I've been around Sheffield for the best part of six years now, so when I see that a must see band are playing a venue that I've never heard of I'm understandable baffled. Scouting out SAWA on the way to see Young Knives the week before I managed to confirm that the place existed and on the Friday of a nice Bank Holiday weekend took myself down there for a night of pop fun.
Now, if you've never been into SAWA before and go for a gig you may be slightly baffled. The entrance takes you into a bar on the ground floor with no obvious stage or music set-up. This is because the venue is upstairs through a slightly different entrance. It wasn't open when I got there so I was slightly confused. But hey, that's all in a days work. Luckily Stagecoach appeared before long, so I went over to them and said hi.
Now if you ever get the chance to chat to Stagecoach you'll discover that they are as nice a bunch of chaps as their music is awesome. That's to say, very. So after some nattering we all went upstairs to watch first band Scholars (who aren't to be confused with the Oxford post-punk band The Scholars). Now although they didn't do masses for me it has to be said that by a long distance, Scholars were the best support band of the night. Playing aggressive post-hardcore they were impossible to ignore. With the singer coming through the crowd and delivering his scream/growled vocals inches from the faces of members of the audience.
With the relentless energy of Pulled Apart By Horses and the knowing humour of The Computers, Scholars certainly made a name for themselves as a band to watch out for. They may not quiet be at their full potential yet, but when they are they'll be fantastic.
After Scholars (who were playing ridiculously early) there was another few support bands to get through, one of whom I'll admit I didn't see at all. One of the ones I did catch I think were called Bravestation. With a contemporary pop sound there was flecks of The xx, Yeasayer and Foals in what they did, but without any of the idiosyncrasies that makes any of those three interesting. Admittedly the gloopy sound at the venue didn't help and you've got to wonder if it was worth them coming all the way over from Canada to play anonymously on a bill like this.
Again, if memory serves then the main support were called Smugglers Run, who didn't live up the promise of their band name, instead sounding a like a weak Funeral For A Friend.
The ridiculous amount of support bands ensured that everything was running late, and Stagecoach didn't take to the stage until about half 11-ish. Still it was entirely worth the wait. Opening with 'Hieroglyphics' and following it up with 'We Got Tazers' they showcased exactly why they're one of the most fun bands in the country right now. But sadly things just didn't seem to be going the bands way. Jostling in front of the small-but-dedicated crowd of Stagecoach fans were several-too-many photographers who insisted in capturing the entire set with their high powered cameras and flashes. This ensured that those who'd actually paid to go and see the band were forced to watch the whole thing either through a 3 inch screen or over the shoulder of someone who had zero interest in what the band were actually playing.
Still, Stagecoach were fantastic. Playing 'Tony Hawk' from their new single, you can't help but think “Yes, this is it! This is what I got into music for”. Then the power cuts out to the entire stage. Valiantly attempting to continue acoustically for a chorus the song is abandoned when power finally returns. Well, that's to say most of the power, for the lone light that the five piece were expected to play by has failed to re-materialise. This combined with the dodgy stage monitors and late running makes you think that this whole set is cursed, but eventually someone turns the house lights on above the stage and it's firing on all cylinders.
It's got to be said that Stagecoach took all of the problems really well and played fantastically the whole way through, delivering an excellent set of killer grunge pop. 'Not Even Giles Would Say We'll Be OK!!!', 'Jonah Lomu' and 'Ice Age' all got airings and dedicated sing alongs from the members of Team PoP present. Closing their all-too-short set with 'Good Luck With Your 45', the mandolin is passed to a member of the crowd whilst Tom takes his mic into the audience the lead the singalong.
Once it's done the band quickly set about getting packed up. They've got a fair drive ahead of them and I've got a forty minute walk up-hill. And it's midnight. Sleepy.