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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Gig Review Round-up:The Crookes & The Whip / Art Brut / Mayor McCa & Hot Club de Paris

It's easy to forget that September/October is gig season. At least it's easy to forget that if you're me. That's to say it's easy to forget if you've become something of a recluse of late.

We begin the round-up the day after the previously reported Subways/Computers/Dancers gig in the very same venue. The Foundry at the Students Union. My old haunt back in the University days when I was a lighting technician. After meeting up with some of the current crop of volunteer upstarts a few days previous I found myself working the first 'Jack Daniels Live' event at the Students Union on the old site and day that the legendary Fuzz Club was held. Which is appropriate as the main band I'd given up my whole day for was The Crookes.

Like me, The Crookes were old Fuzz regulars. I caught them on at least one occasion (supporting Art Brut) gracing the stage there but never really took much notice. As you may gather from the coverage they've been getting on KPL this year this has changed somewhat now following a wonderful evolution in their sound and two fantastic releases (EP Dreams Of Another Day and album Chasing After Ghosts) and I'm paying so much attention I'm at the venue at 11am to help set up the stage, load in the bands, build barriers and engage in all kinds of manual labour. Fun times.

Whilst realising that I'm not as strong as I once was (that front of stage barrier is HEAVY, kids) I got to catch bits of the opening two acts soundcheck. Local acts both and sounding like it. Despite there being no publicity for it these days, I'm sad to report that Sheffield is still full of bunches of lads replicating the sounds of Oasis/Libertines/Arctic Monkeys. I can't remember exactly which two it was this night but the names Mabel Love and The Velotones ring a bell. Either way, I had my dinner whilst they were on.

The Crookes however, were ace. Still breaking in a new guitarist after Alex Saunders left they're still finding their feet with this new line-up but exude all of the charm and presence on stage that you expect from proper pop stars. They open with (possibly my favourite of theirs) 'Chorus Of Fools' and play a short, but hit-packed set. 'Backstreet Lovers' and 'Bloodshot Days' are highlights and that the crowd mostly leave after their set ('Yes, Yes, We Are Magicians' being the closer) despite there being one more act to come shows how The Crookes follow on from acts such as The Long Blondes in being the truly beloved hometown heroes.

So, onto headliners The Whip, who I'm sad to say provided a somewhat unengaging set. I'm sad to say it of course because they seem like thoroughly decent people and play their songs flawlessly. The light show is spectacular (as it has been throughout the night)but with their being backlit and sounding so precise it's almost as if it's a DJ set. And with the room slightly too empty it doesn't have the atmosphere to make it work. They do of course close with 'Trash' which is again superbly executed.

I finally get home just before 3am. A good few hours after the music stops.

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Venturing back down the hill a few days later, I'm a properly paid up punter for the Art Brut gig and a little disappointed to find, when I get there, that they're playing the small room. Obviously this isn't anywhere near as bad news as that which emerged a week previously concerning This Many Boyfriends who were due to support.

Still, as I've said before; Art Brut are one of the most consistently brilliant live acts on the planet. You know when you see them that you're going to get plenty of hits and a fair amount of Eddie Argos talking nonsense. Still, he can talk as much nonsense as he likes when he's wearing a Keep Pop Loud badge, as he does for 'Formed A Band'. Star!

To report on everything of note that Eddie says during the set would take up a full review in itself. Suffice to say, he's on top form. During 'Formed A Band' he follows the Israel/Palestine lyric with "and then Kele and the NME", whilst classic single 'Modern Art' sees him in the crowd, getting the audience to sit down whilst he improvises himself into a corner. "Modern Art! Makes Me! Want To Buy A T-Shirt" he sings for the final chorus of the song once he's back on stage.

With album #4 Brilliant! Tragic! having come out this year the set features some choice cuts that show just how well it holds up in their strong discography. 'Lost Weekend', 'Axl Rose' and 'I Am The Psychic' are strong contenders but it's 'Sealand' that (if memory serves) closes the main set that's my fave.

Some songs are missed out ('Direct Hit', 'Moving To LA') but we're treated to a punky new one that perhaps hints at more material sooner than we'd expect from the Brut. 'DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake' is played after a vote for requests and 'Emily Kane' gets the crowd loosened up a bit. Which brings us on to a slight nag, that (admittedly) I'm partially to blame for... When I've seen Art Brut in Sheffield in the past the whole crowd has really gotten into it. Whether it's because we're all a little older now or because there's less of us there's much less of that jumping around malarkey. It's a shame, but no reflection on the band. In fact, one chap I met at the gig said it's the best he's ever been to.

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Which just about brings us up to date, apart from Monday night of this week when I ventured down to SOYO to see Hot Club de Paris and Mayor McCa. A three band bill (Mad Colours are in between) for free is not to be sniffed at, especially when the acts are of this standard.

Mayor McCa, the Duke Of DIY, as he introduces himself is a smashing bearded Canadian one-man-band who writes bluesy rock and charming indiepop ditties. Using a variety of peddles and samples he sits on his kick drum and plays keyboards, a guitar and a ukulele. Frankly it's amazing that he's opening here and not getting masses of press, combining as he does the best bits of the Pitchfork-approved indie scene and the quirkiness that's often paraded on Jools Holland. If that doesn't sound appetising then trust me, he's great and you should watch this video.



The aforementioned Mad Colours are next and provide an interesting arty punk attack and feature a bass player that looks like an MFI middle manager from 1988. Still, they're good but not done any favours by the sound system. There's a bit of Young Knives going off in what they're doing but they're much less rural. Worth checking out if that sounds like your bag.

And finally it's Hot Club de Paris the most criminally underrated band in the UK. They play songs from their three album career whilst eschewing the singles (no 'Hey! Housebrick' or 'Sometimesitsbetter...') in their far-too-short set. The sound means that the vocals, and specifically the crazy harmonies that Hot Club lather their songs in are mostly inaudible, whilst between-song banter remains unheard by pretty much all of the audience.

It's been far too long since I've listened to the first Hot Club album and it shows. I can't remember hardly any of the words and was constantly reminded that I need to change this. The highlight was, as expected 'Free The Pterodactyl 3', a song that I raved about last year. Other great moments came from 'I'm Not In Love And Neither Are You' and 'My Little Haunting'. Give it a few years and people will be talking about these songs the way that they now do about mclusky's 'To Hell With Good Intentions'. They may not sell loads but Hot Club de Paris are keepers.

Keep Pop Loud

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