Indoor Pets @ Deaf Institute

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Last Friday saw me take a trip in to Manchester to finally see an Indoor Pets headline show. They’re a band that have been on my radar since an all dayer they played in Leeds back in 2016, and I’ve managed to catch them at a few festival slots since then, but a headline show has thus far eluded me, having unfortunately always been in the wrong place or at the wrong time when they’ve announced previous tours.

However, the four piece have recently released their debut album ‘Be Content’ and knowing that a tour to promote it was bound to follow suit I’d made a commitment to myself that I would get to one of the dates. The fact that the Manchester show fell on a Friday, was at one of my favourite gig destinations and was sold out all pointed towards a memorable night.

First up were Ormstons, a Leeds based indie rock outfit who did an admirable job of getting the crowd warmed up, even throwing in a brief cover of Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia’ amongst their own melodic tracks.

The surprise of the night for me though were Animal House. In the lead up to a gig, I’ll normally jump on Spotify to check out the support acts and if I like what I hear, I’ll make an effort to try and familiarise myself even more with the material before the show… I love having a dance and sing to the songs, so this is kind of my way to prepare. However, life sometimes gets in the way, and so I was coming into this performance with fresh ears. And it turns out Animal House are ace.

Based in Brighton (…yep, another awesome band that lives in Brighton. I REALLY need to go visit), the five piece are actually 3/5ths Australian and early on gave me vibes of the Strokes, except less serious (and consequently more fun). But as the set developed there definitely seemed to be a hill-billy twang that emerged that was reminiscent of Kings of Leon (and I’m talking about early KoL, you know, when they were still good).

Then they’d throw in a curve ball, such as one song (sorry I missed the name) which could have been Prince (their singer’s vocal range for this was particularly impressive), and also a song called ‘Tequila’ which kind of sounded like a cover of the classic song by The Champs, but at the same time didn’t. The absolute highlight for me was the mid set song (again, apologies I have no name for it) that saw lead singer Will pick up the guitar and perform a tender solo intro that eventually built to a finale where the rest of the band joined in.

Animal House definitely have a new fan. I’ve listened to all their available back catalogue since, and will look forward to them returning to Manchester to play at Jimmy’s in September.

And so to Indoor Pets. Straight out of the block, they win the award for best band intro of the year. If you don’t already follow them on social media, get on it ASAP. It’s wall to wall, 24/7 bants, with some fun little skits thrown in to the mix too.

The latest banter (and I’m not sure where it originated) is the on going observation that front man Jamie Glass has small hands. He vehemently denies this claim and in response the band have added a line of giant foam hands to their merch range, many of which were seen proudly sported at this gig by the die hard fans.

Before the band took to the stage, their intro music was a mash up of iconic, but bastardised songs referencing said hands including The Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your hand’, The Pixies’ ‘Gigantic’ (Hands) and Sir Mix-A-lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’ but featuring the line “I like big hands and I cannot lie”…there were other songs featured too, but I was too busy laughing to remember them all.

By the time the epic intro medley did come to a close the band were greeted with huge cheers as they entered the room. It would be remiss of me at this point not to mention the crowd. For a relatively obscure band from Kent it was awesome to see such a busy room, but also to see how engaged everyone was. I did not anticipate just how rowdy the crowd was going to be. I love a good mosh, but kind of figured that an Indoor Pets crowd was going to be on the tamer end of the spectrum… but no. Consequently, specifics about the set are a bit hazy as I was whisked off in a giant ball of sweat and enthusiasm, the floors of the Deaf Institute’s upper floor gig venue literally bouncing.

The bits I do remember though; they played ‘Electrify’ which is from one of their early EPs and is an absolute banger. I was really glad to see it still making the live set. ‘All My Friends’ was another “old school” track that the long term fans seemed to really appreciate, but most of the set came from the aforementioned debut ‘Be Content’. And rightly so too. It really is a great album that I’d encourage anyone to go listen to. What you get are a collection of upbeat indie-pop-punk/grunge cross over type songs. The well written hooks certainly have a delightful accessibility about them, and I can see them having the right ingredients to appeal to a fairly mainstream audience, yet there’s still enough beefiness in the riffing to keep a grunge boy like me happy.

If you look a bit deeper, past the silliness on social media and the fun melodies, you also get dry witted and poignant lyrics that deal with subjects such as the struggles and pressures of modern life, dealing with alienation and also having a longing to be loved. Pay attention and you can pick up on some real vulnerability and tenderness, whilst the tracks still somehow manage to keep things relatively fun and light-hearted. The songs seem to really spill their guts, but also show that they’re made of the right stuff.

