Monday, August 6, 2018

A Trip to There and Back Again Lane

Our Nottingham correspondent, MisterPrime, makes a triumphant return to tell us about a very special show he attended. Keep this up, MisterPrime, and I will have to consider bumping you up to senior correspondent. This seems like as good a time as any to pass on that many Sarah releases have just been added on Bandcamp too. Take it away, MisterPrime...

A Sarah Punk Social:

Even As We Speak, Boyracer, Secret Shine and Action Painting! At the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 21st July 2018

Obviously there was much excitement in the Prime household when I first heard the news (via that font of knowledge for all things indie, the esteemed Linear Tracking Lives blog, of course) that Stew and Jen at Emotional Response Records were reissuing a batch of old Sarah material earlier in the year. Better yet, the plan was to raise funds to bring the recently reformed Even As We Speak to the UK for dates to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their seminal 'Feral Pop Frenzy' LP, culminating in an appearance at Indietracks 2018. Even better, all three of the other bands involved in the reissues -- Action Painting!, Secret Shine and Stew's own band, the mighty Boyracer -- were acting as support. Admittedly all of the excitement was mine -- and the nearest gig (barring Indietracks itself) was up in sunny Yorkshire (apparently the organisers of the Festival were afraid of flooding the indie-gig-market in the Midlands otherwise) -- but my better half did then make the mistake of suggesting I get a ticket for the Brudenell Social Club gig there-and-then and sort out the details later. I would have put it off otherwise and ended up not bothering but, as it was, I now had no choice but to sort out trains, a Leeds6 B&B (apparently I'm "too old" to just kip on the station these days) and whatever else was required for this weird little middle-aged indie-away day.

I used to live in the neighbourhood as a student and it's largely unchanged, the typical northern back-to-backs occasionally giving way to a pub, chippy or off-licence. The cavernous student pub, the Royal Park, is still operating next door to the venue though it looks as if the interior might be a little more salubrious these days than I recall. The Brudenell Social Club has certainly had a makeover since I was last here -- in my student days it was still a Working Men's Club but I've been back in the interim to see Jonathan Richman play here in 2012 -- with more than a lick of paint and the addition of a whole new Community Room extension -- the scene for this evening's festivities -- just last year. I was surprised that tonight's gig was not in the Main Room, but I think I was maybe once again guilty of thinking it obvious that here was an event momentous enough to have sold-out months in advance and not to be attracting curious bypassers to pay on the door. Oh well, as it was the turnout was decent, the atmosphere was excellent and the room was more than passable. Perhaps I just have a newfound respect for bands and promoters who are still making the effort to get this stuff out there for the faithful. At least the merch stand seemed to be buzzing....

The opening three bands were apparently rotating the order of their appearances, but I must say it was fitting that Action Painting! were up first tonight. They are really just a footnote in the Sarah story, and it sounds like they've not even bothered to rehearse since 1992. In fact, they were terrible. But good terrible. Even better terrible than I would have anticipated. And they still have bags of attitude, singer Andrew Hitchcock taking the stage in in leopard skin fur coat and shades, bemoaning that "they promised us fucking dry ice!" The guitar lead coming out in the middle of "Mustard Gas" ("The Hit!") and being deftly caught and reinserted mid-solo actually improved the performance. A fun 20 minutes.

Which only served to make Secret Shine seem all the more considered and professional. They were the only one of tonight's bands that I'd actually seen before -- at a short-lived Nottingham venue somewhat improbably named the Imperial, back in 1991 (I think), supporting the Sweetest Ache -- and I recall being underwhelmed on that occasion. That said, here is a band that have not rested on their laurels and have honed their chops since they reformed a few years ago prior to releasing career-best material on last year's 'There Is Only Now' album. They always had the pop tunes to back up their deft take on that swooning shoegaze dynamic -- as well as a melancholic undertow that made them suitably Sarah -- but right now live, though they might still have a slightly polite look about them, the music does manage to soar in all the right places. Given a newfound fondness for all things shoegaze, one can only hope it's onwards and upwards for Secret Shine in the next few years.

I'd better be upfront about this and just make it clear right now that I bloody love Boyracer. Whilst they may indeed be "too twee for the punks and too punk for the twees", there are some of us out here for whom that particular niche is just about a perfect fit. Tonight Stew and the gang pulled off several joyous shards of hardcore indie punk, including pretty incendiary takes on "I've Got It And It's Not Worth Having", the classic "He Gets Me So Hard" and their take on the Clean's Dunedin-tastic "Tally Ho!" "I didn't used to be so prissy in the old days," says Stew, tuning up between songs before introducing a guest appearance from old member Simon Guild (I believe 1990-94, apparently) and a giving a shout-out to his mum. Let's just say there was that perfect fusion of strained emotion and uplifting punk thrash and there was me standing at the front with a big boyfuckingracer grin on my face.

And so to the headliners. Even As We Speak we were always a curious amalgamation of a band -- Australians schooled in the homegrown D.I.Y. ethic of the 80's Antipodean scene but curiously popular in England and taken to the hearts of Peel-listening and Sarah Records buying indie-kids despite their gloriously free and easy approach to incorporating all kinds of pop influences. Fittingly, even 25 years on they make up a suitably motley crew on the stage: Julian, smiling and bookish, switching between guitar, keyboard and laptop; Mary out front, looking glamorous in a bright red dress; Anita, workmanlike behind the kit; Rob, affable and bear-like, doing a strange little circular dance, stepping forward at one or two key points to interject a growled vocal or (only once, it must be said) pour beer over his head; and Matt, taciturn under a trucker's cap but able, when necessary, to deliver a properly heartrending vocal on "Nothing Ever Happens" or unleash a bit of Duane Eddy twang. All in all, a properly heartwarming, happy and human noise -- no more than you'd expect, I guess, from the world's foremost psychedelic indie pop/rock party band.



charity chic said...

I’m not familiar with any of these bands but from this post I wish I’d been there

MisterPrime said...

Cheers, Brian. And thanks for making it look nice...

Oh and thanks to CC for the kind words.

Swiss Adam said...

Top reporting.