Live at The Vine on Friday, 26th November 2004
Upon recent visits to The Vine I must admit to being impressed by the seemingly more coherent approach taken to choosing the line-ups for nights, with what appears to be more consideration given to how compatible bands are both in terms of their musical style and fanbase. Tonight is a case in point, with all of the four bands sharing the stage having one Converse sneaker planted firmly in the domain of "Alt-Rock". This assumption could, of course, be a complete load of bollocks, as I'm sure there are still many gigs at this fine venue where the line-ups are still as weird and wonderful as ever, but as an opening paragraph this topic makes for a far more interesting discussion than my explanation of how I can't recreate the upside-down exclamation mark at the start of Forward, Russia!.
Openers tonight are O Fracas, recent battle of the bands winners at the Fenton. An obvious reference point for this outfit's sound would be Franz Ferdinand, however to be fair this band's songwriting approach possesses much more imagination and pizazz than the aforementioned Scots. The guitarists create jagged angular sounds that would probably hurt if you put them in your pocket and sat down in an inappropriate manner, while the disco-esque rhythms help to propel the songs along. Unfortunately O Fracas's set suffers from probably the poorest sound on the night with some of the instruments bleeding into each other to create a rather muddy sound, but this does not detract from an otherwise assured performance.
Award for "best band wearing white face masks on the night" goes to Mountain Men Anonymous, who take to the stage sporting Friday the Thirteenth style headgear. Starting with swathes of delayed guitar the three piece manage to fill The Vine with layers of epic swirling noise. Arpeggiated guitars interplay with climatic drumming to create darkly melodious post-rock passages. With their protracted instrumental style initial comparisons may be made with Mogwai, although the band is much closer in style to the likes of Explosions in the Sky or Sonic Youth. Don't be surprised if you see Mountain Men Anonymous spearheading what may-or-may-not become known as "Epic-core" in the near future. Great Stuff.
One band that seems to have been attracting quite a lot of attention in and around the Leeds vicinity recently is ˇForward, Russia!, and the increase in the size of the crowd at the start of their set appears to reflect this. Any expectations harboured by the crowd are easily surpassed by the frenetic opening salvo of songs that combine off-kilter melodies with catchy pop hooks to create a sound reminiscent of The Pixies and early Idlewild. Instruments meander off at seemingly random tangents only to regroup and launch a full-scale aural assault upon unsuspecting listeners. The energetic and vitriolic nature of this outfit is reflected in the footman's spasmodic and contorted stage antics, all of which is great fun to watch and listen to.
Headliners tonight are winners of the Futuresound 2004 competition This Et Al. Here is a band whose recorded output has received some excellent reviews in recent months, yet live have a reputation for being somewhat variable. I would say tonight is a good example of this. At times their dark progressive alt-rock comes across brilliantly well, with the effects laden guitars and yearning vocal creating pristine moody passages, a good example of which is the great "Transmitting the Ends". At other times they're just a little bit, er, dull. However, I'm sure this is mainly due to the lack of clarity in the sound quality present tonight rather than any serious shortcomings in the songwriting department. I came away from the gig tonight with an impression of This et Al as a band whom I'm sure have the skills to pay the bills, it's just they don't always seem to have the ability to deliver the bills in a live setting.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable night was had at the Headrow's premier musical establishment, even if I still don't have a clue how to make those exclamation marks appear upside down. Oh well.
prog dance post punk