The messages in the songs also seemed to really resonate with the audience at Friday’s show, and it felt like there was a real connection not only with the band, but between the punters too as virtually the whole room bellowed out the words to every song. It felt like a really special show, and potentially one of those “I was there” moments, with Indoor Pets really start to come in to their own as both recording artists and live performers. I really did have an awesome night.

Congratulations to the guys from the band too as, the same day as the show, they were able to announce they will be supporting Weezer in London later this year. The social media bants have often featured the running joke that Indoor Pets are just a bunch of Weezer wannabes, but I know the guys genuinely look up to Weezer and the news for them is huge… Or is it just another step on their way to global domination? Watch this space…

 

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Sœur @ Soup Kitchen

WE ARE ONE! Yep, Mixing Up The Medicine is celebrating its first anniversary! Over the last 12 months writing this blog has really solidified how much I love live music, but I’ve also rediscovered my love of writing. It’s been great to have a creative outlet to help me unwind. So if you’re a regular reader, thanks for coming along for the ride. And what better way to celebrate then by reviewing a performance by one of my absolute favourite bands, Sœur.

Have I mentioned before how much I love Sœur? Hell yeah I have! In fact the Bristolian three-piece have the dubious honour of being the most featured band on these webpages, this being the 6th time (7 if you include 2 performances at 2000 Trees) I’ve covered them. Why do I love them so much? Because they’re so damn good!

I don’t just want to regurgitate the same old superlatives though, so I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I like so much, and I think a large part of it is how I was so blown away the very first time I saw them. It was almost 2 years ago and at that point, I didn’t know who they were and I didn’t know any of their songs, but the conviction in the performance absolutely gripped me. I’ve listened to them on heavy rotation since then.

I’d love to tell some great story about how I’ve seen them grow and develop over those 2 years, but truth be told, they were already absolutely kick-ass back then, and they’re remain absolutely kick-ass now.

This week saw me travel down to Manchester to see them play a headline show in the city for the very first time. Out of character for me, I managed to miss the support act Trigger Thumb, getting too carried away with beers and the good company of a couple of friends from work who came along to the gig. We did catch the tail end of their set, which sounded like a slightly bonkers concoction of System of a Down combined with Liverpudlian art rockers SPQR. Not for the faint hearted. I need to make time to check them out in more depth.

Sœur took to the stage with an encouraging level of cheers from the crowd. The Soup Kitchen felt like exactly the right size venue for the band, and whilst it was by no means sold out, it was certainly busy enough to have a really good atmosphere, which was especially pleasing for a Tuesday night. The set opened with a dark and moody instrumental intro which then burst into ‘No Fire’ quickly followed by ‘Left Living’. Having performed those 2 stand alone singles, the set then mixed up material from EPs ‘What Separates Us’ and ‘Fight’.

There was a performance of a previously unheard of song ‘Doesn’t Does’ (…I think that’s the right title) which demonstrated more of the bands trademark brutal riffing. They also played brand new single ‘No Show’, with Anya commenting how the song is about struggles with depression. Perhaps, this is where the band have grown in those 2 years, tackling braver and more poignant subject matter in their lyrics, which gives a certain level of vulnerability and rawness to some of the songs. I know that ‘Whole Me’ has a similar theme, and for me, that’s the song that really gets you in the feels with Tina singing “I’ll make you feel better” whilst Anya responds with “Can you make me feel?”, the melody of the song also giving a polite nod to The Pixies ‘Where is my Mind?’. Perhaps it’s an insight in to the pair’s friendship (…though imagine it’s all PR and in real life they hate each other!?! 😬).

I have to reserve my favourite moment though for seeing Tina strap on her silver baritone guitar to perform ‘Put You On’ (…I’m no guitar nerd by the way, I only know it’s a baritone because she told me afterwards!). I knew what was coming as soon as I saw the guitar come out of the case, but it’s still hard to describe the school girl giddiness when they actually played it. I know it’s one of their earlier songs, and the last 2 times I saw them it didn’t make the set, so I was extra chuffed to see it re-instated. If I had to make you listen to one Sœur song, that would be the one – I think it sums up their sound brilliantly (and Anya informs the crowd it’s about being a bit crazy, so maybe that sums them up too). I think I should decree that Sœur shall not drop it from the set again, under punishment of disownment!

‘Slow Days’ is the penultimate song, which is slightly slower paced. I’ve always felt it’s the kind of song that I shouldn’t like as much as the rest of their material, but its so well written, catchy and I love the lyrics, which in the current politically divisive climate ask “If we’re all made from the same strain, what separates us?” (legit thinking these lyrics could make a great tattoo…)

‘Fight’, the title track from the second EP, closes the set. It’s such a perfect set closing song, it would be criminal if they were to finish with anything else.

