Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tubelord - Hitchin Club 85 - Saturday 20th February 2010

For those of you who don't already know...Tubelord are an awesome band. They play a unique form of alternative rock that carefully balances the melodicism and vocal harmonics of pop music with a complex razor-edged sense of math experimentalism. Tonight they kick off their UK tour at North Hertfordshire's only decent music venue, for this is a county sadly lacking a prolific music scene. Before Tubelord take to the stage however, support comes in the shape of two fine local acts and tour support act Tall Ships.

Bounding on to the stage at a little past 8.15 come Minor Pilot, don't worry if you haven't heard of them as this is one of their first gigs. Playing an intriguing mix of standard alternative rock and perhaps the slightest hint of shoegaze and stoner influences, they immediately grab attention from the crowd courtesy of some interesting megaphone and xylophone use, it works better than you may think. A promising act for sure and one I'll be keeping an eye on for certain.

Having first seen local lads Scream! Shout! Say Nothing nearly 18 months ago now, as support for sadly deceased Hell Is For Heroes, and been impressed with them then I can't help but feel slightly guilty as they bound on stage with enthusiasm this evening. I really should have bought their album by now I think to myself (I'm onto it now) and their new songs sound equally good. They stand out a little on tonight's bill partly because they're a fair dollop heavier than the other acts but also because of the infectious stage presence that is singer/saxophonist Ben who spends a great deal of the set careering around the stage like a lion on rollerskates. A band who really deserve to be headlining venues of this size by now.

Tall Ships make an immediate impression of me, mainly because the bassist looks ridiculously like somebody I know. Once they start playing they prove to be fairly similar to tonight's headliners but with less focus on vocals and more on swapping instruments mid-song (something I highly approve of). Particularly impressive is when the frontman (sorry I don't know the name) dives from guitar and synths to behind the drum kit so that he can flail away with an admirable amount of gusto. Again a good band who I'll probably look out for in the future.

I've already mentioned the fact that Tubelord are a great band but I haven't yet mentioned one important fact. Every time I see this band they are better than the time before and that can surely can only be a good thing. Tonight sees, assumedly, their first gig with new band members, keyboardist Jamie(?) and bassist J(?). This certainly doesn't disrupt the band, they're tighter than ever and the addition of a fourth member really fills out the songs live with the intricate synth lines oft present on the debut record having been missed when I've seen them live before. A lovely addition sees Jamie flicking through the pages of a book on "Cows To The East, Cities To The West" whilst holding it up to the microphone. A great set culminates with a double header of "I Am Azerrad" and "Our First American Friends" and it's all over far sooner than the faithful would like. The band's performance may be near flawless but sadly the evening is spoilt slightly by the incessant talking in some sections of the crowd. It always amazes me how people decide that it's best to have a chat at a gig rather than going round to one another's houses, it just doesn't make sense and, of course, it's extremely rude. Ah well, still a great evening and I look forward to seeing all four of these bands again sometime soon.

Minor Pilot - 7/10
Scream! Shout! Say Nothing - 8/10
Tall Ships - 7/10
Tubelord - 9/10

Tubelord setlist (very much guesswork with the order and I may have missed some songs out)

Your Bed Is Kind Of Frightening
He Awoke On A Beach In Abergavenny
Night Of The Pencils
Cows To The East Cities To The West
Somewhere Out There A Dog Is On Fire
Stacey's Left Arm
I Am Azerrad
Our First American Friends

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Oceansize - Villiers Street Heaven - Wednesday 3rd February 2010

Heaven is a gay club most of the time, it's also under a shopping centre, and it's £4.10 for a pint...which I avoided to prevent bankruptcy. Oh, Oceansize played their biggest headline show to date there on Wednesday (so Mike says). The venue is surprisingly cavernous once you get inside, holding 1,625 supposedly. It's pretty cramped inside for 'Size, more so than I expected for sure.

Anyway on to the music and the first band on is Nottingham post-rockers Vessels who are basically like 65daysofstatic but with longer, more expansive songs. They use interesting beats and samples throughout and interestingly they swap instruments after every song as well (not the drummer). Having listened to none of their music beforehand it's a compliment to them that they come across well enough to persuade me to buy their album. Following them come Belfast's And So I Watch You From Afar who have plenty of fans in the building already judging by their reception. They're about as close to punk as post-rock is ever going to get and they play maniacs. Whilst the sound could be better and they are twice annoyed by a stupendously dull heckler, they are certainly a great live act.

No, they're not as good as Oceansize, did you really expect them to be? Despite numerous sound problems throughout their set the Mancunian art rockers are brilliant. New songs such as sludgy opener 'Part Cardiac' are just as impressive as old cuts like 'You Can't Keep A Bad Man Down', which sound as fresh today as the day they were first cooked up in a band rehearsal. Sadly songs from latest EP 'Home and Minor' are off the menu due to the technical problems but it doesn't matter when a band are such masters of their craft as 'Size are. Mike Vennart is an engaging frontman as ever and drummer Mark Heron is one of the best to watch in the game. Some in the crowd appear to have paid £13 to come and talk through the quiet songs but other than that people seem in awe of the performance. It's interesting that they choose to make up so much of the set from new cuts (particularly when ranging from the very quiet 'Ransoms' to the epic 'Steven's Head'). Closing with the furious 'It's My Tail And I'll Chase It If I Want' the band leave the stage to cries of encore, which are sadly unanswered. You may have noticed...I love this band.

Vessels - 8/10
And So I Watch You From Afar - 8/10
Oceansize - 8/10

Oceansize Setlist

Part Cardiac
The Charm Offensive
Build Us A Rocket Then, You Rocket Building Cunt
You Can't Keep A Bad Man Down
Steven's Head
Massive Bereavement
A Homage To A Shame
Tough Cookie
It's My Tail And I'll Chase It If I Want