Live at The Library on Friday, 18th February 2011
On a particularly damp Friday, it's a relief to be upstairs in the Library at another 360 Club. It's a busy night and a packed out crowd are milling about ready for the night's show to begin. Tonight features an experimental 5 band line-up which should make the night even more diverse than 360's reputation precedes.
Going back to Country roots and the Britpop simplicity of Oasis, Tag-Team Preacher perform with an honest vibe and back to basics naturalism. Interestingly, one of the best things about this band is watching the rhythm section, Jack Hughes and Bruce Henry Renshaw working very well together to keep the tracks grooving and soulful. Everything you want from a blues rock band; devil themed lyrics, harmonica solos and simple male and female harmonies roughly played with life and energy. There's a feeling that this band still have a way to go towards finding a sound that is completely their own and also towards neatening up some of the really rough edges (not, of course, too much - I don't care what Vice says, lo-fi's still cool) but it's a very promising set draped in potential.
Dockyard Thieves rock up in front of a rapidly expanding crowd and set about filling the room with warm sounds and disco beats. A sound that relies heavily on the pedal board and effect drenched guitar melodies it's a bit of an expansion on the post-punk aesthetic, occasionally sounding like a more dancey Editors. There are powerful drumbeats which hold the band together and some very natural vocal melodies round the sound off nicely. If clean, smooth guitar lines are your thing though, Dockyard Thieves might not be your band - there's a feeling they might be hiding behind the pedals a touch leaving the song formulas a bit repetitive. Some more variation and DYT might be onto a winner.
Kicking in with immediate impact, Eskimo Sandwich are an inspiring bunch: spread thinly across the North of England these young gents have to be extremely economic with their practice time. It's a wonder, then, that tonight's set is as tight and powerful as a band who might well have locked themselves in a dungeon for 2 weeks with nothing more than a drum kit and a set of amps for company. Some promising new material too - hints of Keane and Muse offering a more riff-based punch - has the packed crowd hooked. A band rapidly maturing, the last minute inclusion of sax adds an extra level with improvised sax lines (I have it on good authority that the Sax was about as last minute an inclusion as one can get) intertwining with soaring vocals. It's a set very hard to fault, especially when you hear how their sound has matured over the last year, but a touch more variety in the songwriting wouldn't go amiss. There are a couple of well placed half-time feel shifts and you can't help thinking the band has the potential to get thoroughly and wankily creative with their sound. Get cracking, lads, you know you want to.
After a brief round of Double Bass vs. Crowd (in which Double Bass won narrowly, with some casualties) Happy Red Tractors shoot into the chirpy folky tunes they're particularly set up for. A rag tag bunch of instrumentalists playing music based on that of a vast number of countries, European and American alike. Normally a bit rowdier, the band seem somewhat reserved tonight but it doesn't affect the crowd who are more than happy to burst into somewhat self-regulated Ceilidhs and various forms of toe-tapping. There's nothing difficult or offensive about this band's sound and it's clear that they write music designed for a good time but It was quite hard to shake the sense that they had more to give.
With a mash-up of trumpet, banjo, melodica, viola and Hindi lyrics splattered onto a pop-rock canvas it would be very difficult for Maggie8 to come up with something that was anything other than bloody entertaining. On that score they did not disappoint, managing exciting songs with presence and a solid groove throughout. With a sound like some kind of fusion Bloc Party, dense textures and driving rhythms the likes of Mum and Jaga Jazzist, it's clear that the band's uplifting experimental edge pays off. At no point does the vast cultural influx seem gimmicky, but there are bits where you wonder about the necessity of the banjo and the viola - only a minor concern though because the band's wall of sound holds the attention well.
Out of nowhere comes a Hindi version of 'This Charming Man' - a bold move perhaps a bit lost on some of the crowd but one that entertained nonetheless. A bit of a treat from a band destined for good things.
Eskimo Sandwich are an explosion of soulful sound, as memorable vocal melodies intertwine with intricate guitar and bass arrangements, underpinned by dynamic drumming, complementary keyboards and heroic vocal harmonies.