I had such a fun night. Re-emphasing how much I love live music, I feel such a buzz watching Sœur, in my own little dancing bubble singing along to all the songs (…making up most of the words). I felt like I had a beaming grin across my face for most of the night. And it was great to see such a great reception from the crowd, with loud whoops and whistles following every song. At one point the band almost seemed taken aback by the adulation, drummer Jim breaking into a grin seeing such a positive audience reaction. It seems that not only are the crowds for their gigs growing, but the connection with the crowd is growing too.

Was good to catch up with the band afterwards. It sounds as though EP 3 is very nearly finished and will hopefully be released later in the year. There should be another headline tour to accompany the release too, which I’ll inevitably take in, so check back in around 6 months time for another gushing review!

Demob Happy @ Soup Kitchen

Sometimes I wonder whether I ought to hang up my moshing boots. At pushing 40 years old, 6 feet tall and 18 stone, is it really appropriate for me to be throwing myself around at the front with all the kids? Surely at my advanced age it’s time to retire to the back of the room, serenely tapping a toe and nodding a head whilst I take in the music from a more mature standpoint?

If it is time for me to make that transition, then Demob Happy’s gig at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester would make a fantastic swan song. I haven’t had so much fun dancing at the front for a long time – it was gloriously raucous.

To be fair, this was probably the perfect storm for a gig; one of my favourite bands, playing one of my favourite intimate venues and the show was sold out.

Opening the night were dual fronted five piece Heirloom. Imagine if the Sneaker Pimps (…showing my age there) and Nick Cave teamed up to make an indie-tinged 60’s lounge music record. As ridiculous as that might seem, it’s the best way I can think of to describe Heirloom, with their moody atmospheric sound, but it works. Clad in a split thigh ballroom gown and fishnet stockings, bassist Jade (who I’m pretty sure I met at 2000 Trees last year) provided hypnotic rhythms to accompany her silky singing voice, whilst trading vocals with the deep, velvety tones of Jane, who seemed to be dressed as a school head mistress, on lead guitar. This was backed by organs, rhythm guitar and jazzy drumming. It was kind of a laid back start to the evening, and whilst I might normally opt for something a bit more up tempo, it was actually the perfect way to ease people in to the evening ahead.

Next up were Sick Joy. I was introduced to their bass player, Danny, last year (also at 2000 Trees), though tragically it was only after they’d played their set (which I missed). They’ve been on my radar ever since then though, and I’ve been really impressed with the singles they’ve put out over the last year or so. I was particularly blown away by how tight they were, as well as how effortlessly front man Mykl seemed to deliver his gruff and powerful voice. Definitely hit these guys up for clean sounding grungy vibes. Personal favourites were ‘Dissolve Me’, ‘Stumbler’ and newest single ‘Heaven’. Their set definitely felt like the night had been turned up a notch.

The room was packed by the time Demob Happy took to the stage, the band being greeted with big cheers. They’ve obviously amassed quite a following in Manchester, last years show at The Deaf Institute being one of my highlights of the year, and once again the crowd seemed really up for it. I think I have to give massive credit to the band for just how amazingly well this set was put together.

This was the seventh time I’ve seen Demob, with the previous six all focussing on tracks from 2018’s ‘Holy Doom’ LP. It was great to hear more material from debut album ‘Dream Soda’, the set kicking off with anthem ‘Succubus’ before moving on to ‘Haat De Stank’, which was the first time I’d seen them perform one of my early favourites when I first got into the band. It was great to see so much enthusiasm from the crowd for those older songs.

There were of course plenty of songs from ‘Holy Doom’ featured too. Without hesitation it was my album of the year for 2018, and I have to say its deliciously sleazy, hip shaking grooves are just so damn danceable, which is why a night spent at the front of the room was so enjoyable. ‘Loosen It’, ‘Fake Satan’ and the funky ‘Runnin’ Around’ (hot damn that bass riff…!) all had an outing amongst others (including one unreleased song).

Then the night saw a change in pace, as the band performed a couple of arrangements from the ‘Holy Doom Unplugged’ EP. Bassist Matt took to a piano whilst drummer Tom downed sticks to pick up guitar for a haunting rendition of title track ‘Holy Doom’, followed by the upbeat ‘Fresh Outta Luck’. It was an unexpected twist to the evening. Calling it the highlight feels wrong, as the whole performance was a high, but it was definitely one of the reasons this was such a special show. I think to play a show that includes the fantastically violent ‘Spinning Out’ and then 10 minutes later features a stripped back, piano led acoustic song highlights the great versatility the band have, not to mention their impressive musicianship (oh, and the chance to really show off their vocal harmonies too).

