Live at Brudenell Social Club on Wednesday, 12th October 2016
The BBC Introducing Presents showcase comes to Leeds for the first time tonight, and there's no better venue to host an evening of fresh new acts than Brudenell Social Club. First up is self-proclaimed 'bedroom producer' Ellie Griffiths, aka Lamir.
Her mix of sparse, electronic beats over vulnerable vocals is an attention grabbing if not particularly uplifting way to kick things off. Armed with some terse and atmospheric tunes, she sounds nervous yet at the same time already accomplished, like an Adele/ Everything But The Girl hybrid demoing Amnesiac era Radiohead.
Dark lighting and minimal backing from her two piece band feeds into a strange sense of paranoia in her work; thankfully it also lays her vocals front and centre and when the track Placebo ends her short set, the prevailing sense is one of intrigue rather than relief.
Next in line are Team Picture, who pick up the pace and immediately spring forth as the fully formed teenage lovechild of The Stills and Lou Reed. There's a lot to like here, with a combination of Neil Young style jams and nihilistic lyrics working well for everyone.
A slight misstep occurs when one of the tracks - a clearly Patti Smith inspired monologue, eked out over droning guitars - almost strays into parody territory, but the band manage to steer the course. Changing tac at just the right moment they lurch into more elongated jam sessions and, like a darker version of surf-poppers Best Coast, they can't help but hypnotise the crowd.
Dulahli nearly has the misfortune of becoming the evening's lowlight. In an echo of earlier act Lamir, Anthony Phelan appears at first by himself, to make some electronic sounds in the vein of the experimental 'future soul' niche explored by his collective 8MANA. This portion of the set doesn't particularly translate because he seems hesitant and unsure of himself. The audience sense this too, beginning to disconnect - until he's suddenly joined by a full band, ripping into jams more reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine than anything requiring a pre-programmed Casio.
The two styles merge for an unexpected finale in the form of a brooding, industrial cover of Paul Simon's '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' and while it doesn't quite hit the mark, it's certainly interesting to hear what such an iconic song might sound like if Trent Reznor had got his hands on it first.
Caro, the penultimate band on the bill, play a sharp and clean set recalling the best bits of the guitar driven indie rock infatuation of the mid 2000's spearheaded by the likes of Bloc Party. The trio make sure to put their own spin on an already crowded musical market - the freeform structure of their songs change shape and pace at the drop of a hat, showcasing an undeniable tightness as a unit.
If you're looking for a catchy chorus you may have to go elsewhere, but if you want an act with bookended rock reference points (Jeff Buckley and Matt Bellamy both linger in the vocals) and the potential to try their hand at any style that catches their attention, check them out.
Clay may be headlining tonight, but they still explode onto the stage like a young band with everything to prove. Thankfully, that's exactly what they are and it shows, in a performance that almost takes the roof off the venue. By the time they launch into their set the crowd has swelled so much that an equally fervent number of punters are left wanting, forced to listen to tracks like Oxygen and Why from outside.
In a few short years the band have come a long way, having already headlined the BBC Introducing Stage at Leeds Festival last year, and tonight they prove their worth once more. The confidence of a band who are yet to release an album but won't play a note until their name is literally up in lights is refreshing and vital to see, and this overflow of ambition is reflected in their music.
Like a missing link - possibly one between The Strokes, Haim and Primal Scream - Clay have the look, the attitude, and the tunes, blending huge, melodic choruses with wry and witty lyrics. Everyone at the Brudenell - even those out in the cold - leave satisfied tonight, and it's not hard to imagine Clay returning to Bramham Park one day soon, hopefully on a much bigger stage.