Leeds Music Scene

Gig review of Allusondrugs + Bis + Middleman + NARCS + Kagoule + Sam Airey + Thomas Wilby Gang

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Reviewed on 16th June 2016.



Live at Long Division 2016 on Saturday, 11th June 2016

Long Division Festival
11th June 2016


So - here we are again. And I don't say that lightly, with the prospect of the 2016 version of Wakefield's excellent urban festival not going ahead all too real last year, before a crowdfunding campaign saved the day. Thanks must go to each and every supporter, and all the behind-the-scenes endeavour, for Long Division is always a fantastic day out - long may it continue.

Anyway, our LD2016 began at the Unity Works Minor Hall with Thomas Wilby Gang. I assume the 'gang' moniker is tongue-in-cheek, as you would certainly not pick them out of a line-up as being in the same band. In fact, they look as though they could have been selected by virtue of their disparate nature, each looking like they could be the visual representation of a different musical genre.
In terms of this band's music genre, we are treated to upbeat, foot-stomping Americana - taking in slide blues, country and southern rock on the journey in their metaphorical battered Buick. It's a very decent start to the day, and I raise a bourbon to them. Well I would, if any of the ruddy bar staff were actually facing the customers. Parched.

Then from a small stage packed with performers to a massive stage featuring just one. Over at the Theatre Royal, Sam Airey is bemoaning his lack of a guitar tech while he retunes between songs again, before launching into another beautiful, melancholic and seemingly effortless offering. There are many one-man-and-his-guitar troubadours on the scene, but the skilled fingerpicking, soaring voice, engaging manner and haunting melodies really set him apart. He is a cut above.
And Wales won for him soon afterwards, too.

Kagoule are, apparently, teenagers. The Nottingham 3-piece look nothing of the sort, so I wonder if my intel is suspect. The LD programme notes don't shed much light, either, but I've heard good things so in for a penny and all that...
And you know what? They're bloody great.
Boy/guitar/sings, girl/bass/sings. Dark, certainly. Post-punk. Said programme notes do mention 80s/90s US underground bands, and is one line that does make sense - there's twists of Fugazi or Minor Threat in there, but I also detected more mainstream alt-rock (Smashing Pumpkins?) and even a touch of LD and LMS favourites, Post War Glamour Girls - and all through a delightfully off-kilter filter.
Looking back at my notes I appear to have jotted 'batshit mental and catshit brilliant'. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it seems about right. Much love, Kagoule.

It's the second time I've seen Leeds' own NARCS at Long Division. In 2014, they played in a gazebo thing outside a pub, and were really very good. In 2016, they are in a decent timeslot in Warehouse 23, and are really very good again - and what's more, they've improved immeasurably in the interim. I think they've even been working out.
My festival buddy is convinced the bassist appears in Big Bang Theory, but insightful observations aside, this is a NARCS performance of drive and power, and of showmanship. They are one of a strong line-up from the Clue Records stable, all of who appear to possess all of the component parts to go a long way.

After a brief Euro 2016 diversion, we take in some old favourites - the absolutely soaring Middleman. It was actually a tough timetable choice, up - as they were - against the likes of Johnny Foreigner and RM Hubbert. But once you've got your dancing trousers on, there's really only one way to go - competition in the 6pm slot was indeed fierce, but you end up with sympathy for the clashers.
They've been on a bit of a hiatus, but they are back. Calling cards like 'It's Not Over Yet' and 'Spinning Plates' are present and correct and the new stuff sits well, and even when you've taken in the Middleman experience several times before, the bouncing bass, east midlands rap, samples and singalong choruses really do bring it back home that you are in the presence No1 party band on the scene. It's June - but it feels like New Year's Eve.

It was then time for a real blast from the past. 'Kandy Pop' was an indie disco classic of the 1990s, and exponents Bis are here. To be honest, if you'd asked me I would have said they disappeared quite soon after their late 90s heyday, only to resurface for Long Division 2016, with possible popularity in Japan in the meantime.
Not the case it seems - several albums followed, and usually on achingly impressive record labels (Chemikal Underground and Grand Royal, to name two). Although it's possible they are still popular in Japan.
The Glaswegian trio produce a fairly engaging set of bubblegum indie pop with some kitchen sink lyrics ("drink and drugs are the minimum wage") but for me it's nostalgia rather than actual relevance. Must be my age.

Still in the mood for punch-packing rather than sensibility-stroking, we opt to stay on in Warehouse 23 (good line up in there today) for the Wealreadyknowtheyareace Allusondrugs.
The grunge touchpoint was easy and not unreasonable, but the Kurt Cobain hair is gone. Perhaps this helps tease out some of the nuances in the music. It's frenetic, with a touch of the psychedelic. To watch them is to view a moving tableau of whirling, thrashing and writhing. Silly. Good. Silly good. They're a northern Fat White Family, a Yorkshire Jesus Lizard and, as a live act, they are exceptional. Ruddy mint.
How long before the rest of the nation catches up?

It was our intention to see headliners Field Music but travel issues meant that was not to be. This also left Allusondrugs as the last band seen at a festival. The crescendo. They were worthy, and one assumes it won't be the last time they round things off on someone's big day out. Headline slots, here they come.



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Allusondrugs is a 5 piece alternative rock band



4-piece Alt-Rock from Leeds

Sam Airey