After the short acoustic interlude it was back to loud and dirty rock and roll as the show accelerated toward its finale. The last throws of the set featured ‘Liar In Your Head’, new single ‘Less Is More’ (already an obvious crowd favourite) before climaxing with the band’s biggest hit ‘Be Your Man’, this even including a mash up with The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’.

An absolutely epic (and marathon – I haven’t even name checked all the songs) set that only left me feeling slightly disappointed by the omission of my favourite song ‘Maker Of Mine’… not to worry, the Demob boys had my back, emerging back on to the stage to perform said song as the encore (…I may well have fully lost my sh*t at this point). Even the encore saw a reprise of the drop out part of the song, the crowd going crazy when the beat dropped a final time, guitarist Adam even going for a bit of a crowd surf and Matt jumping in to the crowd at the very end too.

Credit to the band too for sticking around for an age after the show to chat and sign merch.

I may have overdone it with the superlatives, but I absolutely buzzed off this gig. Great band, great tunes, a great crowd. It was awesome.

So yeah, sometimes I wonder whether I ought to hang up my moshing boots – then I go to gig like this one and I’m like “Nah, pit life forever!”

False Advertising / Sly Antics / Dead Naked Hippies @ Band on the Wall

So this was a bit of a gig with a difference, being hosted by Show Stream TV and available to watch live online, it also involved a talk show style panel at the beginning of the show and then again before the headliners took the stage. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be in to it, but it ended up being an interesting event with a slightly different vibe to the normal shows I go to and certainly something I’d happily go along to again.

The initial panel section was hosted by Shell Zenner (such a rock’n’roll name!) of BBC Introducing and Amazing Radio fame. She quizzed Jeff Thompson, co-founder of Off-Axis and Un-Convention, Bill Cummings, the editor of God Is In The TV Zine and Jen Hingley from False Advertising about various aspects of the music industry. Is was interesting hearing about Jeff’s experiences working with artists and bands. Off-Axis is an organisation that helps independent bands set up tours and facilitates gig swaps to help artist reach new audiences, whilst Un-Convention is a conference and networking event to help emerging artists navigate their way in the music industry, which sounds like a really interesting event, though probably not aimed at hobbyists like myself. His key message was that as well as standing out as an artist, it also really helps to just be a nice person if you’re wanting to get places in the industry. This opinion was gladly backed up by Bill, who deals with artists via his online platform at www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk. Jen gave an insight into here experience as not only a member, but also manager of False Advertising.

The music kicked off with Leeds rockers Dead Naked Hippies. I’ve reviewed them on this site before, as part of an all day event I went to, but last time around, featured in a mid afternoon spot I wasn’t glowingly enthusiastic. I was really impressed this time around. I’ve always enjoyed their recorded material, though this set only featured a couple of their released songs. Instead they opted to perform a glut of new songs. The new material sounded really sweet though.

Front lady Lucy Jowett prowled around the stage (and sometimes in the crowd) exuding personality, her punk rock crossed with glam rock persona accompanied by a Jagger-esque strut that really commanded the audience’s attention. Meanwhile guitarist (and vegan donut connoisseur… if you know, you know) Joe Clarke had a really clean yet deliciously deep guitar tone going on, even swapping to a bass for some of the songs. Drummer Jacob Marston held everything together as well as introducing some samples and sound scapes to some of the songs. Highlight for me was a new song towards the end of the set that is apparently so new it doesn’t even have a name at this point. Talking to the band after they affectionally referred to it as “poppy banger”, which is a great description, as the song has a really strong and upbeat guitar riff through out.

Next up were Sly Antics, who I wrote about a few weeks back. Since then, I’ve listened to their recorded tracks some more, and whilst I’m still not as in to them as the live performances, the extra familiarity with the songs helped make this set even more enjoyable than the last one. Without wanting to regurgitate my last review, I’ll just say that I’m definitely a fan of the filthy, bluesy rock and roll show these guys put on, and I’ll once again single out vocalist Sam Buckley’s awesome blues voice – a real treat.

Ms. Zenner then took the stage once more, this time with Chris Warr from False Advertising, Sam from Sly Antics and Jacob from Dead Naked Hippies. There was a brief chat just about general band life, upcoming plans and so forth. Again, the key message for aspiring artists being that yes it’s a tough world to crack, but don’t give up. However, make sure you look after yourself whilst you’re doing it.

And so finally to False Advertising. Now I’ve played it down thus far, but actually this gig was kind of a big deal for me. I’ve been a big fan of False Advertising since the back end of 2017, not long after the release of their EP ‘I Would Be So Much Happier If I Just Stopped Caring’. However, despite a few attempts I’ve so far failed to see them perform live. I even had tickets for them last year, but ended up at a different “not to be missed” show instead. So I was really looking forward to finally popping that FA cherry.

