Live at Joseph's Well on Sunday, 17th October 2004
Joseph's Well in Leeds have played host to some rather well-known bands if their posters are anything to go by - and over the last few months it seems like they've booked mostly Biffy Clyro support bands (thisGirl, The Boxer Rebellion, X is Loaded and some little London outfit named Brigade...). Big old pub tucked away behind some high-rise buildings, lots of turquoise upholstery and wooden railings and the bands play out the back, below sea level, in a big church hall-sized room with the stage at one end, the sound guys at the other and assorted punters in between, who disappear at random intervals to return with more beer from the bar upstairs.
This was an all-day event, initiated, I suspect, by the boys of A Day Left (they got lots of thank yous) and the early start was a bit daunting for some, it seemed, as there were only 15 or 20 people in the room (including random band members) to see the unfortunately-monikered Nothing Special. Now, when I was 17 and training somewhat fruitlessly to be an actor, my drama teacher told me the most important thing as a performer was NEVER apologise to your audience. If you believe that you have a perfect right to be on that stage then the audience will believe it with you. So, despite wearing their heroes (Green Day, Funeral for a Friend) on shirts and guitar stickers as testimony to their musical cred, Rob, Ben and Chris' first mistake was to announce that they were Nothing Special, and, in fact, that they were (unquote) 'pretty sh*t, so you'll probably hate us'. Their second mistake was not rehearsing. Dudes, you look like an emo band, you sound like an emo band, you swear like an emo band, for god's sake learn to play your instruments and give the vague attempts at songwriting at least a CHANCE to be heard like an emo band! Lead vocalist Ben has a good strong voice and from what I could decipher, possibly some good lyrics and I'd love to be generous and say they have the potential to be the emo world's answer to Busted, but without some serious work on playing AS a band (particularly the drummer, who had some neat solo tricks, but when the guitars started he seemed to be playing a completely different song) I can't do much else than try not to cringe and hope no-one starts throwing things. Must try harder.
Ah, Vatican Jet. What a discovery this was. With good, proper, old-school rock'n'roll guitars, great, tuneful songs and lead vocalist Roger 'Dodge' Tyers, who has Marc Bolan's looks and presence and Jim Morrison's vocals, these guys could be huge. This was a cracking set from beginning to end, by a bunch of unassuming guys who are good at what they do and happy to let their dynamic lead singer work the crowd. And he does so without a trace of ego or pretension, equally at home with a tambourine or a guitar in hand, a head of curls and seductive hips that Justin Hawkins would sell his best catsuit for and a voice like an angel who'd been at the bourbon and cigarettes for twenty four hours. Their sound is Springsteen meets Zeppelin meets TRex, with a smidgen of maybe Green Day or The Calling to remind folks they do live in this decade, and it works like a charm. In an indie music scene where so many bands try to sound like something 'new and edgy' and end up sounding like they've listened to Funeral For A Friend one too many times, this was a breath of fresh air to hear a band who, without a commercial record company 'help', remember the good parts of classic rock and use them as a base to write some exceptionally listenable songs - and perform them well. Get in the van and come to London, guys, the rest of the country needs to hear you.
Brigade got the biggest crowd. This seems to be happening quite a lot lately. Yes, there were more than a few members of the other bands assembled in the room (all of whom seemed to be enjoying themselves, A Day Left, I'm looking at you), but the majority of folks trotted in as soon as Versus You started and stuck around for the whole set, watching with great absorption, heads nodding, feet tapping, half-smiles of enjoyment on their faces in true 'wow, where did these guys come from' style. Tore through Adjust, Stunning (still as brilliant as it was last night in case you were wondering), I'll Be Your Emergency, the onslaught of guitars and drums that is Safe Hands (talk about an attention-grabbing way to open a song - pulsating guitars punctuated by Fim's 'tst-tst' on the high-hat, then Naoto's bass line slips under it until you know the main riff is going to HAVE to break through..) and, of course, Meet Me and Go Slow. Sweaty bucketloads of energy from all four boys, Fim, in particular was giving it so much stick he looked like he might have been about to collapse by the end of Go Slow - the boy's exhausting to watch. Fan-bloody-tastic performance and while they may not have had the audience reaction they did last night in Donny, I think the lead singer of Burst Rondo, who were on next, summed it up during their set with a 'shout out to Brigade, who were AMAZING! Do you know how hard it is to come on after a band like that? It f**king sucks!' Hear hear.
Burst Rondo are a metal band in disguise. They sound like Sepultura, but they look like The Streets. Can't fault them for energy, skill and sheer driving force though. I'm not a metal head in any shape or form, appreciate the skill, but ain't my cup of tea by a long stretch. That said, their lead singer is a compact powerhouse of balls and fury and he fronts a band of tight-knit, pile-driving musos who'd have to be inspired by the obvious ones - Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, with shades of Korn, Rammstein and the now-defunct Powermad (check out the Wild At Heart soundtrack if you've not heard of them). Blisteringly loud and thrashy set which they looked like they thoroughly enjoyed. Bravo.
At this point I'm afraid we departed as one of our party had been suffering a headache for most of the day and it didn't seem fair to subject her to any more brain-hammering, so I'm hoping Itch and The Downfall will forgive our departure if I post a link to their sites and I am now in possession of a very stylish ADL t-shirt which I shall wear to appropriate London gigs in penance (not really, it's a cool shirt). A very good day and kudos to those who stayed to the end - you're far more rock'n'roll than I.