the front, stage right, for Martha’s entrance at 9. As before, long-haired guitarist Dan took yelping vocals for the strident opener “Christine”, before ceding to fellow guitarist Jonathan for the frantic, repetitive chant of “Chekhov’s Hangnail”. The sound mix was a little bass-heavy from my position (which was, admittedly, down the front with my head in the monitors!), but that didn’t stop me from shaking a couple of dodgy knees to this set of amphetamine-fast, vocalist-swapping, heavy-guitar yet tuneful and thoroughly fun singalong indiepop, and getting a serious sweat on (almost Full Cleo!). Not as much, however, as a fellow punter, who afterwards looked as if he’d taken a shower with his clothes on, and enthusiastically admitted to me, “every time I see Martha I totally lose my shit!” Good man!

Not only do this band play it hard and fast, however, they’ve got some points to make; on Gender Politics (drummer Nathan introducing “Sleeping Beauty” as being, “about how forcing somebody to conform to gender roles is fucked up!”), LGBT equality (the excellent, later “1967, I Miss You I’m Lonely” being introduced with, “about how love knows no borders,” prompting an, “aaah,” from this cynical old soul), and conservation (diminutive bassist Naomi commenting on their donation box for an animal sanctuary with, “[the horses] have got big bet bills – no, vet bills!”). The splendid “Bubble In My Bloodstream” featured a Pixies-ish chuntering opening, before switching up gears to a breathless, gabbling sprint finish, but that was topped by my set highlight, the subsequent “Goldman’s Detective Agency”, some brilliant guitar riffery underpinning a helium vocal from Jonathan and an infectiously catchy hook. C’mon, Gumshoe!

Final number “Do Nothing” featured an uncharacteristically slow-burn “Debaser” style bass riff and Dan’s yearning vocal over a stripped back base, building to a wall of noise crescendo before the typical frantic finish, an entirely appropriate conclusion to a breathless and splendid set. Great stuff, and a chat with merch stand-bound Jonathan and my fellow sweaty dancer afterwards rounded things off nicely, before I briefly checked out “headliners” Joyce Manor. Despite one nice, Menzingers-like number, they had an oddly dated emo sound which wouldn’t have been out of place in Reading Festival 2002’s “Concrete Jungle” tent alongside the likes of Hot Rod Circuit and Saves The Day, so I gave their popular set 4 numbers then hit the road. I’d already seen my headliners!

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