They did not disappoint. In fact, live they were even better than I imagined. I was already really into the grungy slacker-pop sound that these guys deliver on record, but have to say that live the grungy aspect gets dialled up a notch (if not several). It turns out Chris Warr is a total power drummer. Man, he beats those things up, which personally is exactly the kind of drummer I like to watch. And almost in call and response to the drumming, Jen Hingley becomes a complete bad ass on stage. The mild mannered interviewee from the opening panel all of a sudden became a snarling, screaming, head banging show lady, with the guitar tone filthier than anything else that night.

I never take notes at shows, and given the chance I’ll enjoy a beer or three as well, so excuse my hazy recollection of the set list. It was a great mixture of new, unreleased material and old songs including ‘Not My Fault’ and ‘Scars’.

And of course there was the switcheroo part way through the set, with Chris coming out front to take on guitar duties whilst Jen swapped on to drums (a move I knew was going to happen having followed the band on social media).

‘Honest’ (which is probably my fave False Ads song) and ‘Give It Your Worst’ were amongst the songs performed with Chris taking the lead. Have to say, having been blown away by Chris’ drumming at the top of the show, Jen was pretty damn impressive herself, certainly holding her own, whilst also smashing out some quality drumming gurns.

The pair then switched back again, all the while bassist (and birthday boy) Josh Sellers going about his business with minimal fuss. I quite enjoyed the little interlude he played whilst the final drum/guitar switch was happening, before segmenting into ‘Hey You’, another False Ads stand out.

All three bands on the night were class. The crowd however, were perhaps a bit subdued. A couple of guys were throwing some shapes down the front for False Advertising, but other than that it was a largely placid crowd, which would normally be cause for complaint from me. However, given the context of the night, it kind of felt right. Everyone there still seemed engaged and attentive and certainly gave the bands a great reception. With the panel format included the event some how felt a bit more high brow, and probably not the right environment for a burly 30-something dude to start flinging himself around to the music.

I really appreciated the chance to turn up to something a bit different though, and getting some insight from the performers as well as other industry insiders somehow helped a regular punter like me feel just that little bit closer to the music scene I hold so dearly.

I believe Show Stream are looking to put these kind of events on regularly, so if you see one, don’t be afraid to give it a go.

allusinlove @ Jimmy’s

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! That’s right, despite us now being in February, this is the first MUTM blog post of the year, meaning I’ve had a criminally long six week break without any live music… unheard of for me!

Have to say though, first gig of the year was an absolute cracker, with me taking a midweek trip in to Manchester to catch the long awaited return of allusinlove (fka allusondrugs).

Opening up the night were Lincoln based 5-piece Carry the Crown. If you’ve been to Jimmy’s before, you’ll know it’s a pretty intimate venue with a tiny stage… if I tell you that the stage wasn’t big enough for this band, I’m not referring to their larger than life sound, I just mean that physically they barely fit! Musically they had a kind of noughties, teeny nu-metal sound combined with a bit of a boy band look that very much reminded me of Lost Prophets. This just made me feel old. Personally, the music wasn’t really my cup of tea, but definitely worth giving a shout to the lads for the effort they put in to warm up the crowd. Being first on at a midweek gig on a freezing cold January night was never going to be an easy ask. I felt most entertained when they engaged with the crowd more, singer Martin deciding to abandon the stage and perform amongst the crowd, with his band mates joining in a few times too, getting the crowd to singalong and even participate in a co-ordinated pogo towards the end. Bonus points for showmanship without a doubt.

Next up were Sly Antics, who claimed they were from Manchester, though their online bio says Yorkshire… sly indeed. This powerful two-piece were a really pleasant surprise. Usually ahead of a show like this I would have had a listen to the supporting acts in advance, but life’s been busy, so I went in to this show with no expectations around what I was going to get. Well, Sly Antics were great.

The easy (lazy) comparison would be with the Black Keys and Royal Blood, as all 2-piece guitar bands are the same really aren’t they… not. These guys definitely had that early Black Keys bluesy-ness about them, but there was an accompanying rock and roll swagger that really reminded me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Front man Sam Hudson has a great blues voice and some really soulful moments that reminded me a lot of Nathan Willet from Cold War Kids. There were tons of dirty guitar riffs, accompanied by some great blues licks and power drumming from Sam’s cousin Lee on the sticks. They also showed versatility, slipping in a new single, whose name escapes me, that was slowed down and chilled out.

