Live at Leeds Festival 2008 on Friday, 22nd August 2008
Matt Bigland, guitar and vocals, Tom Dornford-May, bass guitar, and Steve Wilson drums are the relatively new Dinosaur Pile-up. I had the scary experience of walking towards the BBC Introducing Stage as they were starting, too far away to see any detail, gradually realising that the thunderous sound I could hear was not the Main Stage gouging lumps out of the hillside and washing away the smaller stage, but three slight young men hammering out demons all on their own. The Main Stage was silent. Matt's vocal was rasping, commanding: "rock and roll ... rock and roll ... rock and roll" on hypnotic repeat.
But as the set spools out any certainty about their being the monster rock band of their name and first sonic impression is strangled. They are much more interesting than that. There's a lightness of touch that leans on the heavy side only intermittently. There's also a tuneful indie side that keeps things interesting. The trio don't look like a unit - the opposite of Eureka Machines in that respect. And at this very early stage in their new music, maybe the band's voice is still shifting around, trying funky things, rock things, twee things, thrash things. The Introducing Stage is a good place for them to be, but so far the character we are being introduced to is one we will meet in a year from now and heartily embarrass by saying "My! How you boys have grown!". A fifth song veers so far away from the rest of the set that it has an echo of power pop, with undiagnosed DNA traces from The Knack (of My Sharona fame). Matt's latent showmanship is still a little shy, and his big guitar moments get that beginner treatment of being performed back at the drum kit, with his back to audience. It's modest and it's what he feels - but it breaks the connection with the audience. Like a mobile phone in a tunnel.
The Dinosaur Pile-up highlight for me today is the chuggy, swaying tune "I Get My Direction" that features on the First Brainwash Compilation CD. The most obvious quality is the supple driving beat. A significant strength in the whole performances is that the songs go straight from one into the next. This is a great way of avoiding the trap that later bands fell into, one after another: The trap so gently lampooned by Eureka Machines, of saying "Hello Leeds! How ya doin' ... " and so on. They also make a god job of leaving enough space in the songs themselves for each part (especially the vocal line) to get a good hearing.