Live at Woodhouse Liberal Club on Friday, 11th March 2005
Dance to the Radio was an event. Is it possible to review an event? Even straight description couldn't get deep enough into the complexities and impossibilities of making such a thing not just happen but happen so brilliantly. None of the 100 or so people who must have been directly involved were obliged to do anything. It was all persuasion, cajolement, calling in of favours, naming of names and outfacing demons. It was a monster gamble with a pay off that might never come, and which (even then) could pay off for everyone but the man himself. Hero is the kind of word you need to hoard and hang on to so you can use it in a situation like this.
Whiskas is a hero.
The following is not a review.
March 11 2005. The circus was in town. The beauty parlours were no doubt full of sailors. And Einstein was disguised as Robin Hood with a Russian military uniform stolen from under the noses of the KGB.
The doors were indeed open at 7.15, albeit by accident, and structurally dangerous soundchecks were still running, But the show got underway before the first drinks were finished and it ground forward to midnight with the style and precision of a Red Square march past.
The Generals and dignitaries, arrayed on the auditorium terraces in their pomp and importantnesses were many and splendid. There was an outbreak of record company scouts and A&R, a line-up of promoters, screeds of proper writers, clutches of members of other bands, Dave Sugden, your narrator, eight photographers and the very singular Denise van Outen with a rumoured Island Records Executive. Plus a couple of hundred ordinarily clued-up cultural pioneers and Billy Smart's Circus performers on their evening off.. Talk about the Republic of Celebriana. We were loving it.
The first great thing was that everyone was given a free sweatshop-produced massive-future-value CD-R with tracks by This Et Al, The Sunshine Underground, O Fracas, The Scaramanga Six, The Terminals, Buen Chico, ˇForward, Russia!, The Lodger, The Lucida Console, Robochrist, Napoleon IIIrd, Baby Food, The Old House, Being 747, iLiKETRAiNS, The Somatics, I Love Poland and The Rebellion Threat Kills. A beastly birth for the monster that will be Dance To The Radio, legendary, notorious and inspirational record label with a string of epoch defining split seven inch collectables to look forward to. If you haven't got a copy of the CD ... Ha! ... I have, and I'm not selling it. It's number 002.
The North West Leeds Liberal Club was an inspired choice of venue. It was a special journey for everyone, and no one could act like they were cool insider regulars. We all twitched in the same uncertain way and no one knew where the toilets were. True democracy brothers and sisters.
The turns (as they are quite correctly called in Clubs like this) were there to gawp as much as everyone else - but each one eventually had to get up and miss the show for a while as they played their own sets. Never mind, eh? This is what they were like:
The Old House look good and sound great on the big stage. Jamie's drumming has heart soul and passion - it drives the band like something turbocharged. Chiming guitars and ooh ooh oohs give a lovely powerpop teen feel. When The Old House get a singer to sort the tunes out they're going to be galactic. Tracks from a new demo, like "You Told Me Something" on the special CD-R have the exuberance of 60s pop and the open shapes of noughties rock.
This Et Al start like a heavy metal band and walk off like post rock mastodons, with the drummer hammering away on keyboards . They have a big emotion drenched sound and look broodingly good.
The Lodger couldn't be more different - the variety on this bill is another piece of the event's brilliance. Ben hammers that red guitar like a biscuit tin and the songs stream out like pies from Ginster's factory. I have a vision of the Housemartins in pit boots - quirky light tunes looking for some dancing shoes.
Swerving off into epic orchestral rock iLiKETRAiNS show off the quality of the pa by playing music with the dynamic range and complexity that give it some real work to do. Even as another massive crescendo reaches the top of its long build Dave's big rich voice is clear as a bell, every word audible.
ˇForward, Russia! are personal favourites for this kind of big excited setting. They play like banshees and show how good writing can haul noisenik hammering into something special and fashion every number into a recognisable song.
Which leaves Duels. Duels sneak up on the audience like a bashful Hugh Grant. They still have the old diffidence, with a good half of their playing time spent staring at fretboards and speaker cabs. But the delighted crowd egg them on and the confident strength of their classic new songs lifts their heads, breaking out into little wry smiles and half glances at people in the throng. You can imagine the lines of A&R people framing-up MTV camera angles. Duels are the handsome new pop intelligentsia for the girls to love/emulate and the boys to emulate/love. If you're looking for Pedigree British Pop to find a long term home, you could do worse than park it with these people. Katherine on very full keyboard and vocal contributions is the secret but crucial ingredient of a very mature and closely structured sound.
Duels have also brought on a helium-filled installation as big as a barrage balloon to celebrate anyone called Kev with a penchant for pink with silver lettering. It's compensation for not being on the CD and its appearance finally relaxes the crowd of gobsmacked cultural tourists into a frenzy of dancing believers. The front doors have been locked by the time they finish and we stumble out over the broken glass into the cold Leeds air. Good, or what?