My only complaint is that having been so excited by this live performance, I’ve checked out their recordings online, and have to admit to being a bit disappointed by the sanitised versions of the songs, sounding a little too polished and, for me, not quite managing to capture the spirit and energy of their live sound. Definitely a band I will keep on my radar though, and I see they’ve been added to the bill for a show I’m at in a few weeks, so I look forward to round 2.

Finally then to allusinlove. It’s almost two years since I’ve seen these guys play. At that point they were one of the busiest bands around and were gigging almost constantly. But they’ve taken somewhat of a hiatus, only re-emerging at the back end of last year with a new EP and a four night residency at the Brudenell Social Club in their native Leeds. I missed them, but am really glad they’re back.

During their break they’ve signed a record deal, with their debut album due for release later this year, as well as having a bit of a rebranding exercise, including of course a new name. I was really impressed with the new EP, seemingly adding some extra oomph to their sound, the rhythm section in particular really standing out, allowing the guitar to go off on its own little adventures.

This version 2.0 dynamic really came across in the live show, set opener ‘Full Circle’ being a particular powerful opener to proceedings. The new EP was played in full, with the slower paced, funky and soulful ‘Lover I Need I Friend’ being a particular highlight for me. You might not associate the style of the song with AUIL but it slotted into the set beautifully. There were a few new tracks thrown in too, but it was also great to hear old favourites. ‘Sunset Yellow’ is such a fun song, whilst ‘I’m Your Man’ seemed almost unrecognisable played in this new heavier style.

Penultimate song ‘All Good People’ is kind of a new old song, having emerged towards the end of the previous incarnation of the band, but it really could go on to be a massive anthem for the band with its glam rock licks. The set ended with a REALLY old song which I used to have knocking about on an old Soundcloud playlist, but the track has since been removed (in fact all the old AUOD published tracks have disappeared from digital platforms). Annoyingly I can’t remember it’s name, but always has me thinking frontman Jay is singing about “buying shit fags”.

So gotta say, I’m loving the new allusinlove. I find it hard to put a finger on why. I loved the old version too, but the added grunt they seem to have acquired seems to make them better. I had a really good chat with bassist Jemal after the show (kudos to him for remembering also chatting at a show in Preston back in 2016). He mentioned that working with a record producer had really helped them focus their songwriting and rather than worry about trying to add quirkiness to their songs, they’ve been encouraged to just concentrate on writing fundamentally good songs, with the quirky personality of the band just being allowed to naturally emerge out of that process rather than them thinking about it too hard. This really make sense.

Connor on drums and Jemal on bass seem to give everything a really solid and powerful backbone, allowing Drey on guitar to add a wizardesque psychedelic layer over the top, whilst Jay has always had a really strong voice.

This Manchester show was the first of their current tour, so keep an eye out as they’ll be coming to a venue near you soon. I highly recommend checking them out. I’m really looking forward to the release of the forth coming album and fingers crossed there’ll be chance to cross paths with the band during festival season too.

Fangclub / Big Spring / Ronda @ Jimmy’s

Fangclub are one of those bands that I only got into because they supported another band I like. They toured with Milk Teeth earlier in the year and as I was planning to go to one of the shows, I gave them a listen on Spotify. Events conspired against me and unfortunately I couldn’t make it to any of the Milk Teeth shows, but by that point I’d heard enough from Fangclub’s eponymous debut album to know their fuzzy-grunge was right up my street.

And then they kind of fell off my radar a bit. With a thriving British alternative rock scene at the moment there are so many bands to listen to and so many shows to get to. I did however make a point of watching their set at 2000 Trees – and I was blown away. They’ve been in my rotation a lot more since then, and I’ve been dying for the opportunity to see them live again.

So I was chuffed to bits when they announced a short UK tour. I was even more chuffed when they announced that Big Spring would be supporting them for the Manchester show. Big Spring’s bass player Alex also works as a sound engineer and I’d seen on Fangclub’s Instagram feed that they’d been working together on some material. I commented at the time that a Fangclub x Big Spring show would be awesome, so to see it come to pass was super sweet.

First up on the night were Ronda, who although are from my home town Preston, I’d never come across before. As I tend to do, I listened to some of their tracks on Spotify in the lead up to the show. I was a little underwhelmed, their sound probably being a bit too indie for my taste. However, their sound live seemed a lot more beefed up and they came across as having a more garage rock type sound that’s more my kind of thing. I really enjoyed their set, and it was a good start to the night.

Big Spring have the dubious honour of being the first band reviewed on this blog, having seen them opening for Turbowolf back in March. Since then they’ve released a new EP ‘New Wave’. The set opens with the title track from that EP, the fuzzy pulsating bass line ensuring a dramatic start.

