CARETAKER and DREYFUSS
January, London Upstairs @ Garage
This gig looked more than a little bit exciting when it was first announced: the Aldershot scene's two most promising bands on the same bill at one of London's most notorious flea-pit venues. Unfortunately, the pair failed to attract the capital's masses, but a healthy amount of punters still turned up. Dreyfuss, on first, played their usual set, which is being twisted harder and faster with every gig they play. It was definitely one of the best times I've seen them, their caustic lo-fi taking on a welcome dynamism away from the distractions of the home crowds at the WEC. I think they need a couple more killer tracks to attract record company interest, but if that's what they're looking for, they're getting there.
Headliners Caretaker however, are fast rising into a different league. They may appear unassuming, but their intense, fragmented sound is utterly absorbing. Throughout their set the band were completely focused, Harry's voice soaring over potent guitars and some fantastic drumming. Oooh, and they've squeezed the merest hint of a solo into some of their songs, a typically understated gesture. Basically, the set saw Caretaker channeling all their energy into creating a sound that can vary from sheer noise to serene strumming, packing loads of tunes in-between. They should be making more trips up to London, catch them while you can.
BELLATRIX and CRASHLAND
February, Aldershot West End Centre
After an incredibly long wait for any bands to appear on stage, only something special would have won over this restless punter. Unfortunately, Crashland were not it. Sure, they rocked, they riffed, they bounced, but in a way that was lifeless and quite sterile. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, because there is a glimmer of something more special in the slightly anthemic 'Standard Love Affair', but overall the set was made up of too many recycled thrashings and bog-standard tunes. Crashland are by no means the worst band in the world, but, on the night, were uninspiring.
In stark contrast, Bellatrix were absolutely fantastic. Not only is their set brimming with a blend of perfect pop and dirty guitar noise, but the band have a unique charisma, which made the majority of the notoriously hard to please WEC audience fall in love with them. I did anyway. The band has a fairly traditional line-up, except for the occasional inclusion of a violin, but their tunes positively soar. The highlight of the set was possibly 'The Girl with the Sparkling Eyes', but there were so many other cool songs that I really couldn't chose a favourite moment. In all, a lovely slice of Icelandic charm and frosty indie-pop, and if they create as many new fans each time they play as they did on this occasion, they're onto something big.
TWIST and STARGIRL
February, University of Warwick
Three years ago the University of Warwick student union played regular host to the likes of Beth Orton, Three Colours Red and the Candyskins, but when dance music happened the popular Whipround event died a sad and painful death. Since then live music has been scarce and poorly publicised, I only became aware of this gig when I stumbled upon the sound check. I'd have been better off if I'd wandered in an hour later as the support act were definately missable. Stargirl sounded like a bad kareoke version of a heavy, female-fronted Space. They aspired to mediocrity and they must be used to the lack of attention they were given. Not recommended.
Twist, on the other hand, knew how to entertain. Their loud guitar music may not be very original, but it provides a lot of fun of the jumping up and down kind. There wasn't much variety to the Twist sound, and although their newer songs hinted at something slightly different, if they'd played the same song twice I wouldn't have noticed. Twist can cut it live, they just need something to show they are a little different. (Greg)
SEAFOOD and JJ72
February, Aldershot West End Centre
This gig was destined to sell out; a fantastic combination of one of the underground's best loved lo-fi noiseniks, coupled with one of the music press's most hyped new sounds, left me literally licking my lips in anticipation during the preceding week. Oh yeah, there was an embarrassingly poor punk outfit opening proceedings too, but I'll remove them from the equation and focus initially upon JJ72. I think I'm in two minds about them. On the one hand, their songs were lovely snippets of very brooding, slightly Celtic indie. Also, the singer's unbelievable voice lifted even their most mundane songs into higher ranks. However, their live performance left me rather unsatisfied. Good-looking as they may have been, they made little contact with an audience who, ultimately, were left feeling rather cold. In all though, JJ72 show certain promise, but they need to endear themselves to crowds with their personalities as well as their songs.
Every time I see Seafood I'm always left wondering why the band aren't huge. This gig was no exception; they blew the WEC away in a fashion that I've never seen any band do before. From start to finish, they encapsulated the performance of a band on the top of their form. The tracks from the new album were received as if old favourites, and I can remember being equally impressed with the sonic fury of 'Guntrip' as with the off-kilter country tune 'Dear Leap The Ride'. Of course, the highlight of the set for me was, as ever, the adrenaline-fueled, aural assault of 'Porchlight'. This time it was played as an encore, resulting in the band finishing on a maximum high, and leaving several astonished faces as they proceeded to drench the audience with feedback. Another devastating performance, and if you'd like to read the interview I did with the band before the gig, make sure you buy a copy of A&B #6!
JJ72 and TENNER
February, University of Warwick
Tenner would have been quite a crowd pleaser, had there been a crowd around to please. The Union had shown its genius once again by putting on a brand new Indie night in a separate location, at the same time. It makes me quite mad. Tenner themselves had some jolly tunes, and the singers apalling dress sense was more than made up for by his incredible ability to stand right on the edge of than stage and not fall off. Sadly though, with no one watching, it was just too difficult to get involved in.
JJ72 did themselves no favours with their performance. They have some potentially cracking tunes, but with such a depressing attitude their talent is wasted. The bassist barely even moved to play a different string. I found the whole evening quite frustrating; miserable bands and a miserable crowd. (Greg)
More Live Reviews
Issue 6 Summer 2000 © Tim Bragger