Live at Packhorse on Friday, 4th December 2009
I'll level with you: I was well and truly late for tonight's 360 gig at the Packhorse and, as karma has its way I came close to death upon leaving. More on that later though.
My tardy entry meant that I missed all but the last two numbers of newcomers, Hunting Bears. The whole room was so hushed, and seemed engrossed in their gentle, hypnotic folk sounds. The performance was flawless, perhaps the most accomplished of the night. Beautifully dulcet, group harmony vocals were spot on and fell somewhere between the Beach Boys and the Joanna Newsom. The sobering but honeyed tones produced by the suitably traditional instrumentation of double bass, acoustic guitar and ukele, were so meticulously detailed that you could not help but slip into their soothing magnetism. The ability of this band to faithfully employ the characteristics of many older, classic acts while creating such a contemporary sound is really interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing this band again for sure, and that's coming from someone who'll lose their breakfast at the mere mention of Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Bright Sons are next on the bill. I've been seeing quite a lot of this lot recently; they really seem to be upping their game. They look most at home here in the Packhorse: confident and coming across as a tight-knit group. Jokingly they apologise for demolishing the serene ambience as created by Hunting Bears. With their wieldy dirty guitars and throbbing pristine keyboard tones, they have well and truly chased any remnants of tranquillity from the room, and stamped a big fat chunk of cosmic noise across the evening. The numbers are inescapably catchy, sending the hooks churning round your head for the rest of the evening. A strong set list meant there's no filler for Bright Sons and they are able to dish out material to the crowd that stands up as memorable, and a sound that they are increasingly making their own.
Bearfoot Beware are a cheeky, virile bunch that administer the most exciting performance of the night. I think a lot of bands could take heed from their stripped down, rough and ready approach: showing it's more than possible to give an absolutely roaring set by plugging in and getting down to it. The band seems to have a great knack for marrying a jaunty, post-punk guitar angle, akin to A Certain Ratio, with raucous pop melody. Gang shouts, spurtive guitar exercises and an all round physical enthusiasm give the four piece enough energy to keep everyone in the crowd keen. Their front man is particularly animated, and doesn't think twice about exploring the further reaches of his coop in the restricted space of the upstairs room. Atop the amps, on the bass drum looming over his accomplices he works furiously at engaging his onlookers. Bearfoot Beware have got something else.
Topping the bill tonight are Doctor Dot. The five piece are an awkward lot to try and pin down. Their set is really so eclectic that any kind of labelling is probably counter-productive. There is however a steady influx of ska and reggae influence across a good majority of the numbers. In the vain of many 90's California outfits, I'm thinking particularly No Doubt, Doctor Dot crash together these styles with pop melody, heavy guitars and sweet vocals. Tonight they are sturdier than the last time I caught them at the HiFi, and their diving into the set sharpish really paid off. They use the energy of previous acts to great affect. The snappy interstices between songs are professional and carry the set through with good continuity. Shared lead vocals draw attention to the strong voice of their female guitarist, who brings to mind Alanis Morissette, fitting for the 90s pop feel. Doctor Dot are another band with enough nagging hooks in their material to make sure you ain't forgetting them any time soon.
Ok, I know you've been on tenterhooks awaiting the grizzly little tantalizer I planted in the intro, and here it is. Stood outside the Packhorse waiting for a cab and what should come whistling past within a few yards of us but a careering, upturned Peugeot 308 that demolished a parked car and came to rest outside the takeaway; much to the bemusement of the three blokes inside who just wanted a medium Donner. Back home to a change of pants, this brave reporter lives to see another 360 Club.
Folky six piece from Leeds