Since that March show lead singer Ollie has started playing second guitar on some of the tracks, which works really well, giving some extra depth to sections where lead guitarist Jack can concentrate on adding more intricate accents. Ollie also had to contend with a dodgy guitar strap and a microphone stand that didn’t seem to want to behave itself, but he managed to get through the set ok in the end.

I’m not sure that the second mic was set up properly though, and unfortunately bassist Alex’s backing vocals were really hard to hear. It didn’t hinder the set too much though, the band running through most of the songs from their repertoire including older songs ‘Cold Foot’, ‘Coming Down’, ‘5th of July’ and ‘Buzzards Leave the Bones’ as well as all of the songs from the new EP. The new material seemed to go down particularly well, with the set closing with ‘On a Bamboo Sleeping Mat’.

Another really enjoyable set from the Brighton band. They’re doing a headline tour in April and there’s a promise of more new material on the horizon too. Hopefully I’ll be at their Manchester show at the Castle Hotel on 10th April.

I was at the gig with a couple of guys Ben and Chris, having met Ben at the last Dinosaur Pile-Up show I was at (turns out he’s as big a DPU nut as I am). Whilst we waited for Fangclub to take the stage we tried to second guess what song they’d open with. Ben earned the bragging rights, successfully guessing ‘Knife’, with singer Steven taking a trip in to the crowd with the mic stand to round out the song. It really got the crowd fired up. Opening up with such a big tune, I wasn’t sure they’d be able to keep up that level of intensity… I was wrong. The set was intense. Relentless even.

Fangclub occupy that space occupied by so many of my favourite bands where their music is heavy but still really melodic. As much as I love so many of their songs, it was only when strung together in a set like this that I realised how many great big riffs there are. Riffs for days… Riffs on riffs… Like ordering a double riff burger and asking for extra riff on the side.

True to form, I’d had a few beers at this point… and I’d washed down those beers with a few jack and cokes too, so I might not remember all the songs (I definitely won’t remember them in the right order) but they definitely played:

Knife… BANGER

All Fall Down… BANGER

Better to Forget… BANGER

Sweater Forever… BANGER

Heart Is A Landmine… BANGER

High… BANGER

Best Fake Friends… BANGER

Coma Happy… BANGER

Lightning… DOUBLE BANGER

Bad Words… BANGITY-BANGER

There were two new songs in there too. ‘Hesitation’ sits comfortably amongst the rest of their back catalogue but I thought ‘Fever Violence’ really stood out, with a fast and frantic staccato opening riff that explodes into a loud chorus and verse. Definitely one to look forward to on their next release.

There was great interaction between the band and the crowd and a good set of lads down the front getting really in to the show helped add to the atmosphere.

The show ended with ‘Bullet Head’ with Steven taking another trip in to the crowd at then end whilst adding a brutal outro to the song.

Even after the set finished, there was bonus material, with a piano cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ played over the PA, which I only found out later was performed and recorded by the band (…please, please I hope they release this!).

Have to say, I was pretty knackered by the end, but it was a really fun night and has definitely made me an even bigger fan of the band. Can’t wait for more new songs and my next chance to go see them!

Jonah Matranga @ The Frog & Fiddle

So I took a field trip down to Cheltenham last weekend, all because I really, really wanted to see Jonah Matranga on his latest tour.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the album ‘Water and Solutions’ by his former band Far. To mark the occasion, he’s been performing the album in its entirety. Now, I am definitely old enough to be a fan of this album first time around, and 20 years ago Far would have been right up my street. In fact in 1998 I saw the Deftones touring with Will Haven, who were both also from Sacramento and part of the same scene as Far.

However, I have to admit that at the time, the band completely passed me by. I am familiar with some of Jonah’s solo work, since he’s performed at 2000 Trees previously, but the reason ‘Water and Solutions’ came on my radar is all off the back of an episode of the podcast ‘That’s Not Metal’ and an interview with Jamie Lenman. Himself a bit of a Trees Demi-god, Lenman picked WS as his ‘album club’ pick and so based on that recommendation, I had to give it a spin. And it turns out, it’s an absolute banger. Brutal, yet melodic; tender, yet savage.

At this point, the 20th anniversary tour hadn’t even been announced, but when it was, a performance at this year’s 2000 Trees was included in the itinerary. I went along to that performance, and it was awesome, enjoying it so much that WS all of a sudden became an even more regular fixture in my rotation.

So I was chuffed when Jonah announced a second visit to the UK and one final leg of his WS celebration. I knew I wanted to get along to one of the shows, the only problem being, all of the shows for the north of England were on dates I couldn’t make.

