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  gig reviews -march 2004

- The Pernice Brothers + The Belles
- Ballboy + Panda Love Unit
punge] + Never Heard of It + Graveltrap
- The Fiery Furnaces + The Blueskins
- This Floating World + The Hot Carls + The Maker + TEAM

The Pernice Brothers + The Belles
14.2.04 - The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Ah, to be surrounded by the wonder of The Rescue Rooms. It has to be said that the people of Nottingham are spoiled when it comes to gig venues. By my estimation Rock City and The Rescue Rooms are two of the finest places to see live music in the country. This being the case, the prospect of seeing the Pernice Brothers in the smaller of the two venues seemed like quite a treat.

Q. Now, how can we make the experience almost intolerable?
A. Pack the venue with cocks!

A motlier crew you could not wish to see. Had I scant regard for my own freedom, I could well have stabbed several dozen of these reprobates in the neck with a pen.

Crazy dancing lady, prematurely aged ‘Spuggy’ in red military get up, talkative youths, drunken beer boys…… this gig had them all, and as you might imagine, it somewhat marred my enjoyment of the show.

The Belles, to my amazement may well have earned themselves a few new fans tonight. I. however, was not one of them. Racing through a set of uninspiring MOR tunes they seemed to be on the audiences (possibly on day release, it would account for a thing or two!) wavelength, which I thankfully was not. The Belles are by no means bad, its just countless bands have blazed this trail with a great deal more panache, flair and indeed songwriting ability many years before, and I have no doubt will continue to do so, take Del Amitri for example. File firmly in Rock/Pop.

To be honest, by the time The Pernice Brothers hit the stage, my spirits were well and truly crushed anyway. The music was barely audible over the disinterested portion of the crowd choosing to resume/begin/continue conversing throughout the entire set. What I heard though was very good. It is nothing new by any means, and being no stranger to Joe Pernices work, even less so. What you hear on record is delivered in spades live, simple music with great lyrics, notes should be taken by The Belles.

We left before the end due to an impending bout of violence……. Damn you, people of Nottingham. You do pay the price or going to a gig on a Saturday night.

Drew Millward


Ballboy + Panda Love Unit
17.2.04 - Birmingham Jug of Ale
I used to go out with a girl who, like most of us, couldn't stand Brussels sprouts, and when she was a kid her mum used to mulch them up with the mashed taties and hope she didn't notice. Similar stealth tactics apply when an indiepop band comes to Birmingham: you have to smuggle them onto a bill alongside a local outfit that isn't quite indiepop (there aren't any) and can just about make the headliners palatable to the post-emo Brummie kids who – bless 'em and everything – think Fortuna Pop! is a character from Star Wars. 

So it is with Ballboy, who have worked hard at cultivating an audience in this city. Tonight it is Panda Love Unit who are detailed to accompany them, and because only two bands are on, I wrongly assume that PLU will not take the stage before nine o'clock and manage to miss their set entirely. Their resonating lo-fi pop is a source of no small comfort in the second city's currently impoverished indie scene, and I bitterly curse whoever assigned them the Blue Peter slot. 

The good news is that Ballboy still rule. Even if you found the second album a bit patchy, you can't watch them live without a big daft grin taking out a six-month lease on your chops. Gordon is one of those effortlessly charming frontmen (see also: Hibbett, M J) who can spend longer introducing a tune than playing it and you don't mind. Hence 'Avant-Garde Music' is prefaced tonight by an ace anecdote about Gordon seeing the Queen on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, which is as fun as the song itself. (In Birmingham, incidentally, the Royal Mile are the people who deliver your letters.) 

Like all the best pop bands, Ballboy make it look easy. In some ways, it shouldn't be this good: while their lyrics remain prodigiously stunning, their music is still painted from a slightly limited melodic palette, and the set sort of drifts a bit in its second half as the big Slowdive-y soundscape-y type stuff dominates. But I feel good, and not just for the vodka, not just because a pretty boy tells me he liked my solo set here the other week; for a fair old while I completely forget it's a cold and wet Tuesday night in Birmingham, and you can't ask much more from music than that. 

Pete Popkiss


[Spunge] + Never Heard of It + Graveltrap
21.2.04 - Manchester Academy

Joel Gibb from The Hidden Cameras said it best when he summed up indie gigs as “People standing around in a smoke filled room, laughing at people attempting to dance”. You say it is never going to happen to you, but the transition creeps up on you like a stranger and you find that you are not long into your twenties, when you spend your time cursing a beautiful day waiting for the next Charlatans gig. Tonight, I make my way to a safe observing point as opening act Graveltrap get the fun going with their pleasing brand of emo, ska punk with a sound pitched somewhere between Greenday and tonight’s headliners. The raucous track ‘Getaway’ was the highlight that helped get the party started and some good old fashioned skanking. I find myself two feet nearer to the stage, as a result of what must have been an involuntary act during the first band’s set, as American punks Never Heard Of It hit the stage and their infectious brand of pop punk saw a surge of energy bigger than anything Sellafield has ever seen. They are New Found Glory with better songs, more spirit and soon got the crowd buzzing. 

Right until the moment that the Tewkesbury towny tormentors [Spunge] hit the stage Freud would have been proud of me; I had repressed my desire to have fun as though it was a bitter childhood memory. Then the colourful quintet that have been hailed as the new The Clash bounded onto stage and threw themselves into the society bating; ‘Jump On Demand’ from ‘The Story So Far Album’ that is the 21st century’s answer to ‘Anarchy In The UK’. It was no good I was jumping to the demand of the music and front man Alex Copeland’s captivating vocal style. Coupled with the fact that he has the stage presence of Joe Strummer or Jonny Rotten, as he jovially entertained the crowd all night with self deprecating humour that included an admission that he should be doing what any self respecting farmer from his part of the country is doing; “Shovelling pig shit’. The equally anarchic ‘Go Away’ pleased the crowd craving the older tracks and saw the start of some energetic skanking. 

