Live at Joseph's Well on Monday, 19th February 2001
Charity begins at home or so they say. Well I've never really understood what that means but charity was the aim of the nights over Monday and Tuesday this week at Joey's Well. This is yet another testament to the scene in Leeds and those lovely people down at the Well who not only organised and planned the whole event (billed as 'the first festival of the year' - how cool is that?) but also donated all their wages for the two nights to the beneficiary, which was on this occasion Marie Curie - Cancer Care. The plan was to put the ten best bands in Leeds together over two nights as a showcase for Leeds talent and also a fund-raiser, and on tonight's showing, they did a pretty good job.
Poor old BLUERYDER kicked off first to a miserable crowd. To be fair it was early but I expected a few more in than this. Anyway they defied this to turn in a brilliant set. Blueryder marry the kind of pop sensibility Lee Mavers would if kill for right now with an admirable rock energy reminiscent of harder-edged bands like the Foo Fighters and a twist of originality and inventiveness I've not seen for a while. Guitarist Rich plays the sort of licks Johnny Marr would be doing today if he'd taken influences from Nineties music, and when he takes a drill to his guitar, he creates a noise not unlike what I'd imagine the primal scream of a banshee with a twisted bollock to sound like. Great stuff. They seem to lack confidence at times and could do with some backing vocals here and there, but they're at their best when they're rockin' out, like on the penultimate song which features some mean slap from chiselled bassman Christophe. Definitely one to watch out for.
SUGARVALVE win the award for nightmare gig of the night. Energetic guitarist Jamie snaps a string, then another on his spare, so they play as a three-piece. Then drummer Mark breaks his snare head. Despite these crazy shenanigans, they manage to turn in a good if not great set. Singer Nick has a strong voice which give feeling and emotion to his lyrics and Jamie is born for the stage (when he's not changing strings). The bass player tries way too hard though - he's a competent musician but at times looks like their manager has said "Be more rock!" Just be yourself chap. Sugarvalve have some brilliant songs, but they tend to lack really catchy hook lines. Some of the music was fantastic, but with a few more vocal hooks, they could really be doing the business. The first song in particular was a potential single if it had those huge catchy choruses like their influences - My Vitriol, Smashing Pumpkins et al. But I'd strongly advise going to see Sugarvalve and I'd love to hear them on CD.
Next on are DIVIDED BY ZERO. Tonight is a particularly poignant gig for the Pontefract-based rockers because singer Joe's dad is battling cancer at the moment, he said from the stage, so I think they really wanted to impress. They did. DBZ got feet aplenty tapping with their modern grunge style. They weren't particularly original, but had fun - and were the first band to smile on stage. The drummer is clearly a Taylor Hawkins fan: his style and looks echoed the Foos drummer but without directly ripping him off. And he also had cool sideburns. Stand-out track was ballad Equilibrium, but this was rivalled by the Endless Nameless-esque Song for a Third Album (fantastic title too). They still need to work on developing a unique sound but were the most entertaining band so far.
The room thinned out a little for BEAT ROUTE 62, but they were the first band to get people up on their feet and dancing. Beat Route 62 have that laid back happy indie rock type groove, they aren't particularly original but you can rely on them for supplying a good ol' boogie here and there. They've got the fashion advisers in and have gone for the 70s/80s heavy metal look (I hope they chose to, and that's not normally how they dress, anyway). It's good to see a band really going for it in image terms, and it adds to the almost carnival atmosphere that follows this band around their gigs. Singer Paul is still as cool as a penguin's chuff, if not cooler actually. Perhaps a penguin's chuff... in the fridge. The songs are all good with catchy hooks showing influences ranging from the Beatles, Mansun and U2 at times, but without any real originality. However, they are a talented band and with a bit more work on developing a more original sound, Beat Route 62 could be headlining the next charity do.
Helping charity is thirsty work, so myself and Mike from Leeds rockers 5ft4 retired to the bar for refreshment. You could tell a bloody mile off that MARIKO were coming on due to the number of young well-dressed attractive ladies with exceedingly tall attractive young men with funny hair in the bar. Now not wishing to take anything away from any of the other bands on the night because all were fantastic in different ways, but Mariko showed why they've been so hyped recently. They deliver a set of cracking, memorable footie anthem-style songs, each of which is a potential Top Ten single, especially the opener End of the Week and ballady Elvis Loves Us. Singer Paul is the owner of a distinctive, Kelly Jones-type drawling voice which impresses in every song, guitarists John and Dan throw the kind of rock star shapes that Elvis himself might have done today (John also wears a t-shirt bearing the name of former Poison 'hero' CC Deville, which scores him extra points - or should that be minus points?) and rhythm section Glen and Billy keep the whole thing together.
Mariko aren't original or innovative, they don't play anything you can't get your head around but what they are fantastic at are those timeless hooky pop songs. I've had the chorus of newish song I Love The World When The World Loves The Noise whirring round my head like a bloody chainsaw for the past few days, and so will everyone else when they hear it. And it's not even their best song. Mariko don't really sound like anyone else but if you imagine the Stereophonics scrapping with Mansun over an old AC/DC bootleg they've found in a record shop then you'd be somewhere near. But not only do they write such great songs, they present them so well in a way that's polished without being muso and in a way that looks great but still realises music is more important than style or image. That's the difference between 'a local band' and 'a national band'. Mariko are the former, but it won't (or shouldn't) be long until it's the latter.