Review by Ian Burke
Day two of the marathon that is In The City 2010 kicks off with, well, a pint. Technical gremlins have descended on erstwhile Oldham St. shithole, Gullivers, pushing Fiction‘s eagerly anticipated set well back, and leaving the Good Ship CityLifers stranded with a pint of Guinness. Egad, the misery of it all.
Black Stuff drained, and with Weymouth’s finest still in no imminent danger of starting, it’s over to the ever-sweltering Night & Day, the only venue is town which could double up as an emergency bio-dome should The Eden Project suddenly freeze over.
Lake District trio, Cranes, are holding court, or rather they’re staring at drummer, Curtis Parker in an equilateral triangle formation and completely ignoring the admittedly sparse crowd. They’re musically superb, as any instrumental band has to be, of course, but for all the scything, choppy riffs, there’s surely room for vocals in what is essentially still a verse/chorus/verse structure.
A few seconds up the road, Californian crew, Kisses are making their UK début in the newly plush surrounds of The Castle, although the clamour to catch such a seismic event in the history of modern entertainment means that access to the back room is impossible without slithering skills that would put snakes to shame. If it’s any consolation, Lily Allen is crushed alongside us in the corridor, who one nameless member of the CityLifers team admitted he “would like to bum”.
Enough of this popstar fraternising, let’s go to The Legendary Dry Bar and chance our arm on Mont Blanc. It turns out that they’re Japanese twins and shape-pullers extraordinaire, Gen and Dai, who are absolutely, shamelessly buzzing their tits off. Set up on the floor rather than the stage, the duo spend their time dancing and pissing around with complete unselfconsciousness, while their haphazard, hyper-happy Lo-Fi-Fnk-y tunes blare out.
Make no mistake, they’re here to party, and utter the universal phrase of “Beer…cheers!” to total agreement from the semi-circle of entranced delegates before giggling off into the distance. There’s always a band who can capture even most misanthropic of hearts at ITC, and these two are undoubtedly this year’s chief candidates.
It’s back to the Night & Day for Calories, the brummie three-piece who formed from the gutted remains of the abysmally treated Distophia (‘Joanne’ remains a classic, make no mistake), whose misfortune continues here as their biog has been omitted from the official guide in order to run an all-important advert. In fact, a few others receive a similar fate, so here’s a shout out to The Tapestry and believe it or not, two on the ITC Unsigned list, Misty Miller and Fixers.
The official line is that they were all late additions to the bill and missed the print deadline, but this is clearly bollocks as they’re on the at-a-glance section, and all four bands were on at the same time. They cocked up, just admit it. God bless bullshit detectors.
Already on their 2nd LP under their new guise, there’s nothing remarkable about what Calories do, they just so happen to have a wealth of streamlined pop nuggets at their disposal. Current single, ‘FFWD’ flip-flops along on an elastic band of a hook, while drummer, Tom Whitfield’s is freakishly good, his arms and sticks a constant blur as though they’ve been caught by a long-exposure lens.
It’s a well-trodden path back to The Castle, where sprightly Reykjavik quartet, For A Minor Reflection show everyone how post-rock is supposed to be done. The prettiness of yesterday’s openers, Advances In Mathematics is present and correct, although they aren’t frightened of erupting into a frenzy when the opportunity arises, and it does so frequently.
In the best tradition of these things, they only play two songs during their timeslot, both of which are gargantuan epics that somehow manage to stay lively throughout. They also appear to have a very young Stephen Merchant on bass.
Over we go to Band On The Wall, where Vice’s latest jizz-on-sight title holders, D/R/U/G/S are taking on an impressively packed hall. The duo gather around their magic dance boxes, making hard faces in front of a tinpot, kaleidoscopic moving backdrop, while the toggles on their unzipped, hoods-up hoodies sway satisfyingly in time.
While it’s easy for waves of cynicism to crash over your head when confronted with such a ludicrously hyped new band, there’s a real suspicion that had they arrived at ITC with minimal fanfare, they’d have died if put in the same position as Mont Blanc. Nothing to see here, move along.
Things are in full swing over at Gullivers at last, where the alcoholics’ afternoon karaoke sessions have been replaced by vintage gig posters and a newly re-opened function room complete with sticky carpet and a stylishly sweaty aroma. It feels like a proper venue already.
Local quintet, Youth – who really do look like Old Father Time is lightyears away from blessing them with a paunch and the menopause – are cheering the room with their pleasant tweexcore, a touch of Teenage Fanclub with an always likely dollop of Belle And Sebastian. Except it isn’t Youth, it’s actually Planet Earth, the late start throwing the schedule severely out of kilter, but whoever they are, they’ll do for a bit.
A bit further down Oldham St., the pro-active guerilla giggers from last night are at it again, and it turns out that they’re called Shosin. Full marks for effort, but they look uncomfortable playing to pretty much nobody and a car. Still, a review’s a review.
Downstairs in The Legendary Dry Bar, Crystal Fighters are back after last year’s ITC Unsigned show, where after a rocky start, the Bilbao mob put in a conference-stealing performance. I just hope you appreciate the shoe-horned Rocky/Bilbao/Balboa pun, there, whether or not it worked is irrelevant, it’s the thought that counts.
Shy, retiring frontman, Sebastian comes out wearing a full eastern bridal dress complete with veil, showing Kemal from Big Brother how it’s really meant to be done, before zipping around the stage like a dizzy toddler for the full thirty minutes, and stopping just short of frothing at the mouth as he barks out his gobbledegook lyrics.
It’s all done at ear-wax loosening levels, and although their ‘Star Of Love’ début album is good, they’re absolutely untouchable live. ‘I Do This Everyday’, ‘In The Summer’ and the rampant closing ‘Xtatic Truth’ are the scourge of the rhythmically afflicted, and despite the shoulders and hips of the CL faithful having a good old twitch, it could never be described as anything as free-flowing as actual dancing.
There’s no need to dance to Pulled Apart By Horses over in the Night & Day, as a straight-forward bit of head-bobbing will always suffice for Leeds’ premier shitkickers. They’ve progressed from sloppy noise merchants to having some of the chunkiest, tightest grooves this side of Clutch and Future Of The Left in the past couple of years, with ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’ having that mystery ingredient that can spark a full-blown pit at barely audible decibels.
Tom Hudson’s distinctive throaty shriek has become more of a boon than a hindrance, and the energy which defines their live show on larger stages is amplified tenfold in a smaller room like this. Quite when they got this good, I’m afraid I don’t know, but tonight at least, PABH are outstanding.