Live at Corn Exchange on Thursday, 15th August 2002
A gig in aid of 'A GOOD CAUSE' eh? (the 'good cause' in question being Wheatfields hospice). Thankfully tonite's gig and the Junction 47 II CD it is designed to promote owe more to the 'Help' album than they do to 'Live Aid' - bringing together genuinely good bands from Leeds to do what they do best - play quality music with scarce a lighter-waving ballad featuring a children's choir in sight...
Formed from the ashes of The Landspeed Loungers and Chest, Leeds music scene stalwarts Galitza kick off tonite's proceedings. At times sounding like a discoed-up Sparklehorse, at times sounding like The Smith's covering The Jam's 'That's Entertainment' seen through the wrapping from a Lucozade(tm) bottle (ask yer Dad), if Galitza were a kitchen appliance they'd be the humble toaster; oft-ignored but capable of producing a satisfying post-pub snack at a moments notice.
Blending harmonies so perfect that they sit at the front in class and bring teacher an apple, with a serrated mass of guitars, Galitza are the aural equivalent of riding the log flume with Steve Malkmus - tonite's audience seem two parts thrilled and one part bemused by Emma Bob 3's men.
The phrase 'acquired taste' is one that could have been coined especially for the band - even they are occasionally unsure (before one song guitarist/vocalist Stevie comments that "half of us think this next song is great, the other half think it's shit"). However, while it's true that they are not without their flaws; songs are often dragged on for far too long, to say nothing of their, thankfully very infrequent, tendencies towards Sleeper-esque indie-lite, Galitza are a band worth persevering with; there's gold in them thar chord schemes... if you've got the patience.
Next up are Huddersfield's Mr Shiraz. Although 'ska-punk' would not be my chosen specialist subject should I ever appear on Mastermind, there's something about the band, which makes it hard not to love them. Treating the twin ailments of a singer who can't really sing and a lack of any real tunes with a dismissive flick of the wrist, Mr Shiraz succeed in being the most entertaining thing since the Les Dennis/Bob Mortimer boxing match for Sport Relief! Those in the crowd who aren't smiling like they've got coat hangers wedged inside their mouths are jumping around like the Super Mario Brothers on speed. And then there's the band, who, with the exception of the cool-as-fuck female bassist, are flailing about like they've had their genitalia wired to the National Grid. What more can you ask for? How about a three-piece brass section and a guy who's role in the group seems to be to run around. In a hat. Marvellous.
Following on from Mr Shiraz are The Bluefoot Project. As they came on-stage I have to confess to being a tad worried by the bass player who, with his long, permed hair, sleeveless white t-shirt and skin tight jeans, obviously thinks that the 21st century is just something that happens to other people! And sadly my fears were justified...
It's clear that the band are well thought of in some circles (they apparently received a 5/5 review in 'DJ' magazine for their E.P. 'Observations') but I'm afraid I found their brand of urban funk to be rather soulless. It's one thing to be 'professional' but The Bluefoot Project bordered on 'slick' at times - 'slick' as in Level 42 ~shudder~ !
Which is a shame as in Rachel Modest they possess a singer with a great voice - who, unfortunately, is not given the quality of material to work with that her obvious talent deserves. Too often tonite the songs are merely 'pleasant' without ever demanding your attention and occasionally they're just not very good at all. Things improve notably on the last song with the addition of a rapper to the mix although this is too little too late for me.
It's certainly nice to see something different, however The Bluefoot Project need to learn to free up and worry less about note-perfect renditions of their songs if they are truly going to challenge the hegemony of indie/metal bands on the Leeds live scene. Perhaps a few covers would help although considering that 'The Big Issue' recently described them as being about "to make inroads into the national consciousness" maybe it's just me...
Tonite's headliners Parva will always hold a special place in my heart as the first band I ever saw at the late, great 'Duchess' venue back in the heady days of the mid-nineties. Britpop was everywhere, the air smelt of (not-so) cheap lager and Runston Parva (as they were then) were like a piss-poor Kula Shaker tribute band! Thankfully times change...
It's hard to describe their sound - imagine being chased through the park by a naked women with a flatiron (Ok so somewhere between SFA, The Pixies and The Wannadie's heavier moments then...); needless to say the comparisons to Crispin Mill's men are long gone.
As debut single 'Heavy' heralds their arrival on-stage it's tempting to wonder what Eddie Izzard's alcoholic younger brother is doing fronting a band (!) but lead singer Ricky Wilson has more to look forward to than a career on the 'look-alike' circuit. At one point tonite we find him curled up on the floor in a foetal position, one mike hanging loosely from his shoulder, another taking the sort of vocal battering usually reserved for particularly stubborn traffic wardens - 'star' anyone?
While the band's recent (excellent) single 'Good, Bad, Right, Wrong' screamed 'radio-friendly', live, Parva are more likely to beat-up the radio down a back alley and steal all it's money. Fuzzed-up gems like 'Couldn't Contain' make all the hype surrounding 'The Vines' seem a little silly while the aforementioned 'Good, Bad...' is number one in every parallel universe whose inhabitants don't have cloth ears (not the 'stuffed toy nebula' then).
Although some good bands have played this evening, Parva are the perfect end to proceedings - even giving Mr Shiraz a run for their money in the 'best live act' stakes (no mean feat!).
All in all then a great nite; not only is it good to see such a diverse line-up (how many times do you see two bands with female vocalists on the bill anywhere for starters?) but also the quality exhibited must surely bode well for the future of the live music scene in Leeds and indeed for sales of the Junction 47 II CD. And remember kids, don't forget to buy you copy - it's for 'charidee'! (and if it's anything like the last one, it's bloody good).
The Bluefoot Project are an amalgamation of urban heads fusing many different styles into a vocal-led, beat-driven, 21st century soulful funk with nods in the right direction to reggae, hip hop, gospel and leftfield.