Live at Warehouse (Huddersfield) on Thursday, 19th April 2001
Well if there was ever a rock 'n' roll town, it's gotta be Huddersfield. Why bloody Huddersfield? I asked Mr Shiraz and their pop impresario and all-round genial chap of a manager, and they all just said 'You'll see'.
Yeah, yeah, whatever.
Duvall kicked off the night with a two-pronged vocal attack and nu-metal riffing. Hints of emo betrayed the initial feeling that they were just another rap-metal band, but they were lacking the tunes that makes emo worth listening to. They started slowly, but by the end, the venue was filling up and they worked from the audience response. The last couple of songs were pretty good, but they need work on creating a more original sound and write some tunes.
Leeds' punk/ska favourites Mr Dogg were up next. Playing to a foreign audience was a bit of a novelty to these boys and it showed at first: the usually energetic Maff was left a little subdued initially, and Gaz's cold didn't help proceedings. Opening with Proud, then going into the more ska-flavoured Not a Problem, they didn't really seem that happy. However, as the set went on, the crowd warmed to them, and they warmed to the crowd... in fact by the end everyone was pretty bloody hot. The latter half of the set was cracking: energy pouring out of every pore and tunes that everyone could dance to. Gaz is a great singer and is good with a crowd, even if Maff interrupts him half the time. This all adds to the act though. Saran looks mean and moody behind his four-string but rocks out like his life depends on it, and Sam on drums provides a tight backbone for the tunes. That's the thing about Mr Dogg: the tunes. They throw away melodies most bands would kill for, simply because in Mr Dogg world they know they've got better ones. Mr Dogg are already picking up a lot of support in Leeds... well tonight they definitely made some new chums.
I forgot I where I was then for a minute. Was this still Huddersfield? Home to absolutely nothing of any importance? Well why was I enjoying myself so much?
Before I could answer, on came Mr Shiraz. They are punk's answer to Slipknot: seven slightly deranged characters with a wicked sense of humour but totally serious about what they're doing and with a passion for music unrivalled by most. The crowd went absolutely crazy for every song, right from opener One Big Mystery through to Cheese. Five hundred people filled the Warehouse and every single one had a massive smile on their face just from watching them. They're not the tightest band in the world but hey! That's not what they're about: Mr Shiraz are into FUN, and they're determined to make you into it too. Live favourite Ladyboy was where the show really started belting, and songs like Panty Sniffer and the new one, cunningly entitled New One, had the ska skankers, punk rockers and metal moshers all united as one. The cover of the Grange Hill theme tune was absolutely spot-on, as was their version of Apollo 440's Lost In Space. They have one of the best live acts you've ever seen, with singer Mike consistently bouncing around in a fantastic pair of gold baseball boots and dancer Chris whipping the crowd up as their resident ska-Bez. Fonts plays like all the best guitarists do: with their whole bodies, like it's an extension of themselves, and Tori cranks out well-crafted and intricate bass lines like she's not even thinking about it. The brass section are tight too, and the drums pound like a reggae beat that's been bastardised by Bill Ward (Black Sabbath for any youngsters reading). But the songs are great too - catchy and melodic without being repetitive and annoying. If you imagine The Pilfers having a scrap with Less Than Jake but with Pantera judging, you're somewhere near, but not even close. Check them out for yourself.
And Huddersfield? I can now say that I am a convert to the ways of this Great Northern Town, as Shiraz themselves call it. Anywhere that has a 500 capacity venue with one local band and two out-of-towners on the bill - AND CAN FILL IT - is alright by me. All the locals are up for it too, there was no sign of any trouble... and you can get a beer and a burger for four nicker. Not bad. Plus any town that gives us a band as good as Mr Shiraz is alright in my book.