Live at Joseph's Well on Thursday, 25th January 2001
There's always been a place for humour in music. All the best bands had wit without being cheesy and over the top with it, and tonight proves that humorous observations and amusing asides don't mean you have to be the Grumbleweeds.
PERCY are on first. Now I was dead excited about seeing them for a two important reasons. First, I'd heard they're really good. Second, drummer Hugh Whittaker used to be in the Housemartins, but more importantly, he was in the Gargoyles, who were one of Hull's best bands in the mid to late Eighties. Being a Codhead myself, this is important (we Codheads have to stick together - no-one else likes us) because the Gargoyles were one of the most acerbic yet hilarious bands on the circuit. Being only about 7 or 8 when they were on the live circuit, I missed seeing them but my big sister (formerly Spiders-frequenting indie kid with multiple piercing and pink cropped hair, now teacher of English and Drama at a top public school) used to bring tapes home and that's how I discovered them. So to have the chance of meeting someone who I used to worship as a kid was pretty awe-inspiring, even if they're now playing at Joseph's Well in front of about nine people.
Anyway, those nine were impressed. Percy aren't dissimilar to the Gargoyles (if anyone remembers them please leave a note on the message board!) and play upbeat rocky pop. Also reminiscent of the later catalogue of Tranmere boys Half Man Half Biscuit, Percy have bags of energy, are tight with strong, Niall O'Flaherty/Nigel Blackwell-esque vocals and some good catchy tunes. The best moments were when songs lapsed into orchestrated chaos, with each member making completely mad and seemingly random noises, before segueing effortlessly back into the chirpy pop again. Percy close with recent-ish John Peel favourite Donny Rednecks, a country and western inspired number about the kind of classy ladies and gents you see out on the town in provincial cities, and the guitarist brings a whole new meaning to the term 'bottleneck solo'... go and see them to find out. A good show but unfortunately not enough people were there to appreciate, and I get the impression that Percy are a band who would thrive off audience atmosphere.
Former Charly Six singer DANNY CARR takes up the stage next, with an acoustic set that showcases his talent well. He's a great singer with a towering Kelly Jones type voice - raspy without sounding like Crowbar - that fills the room. He only plays a fairly short set tonight because it's his first gig on his own, but on tonight's showing, he'll be fronting a great band with his own songs really soon (if that's what he decides to do). Danny has one of the best voices in Leeds - full of emotion and vitriol, passion and confidence without cockiness, and his songs are haunting and dark with some really big hooks. He invited the audience to give him topics for a stream of consciousness song and with great vigour set into a number about Germans, margarine, sausages and Hawkwind. No probs. He's a great talent, and should bounce back from the disbanding of Charly Six very soon.
The room has filled a bit by now, and 5FT4 are up. They're quirky pop-rock and are building up quite a following around Leeds at the moment, and record companies should follow suit soon. I was somewhat disappointed to realise that none were wearing their trademark sun-visors and even more disappointed to discover that Neil the guitarist wasn't wearing a Gola t-shirt as I first thought. It was actually Gold Blade... top band, but not quite the class of Gola. 5ft4 have very much their own sound - you can see Pixies and Smiths influences in there but they were original without sounding too alien to anything you've heard before. The set started well but get better as time went on, with songs like Lager Beer, Wishful Thinking and Spoilt For Choice coming across like instant classics. Choruses that drill right into your head and take root, rumbling drums from the happiest percussionist in rock, Mike, sneering yet melodic vocals from Marcus, tasteful bass work, lovely harmonies and good looks from Emma and some top riffage (and gurning) from guitarist Neil add up to create a much-improved live act from when I saw them last year. Their stage presence is good these days too, with some comedy heavy metal posturing from Marcus and Neil, but I think it would benefit if Emma joined in too. One song (sung by Neil, who likes to swear occasionally) broke into a rendition of MC Hammer classic U Can't Touch This, replete with "Stop... Hammertime!", which has been waiting to make an entry into rock for some time now. Stand out tracks were Lager Beer, which had an almost Gaelic feel (as did a few of their songs... penny whistle anyone?) and a great anthemic chorus, and the song about God which went "and we pray, oh yes we pray", which was dynamic and catchy - a potential single. Popstar sounded a bit like The Fall at first then went into a guitar riff that sounded suspiciously like Saturn 5 by the Inspiral Carpets, but was brilliant all the same. The set ended with a cover of Tom Jones classic Delilah, which prompted mass singalong and hilarity - mainly at Neil's comedy vocals - from the fairly large audience that had gathered. 5ft4 walked tall tonight, and are definitely a band to watch out for with some classic pop tunes played in a pretty rock 'n' roll kinda way.