 [Spunge} were here to promote their latest album ‘That Should Cover it’ (out 23/02/04 on their own label Dent’ All Records) featuring a heap of skanked up covers and some new tracks. One of the new tracks featured was the intriguingly titled ‘Some Suck, Some Rock’ and proving that they fall into the latter category, they bounced around like a cheque written by Leeds United F.C. Alex’s vocals took on a more reggae sound at times as well. [Spunge] have drawn comparisons with many ska/emo punk band, but seldom has there been a mention of The Levellers when reading or hearing about them. Tracks such as ‘Room For Abuse’ and the ‘Skanking Song’ that were well received certainly warrant such a comparison.  

In a neat touch of originality they took a lead from The Reduced Shakespeare Company, in the middle of the set and condensed a number of covers including ‘Circle In The Sand’ by Belinda Carlisle and ‘Oliver’s Army’ by Elvis Costello into one fun packed song. The nostalgic don’t forget your mates tune ‘Roots’ helped set things up for a frenetic finally and saw some quite graceful dancing in the pit. That is the difference between skanking and moshing you see? The former is more graceful, well that is my excuse anyway. The one hour and a quarter set finished with a neat and shamelessly cheesy rendition of the J Giels Band classic ‘Centrefold’. Even people at the back found their bodies swinging to the hypnotically swinging track that saw a spectacular end to a thoroughly enjoyable band. All credit to [Spunge] for getting everyone, including this indie bore bouncing!

Dave Adair

The Fiery Furnaces + The Blueskins
23.1.04 - Birmingham Bar Academy

Pete is six feet tall and stands twelve feet from the stage. If he pays nine quid to get in to the gig and can't see anything, calculate his pissed-offness as a factor of £2.75 per pint. 

In a Neo Matrix flash of revelation, I remember that here at Bar Academy there is no stage; it's just a different bit of the floor. Because we are here, furthermore, in the belly of the corporate beast, and not at the Jug of Ale, I suspect that The Fiery Furnaces are an NME band du jour. A lot of NME readers are here too. Ooh, look: a mullet! Cuh, what a card! Ooh, look: another one... ooh, look...  

All of which is not what is needed to restore your faith in music the night after Channel 4 reveals that the total UK singles sales of Elvis and The Beatles are now exceeded by Cliff Richard's, and sure enough I erect a bloody whacking great concrete barrier of cynicism, like that mad wall thing the Israelis are building. The Blueskins do their best to bulldoze it, and three years ago they might have rocked my duffel coat off, but tonight they will need more than faux-naif northern boy grins to stand out from the garage rock crowd. They do ace cartoon harmonies, and some lurching, metally chord changes quite surprise you, but there isn't one single solitary Blueskins tune that wouldn't benefit from being two minutes shorter. (In this, by the by, they are surpassed by Ash, whose recent songs all need to be four minutes shorter: even the three-and-a-half-minute ones.) 

The Fiery Furnaces (that's another tautology, by the way, Sam) start slowly, and none too impressively, with some cagey Weird Synth Sounds, which may have been kind of endearing when Pram started doing them but are now just so last millennium (hello, Gerling! Oh, you've gone). Once the pulsating rhythm section asserts itself over the WSSs and Eleanor Friedberger's I-am-a-mad-girl vocals – and, as if dropping a hint to The Blueskins, the songs all become two minutes shorter – heads begin to nod and occasional smiles break out amid the dutiful applause. 

Oddly, the band choose to end with three of their just-guitar-and-vocal songs, including an irresistible 'Tropical Iceland' (which, if there is any justice in the world, will surely feature in a Pepsi ad later this year), but oddly, it works, and one is forced to conclude that this band are not too bad. The bottom line though: their official website is a single page just listing tour dates – a telltale sign of a pop group moving too far too fast – and when the music press drop The Fiery Furnaces, so too, I'm afraid to say, will their readers. 

Pete Popkiss

This Floating World + The Hot Carls + The Maker + TEAM
25.2.04 - The Grapes, Sheffield

Despite a freezing cold night and a mini whose heating system is clearly well past its sell by date, the intrepid Tasty team headed south down the M1 to see if TEAM could produce the goods on stage.

We shouldn't have worried, despite an audience numbering approximately 6 and a gig room suffering from the glacial weather conditions, TEAM pounded out a 40 minute set including  [50,000][Dead Sharks] favourites Model Lisbon and Breezer Block Big but also several new tunes which certainly kept the wintry conditions at bay.

And so to The Maker. Good grief. Not good. I have no time for 5 minute guitar solos, especially when my fingers are in danger of freezing off anyway. At least the bands dad liked it.

The Hot Carls on the other hand were far more fun. Never has a rock band looked more, errr, uncool. Having escaped from their a-level Chemistry lessons early for the day they treated us to a cracking scratchy, edgy, ad hoc punky display. Well done. B+.

And to finish with - This Floating World. Alarm bells should have been ringing when an electric cello and electric double bass appeared. Something should have clicked when the keyboard was placed centre stage. All things were explained when the first couple of heartfelt rock/easy listening/Clannad style numbers were over. Well, my Dad would have liked it. But then he likes Phil Collins...

Shane Blanchard