However, I was free on the Saturday of the Cheltenham show, and my wife was also able to donate a free hotel room for me via loyalty points she’d earned through travelling with work. The last little nudge to convince me to go to this show was the fact that for this one date of the tour Sœur were going to be one of the support acts. The trip was on!

Turning up on the day the venue itself is a cool little bar with a very obvious alternative vibe, with a converted barn at the back acting as the gig room for bands.

First on were three piece Blank Atlas. At the start of the set there were about 5 people in the room. Bonus points to the bassist who was extra energetic, jumping around the stage as if he was performing to thousands, as well as unleashing some moments of pretty evil slap bass. They soon caught people’s attention, and more and more people started to filter into the room. All three band members sing, and their harmonies are pretty impressive. My first thought was that these guys are a poor man’s Press To Meco, but then I realised that’s me being really bitchy. Press To Meco set a very high bar, and in fact these guys are really good, with plenty of big riffs and some of that good ‘ole loud/quiet/loud dynamic.

Ironically, having slagged off instrumentals in my last blog, my stand out song from Blank Atlas was the infectiously catchy riffasauraus instrumental that they unleashed a few songs into their set (…didn’t catch a name for the song, but with one solitary cry of “Oh Baby!” being the song’s sole lyric, I’m thinking that’s probably an apt title).

Next on were Sœur. Should they have been higher up the bill? For my money yes, but it didn’t stop them pulling in a crowd, the room being noticeably busier for their set. And that larger crowd seemed to respond to the performance really well. I’m not going to say too much about them as I’m running low on fangirl credits already this month, but they were bloody brilliant as always. Their new EP ‘Fight’ is out this week. Make sure you listen to it as it’s absolutely beautiful.

Third band up were I, The Lion. They set up the stage with a light show, and also had a laptop playing samples accompanying the songs. Have to say though, it all felt a bit gimmicky to me. Vocals were shared between the guitarist and bassist, and again, kudos for the tight harmonies, but other than that none of the songs really gripped me.

Oxygen Thief were the next act. First of all, what a name for a band! The WS tour is billed as ‘Jonah Matranga and Friends’ and Oxygen Thief are the friends for the night’s performance (some previous nights on the tour Jonah had Nottingham band Merricks Tusk as his backing band, whilst the set at Trees was performed with Witching Waves). However, before performing with the headliner the band get to perform a set of their own material.

The band definitely have a following and there were several Oxygen Thief t-shirts amongst the crowd. Front man Barry Dolan reminds me of a cross between Pulled Part by Horses’ Tom Hudson and the aforementioned Jamie Lenman (and he even has few mannerisms of Lenman whilst he performs too). I was particularly taken with his bright blue Doc Marten boots, which were an awesome clash with his bright orange t-shirt.

I’m trying to figure out how these guys have also passed me by. Big, meaty, catchy riffs plus poignant, often political lyrics with plenty of grunt in the mix (and even some double kick drum thrown in for the proper metal heads) – in fact very Reuben-esque to add to the Lenmanisms. I really enjoyed this set and now I feel like I need to get far better acquainted with their back catalogue (plus they also have a new album ‘Confusion Species’ dropping this week).

And so finally to Jonah Matranga. Now, I’d kind of seen the set before, and again he explained to the crowd that the album won’t be played in order, but instead will build through the tracks in terms of their intensity. Initially he took the stage alone and the sets starts with those mellower, quieter tracks from ‘Water and Solutions’ such as ‘Another Way Out’, ‘Nestle’ and ‘In 2 Again’. There’s something very tender and heartfelt about the way Jonah performs the songs. You can tell they mean a lot to him, and these first few songs, with just him and a guitar on stage add to a sense of vulnerability.

Oxygen Thief joined him on stage part way through ‘Waiting for Sunday’ as the track built to its heavy and upbeat finale. As promised, the pace and energy of the set built and built. ‘Really Here’ is the perfect bridge from the slower songs to the more upbeat numbers. ‘Man Overboard’ and ‘Mother Mary’ are great for a singalong, and I’m jumping about like a loon when personal favourite ‘I Like It’ comes on.

The brutal triumvirate of ‘The System’, ‘Bury White’ and title track ‘Water and Solutions’ sees Jonah discard his guitar, the tender vocals now giving way to guttural screams whilst he jumped around the stage and even took some trips in to the crowd as well. Whilst that sees the end of the WS tracklist we’re treated to a couple of extra songs in ‘Dear Enemy’ and the very punk ‘Love, American Style’ to sign off the set.

The whole set was captivating with Jonah giving a very raw, passionate and emotional performance. Having become more accustomed with ‘Water and Solutions’ since that 2000 Trees performance, I’m really glad I got to witness the final leg of the anniversary tour. Watching Jonah is a real treat and I hope he makes it over to these shores again.