Live at Joseph's Well on Monday, 19th March 2001
Now I don't know a great deal about Ska, and I'm not overly familiar with punk, therefore I was really looking forward to tonight's gig, as I was sure it would be a bit of an eye opener for me.
THE AGENCY opened tonight's proceedings. A youthful band they certainly have plenty of energy and were reasonably tight. It didn't take them long to get a few people dancing down the front but maybe their own stage dancer should have taken a few lessons from the crowd. Whilst it was obvious why he was there, it didn't come off very successfully. He seemed to be dancing to a different song to the one the band were playing and as the set wore on became a detraction from the band's performance rather than an embellishment.
The Agency have some decent songs, mixing reggae with rock, managing to get some variation with some nice melodic guitar lines rather than syncopated rhythms for the whole set. The saxophone and trombone lines all seemed to be fairly similar to one another though, utilising a three-note arpeggio far too much.
Overall, not a bad set, there are plenty of worse bands around, but The Agency still need to smooth down some rough edges and tighten things up in the engine room to bolt it all down.
I've heard plenty of things about MR SHIRAZ in recent months, especially the huge gig at the Cockpit a few months ago, and everything I've heard has been good so I was hoping that tonight the band would live up to expectations.
Immediately Kris grabs the attention of everyone in the room; with his manic dancing he comes across like the bastard son of Bez, Suggs and Vic and Bob. Adding the odd scream to Mike and Fonts' vocals and adorned in a deerstalker hat Kris adds a lot to Mr Shiraz's live performance. The drums and bass are extremely tight throughout the set and give the band a heavy rock feel that combines beautifully with the off beat guitar and almost Latin sounding saxophone and trumpet arrangements. With vocalist Mike coming across like James Hetfield scuffling in a car park with Ice T, a unique sound is formed. Reggae, rock, punk, rap and maybe even a little bit of good old pop are thrown into the melting pot and spewed back out with enormous enthusiasm and energy. The tunes are catchy and thoughtfully arranged, neat tempo changes turning a mellow reggae groove into a screaming rock behemoth.
The performance of the "Grange Hill Theme" is simply genius and has the crowd whooping along. The moshpit, which formed as soon as the band took the stage, goes crazy during "Panty Sniffer" and "Running Around" but the whole room is in frenzy for the cover of "Baby One More Time". Rumour has it that Mr Shiraz have a stalker in the crowd tonight and it shows in Kris' cautious looks to the back of the room whenever he's not busy jumping into the crowd, off the riser, play fighting with Mike, wrestling with Mike or shouting down the microphone.
Towards the end of the set it's bedlam, the horns are ditched so we now have pretty much all the band dancing, with Mike finding the most attractive girl in the crowd and picking her up to dance with, opting for the Mercedes in the Car Park full of Lexus' if you will. The band end up in a heap on the stage exhausted, as are the crowd who have been working hard keeping up with every beat. "We just do it for the kids" Mike tells me after the set. On tonight's evidence the kids appreciate it. Mr Shiraz are a fine band, full of energy with good songs and a very strong visual presence. One of the most entertaining live bands in Leeds.
PILFERS seem to agree, they ask for a contact for Mr Shiraz after the show, which is a huge compliment for the Huddersfield boys and gals because these guys show what experience and hard work can do for you. There's just something about Pilfers that sets them in a different class to the previous two bands. That's not a detrimental comment to the local acts, it's just there's a tightness and a harnessing of the raw power that is sometimes left to go wild in less experienced bands.
Haling from New York the five piece comprises Dave Karcich- drums, Vinny Nobile - Trombone//vocals, Carl Barc- bass, Coolie Ranx - lead vocals and Nick Bacon - guitar/backing vocals.
"This room is yours", we're told as the crowd are encouraged to get a little closer to the stage. During second song "Climbing" singer Coolie leaves the stage to sing and jump around in amongst the rest of us, "we prefer to think of this as a party".
Blending Hip-Hop, rock and reggae with drumbeats bordering on dance, Pilfers are extremely tight. The guitar could do with being knocked up a notch but overall the band comes across as very powerful, with passion and emotion thrown into the delivery of every lyric. Keeping the crowd involved, Coolie and Vinnie are forever thrusting mics into the faces of the sweaty youths at the front of the stage and getting them to join in with some call and answer routines on pretty much every song. This is Pilfers strong point: their rapport with the paying punters. The music is catchy, interesting and impressively performed, but it's the constant connection they have with the audience, which really sets them aside.
A blend of styles makes each tune interesting, shouted rap vocals soon become strong harmonies between Coolie and Vinnie, whilst Nick plays an 80's rock solo over Dave's dance beats. A strong reggae influence is again evident but the variety of Pilfers music makes it hard to specifically pigeonhole, which in my opinion is a fine thing indeed. "Show No Fear" and "Yakuza" are strong finishing songs, the crowd by now completely in Coolies pocket, shouting back at him and Vinnie and turning what could have been just another gig into more of an "experience" where everyone is involved, or at least has the chance to be.
Returning for an equally energetic encore (there'd have been blood shed if they hadn't I'm sure) Pilfers made some new friends tonight and I'm sure that when they return in the future the room will be bursting to the seams. In the meantime the band finish of a couple more dates in England before heading for Europe. If you can' wait 'til then album "Chawaleng" is available for our listening pleasure.
An excellent night and a testament to the growing local talent and the fact that our venues are attracting top-drawer acts from across the pond.