A very busy day for the Wizards yesterday. Whilst Rebel and Kicker went to this, I set off into rural Cheshire to gorge myself on indiepop. Not only was I accompanied by my gig-going accomplice The Lancashire Toreador but we also took offspring, Chorizo Junior and Chico Toreador, along for their first ever festival experience.
We arrived too late to see The Hobbes Fanclub unfortunately but here’s a rundown of the bands we did see.
THE CATENARY WIRES
Being former members of Heavenly and Talulah Gosh, Dr Amelia Fletcher OBE (yes really) and her partner Rob Pursey are bonafide indie legends. Last time I saw them, they were supporting The Magnetic Fields as The Tender Trap, an under-appreciated band with great melodies and girl-group harmonies who featured in my best of 2012 podcast. Amelia explained that becoming a duo is a result of them having re-located to the countryside. Amelia’s voice sounded as wonderful as it always has done, backed by Rob’s gentle acoustic playing and vocals and occasional melodica.
The new songs are fantastic, often with quite melancholy lyrics but there’s nothing wrong with that. (As a t-shirt I saw on sale yesterday says “sad songs make me happy”) I particularly liked “When You Walk Away “with its lyrics about the end of a relationship and selling stuff on Ebay. Another highlight was “The Things I Love” which mentions Bridget Riley and The Lemonheads and whose chorus was inspired by a totally different Amelia Fletcher who tweeted the words “why do things I love remind me of someone I don’t” Oh and this song “Intravenous” was great as well.
“Doing It For The Kids” verdict: The 2 kids chose to stand on a table near the back to watch this one. Chorizo Junior is a big fan of “the apple pie song” by The Wedding Present so during the first song, I told him that Amelia had sung with The Wedding Present and was “nearly as famous as Katy Perry.” That seemed to impress him enough to keep him quiet and attentive, athough he appears to be looking at the car park in this photo.
THE WOULD BE GOODS
Anyone remember those Él Records compilations called “London Pavilion”? Volume 1 was where I first heard the twisted genius of Momus but Volume 2 was my favourite. Your life is not complete until you’ve heard “Curry Crazy” by Bad Dream Fancy Dress and foul-mouthed classic “Whoops What A Palaver!” by The Raj Quartet. My other favourite on that album was the Kinks-y tale of commuter life “The Hanging Gardens of Reigate” by The Would Be Goods. I bought and loved their album The Camera Loved Me. But I had no idea they were still a going concern until a few weeks ago when I was thrilled to see them on the line-up for this festival!
They certainly looked the part, dressed in matching Breton shirts. They didn’t look old enough to have been making records nearly 30 years ago, must be the magical rejuvenating qualities of indiepop. And they sounded great. The lead guitarist is clearly a very capable fella, he played some lovely twangy guitar, particularly on the song “Pleasure Island” where he went a bit Luther Perkins. It was amazing to hear “Pinstriped Rebel” from the album I own but some of the other songs were even better. There was a gentle one with a chorus that said “she doesn’t deserve your love” where the singer’s voice reminded me a bit of Nico, but more in tune. Another song had some brilliant doowop-py “sha la la”s from the drummer. There was also a great song about getting old which contained the great line “I’ll be your mirror but you might not like what you see.” (there’s Nico again) There were also lines about being too old for long straight hair or sexy underwear. Speak for yourself, I watched this gig whilst sporting my favourite crotchless thong.
“Doing It For The Kids” verdict: The 2 kids discovered that inside the tent at the back there was a table laden with blank paper, stickers, crayons, chalk and coloured pencils. They missed the whole of The Would Be Goods set but they did produce some very nice pictures of bees and butterflies.
We watched this one in shifts because it was time to go into the pub and get some food. The Lancashire Toreador watched the first couple of songs and reported back quite positively and informed me that all 5 bandmembers were wearing glasses. Then we got sidetracked into a discussion about whether the band had got their name from the William Hurt film or Tina Turner’s “Steamy Windows” lyric. I went out to watch the rest of the set and discovered that only 60% of the band were wearing glasses which makes them 16-eyed. Regular readers of my live reviews (hello to you both!) will know that I like to comment on bands’ footwear and it was good to see one of Bodyheat sporting something other than the seemingly compulsory DMs or Converse. Kudos to the lady on keyboards for wearing a pair of bright turquoise shoes, undoubtedly the best shoes seen onstage all day.
The last song, sung by the guitarist on the left, was my favourite but another highlight was introduced as a cover of the only all-female band to write their own songs and have a US number 1 album. You’ve got until the end of this review to work out who that was.
“Doing It For The Kids” verdict: They didn’t see the band but the ham baguette and bacon oatcake were very well received.
COLOUR ME WEDNESDAY
Next up was the punky poppy fuzzy sound of Colour Me Wednesday bashing out a lorryload of short sharp sweet tunes. A bit like Ash’s early EPs if they’d been female. Some great choppy rhythm guitar here and another melodica playing singer. It was also their first gig with their new drummer apparently but you wouldn’t have known. My favourite songs were “Half a Life” from the split release with Spoonboy and the title track from the “I Thought It Was Morning” LP which is the slowest song they played and little bit Sundays-y. Why aren’t these girls massive? They’re full of energy and their songs have more hooks than a J.M. Barrie fan convention. They should be proper pop stars with a string of number 1 singles to their name.
“Doing It For The Kids” verdict: The 2 kids did a bit of pogo-ing down the front for a while and then returned to their earlier vantage point standing on a table near the back. Much excitement near the end of the set when someone handed them a bottle of bubble mixture. Chorizo Junior said “I liked the new drummer. She’s learned quite fast” and both kids agreed that this was their favourite band so far, especially the fast songs.
I’ve only heard a handful of songs from Liverpool’s The Swapsies but I’ve absolutely adored everything I’d heard. You may have heard “Who Needs The Bureau de Change” on my “best of 2014” podcast. That was a collaboration with Jam On Bread (a lo-fi version of Beans On Toast?) and it’s the best song you’ll ever hear about hiding foreign currency in your underwear.
Elaine (drums & natty hat) is leaving the band soon so the front four were all wearing t-shirts with her face on them. Incidentally, here’s a graph about drummers.
The front row were all comedian lookalikes. From left to right, Jack Whitehall, the Irish bloke off The IT Crowd, Simon Pegg and Karl Pilkington. Appropriately enough, lots of humour in the songs too. They started off with a song about relegation which intrigued me because whether they’re LFC or EFC, they wouldn’t have any experience of that. Maybe they’re Tranmere?
They like to namecheck other bands in their songs, Stevie Jackson and The Magnetic Fields both got a mention tonight. As did The Just Joans in a magnificent ode to the Scottish accent and how Scottish singers sound really cool. There was also a great song about Lee Mavers.
The final song was about a love affair that started the same night as England scoring 4 against Croatia and somebody got a hat-trick. I thought that they must be singing about Rooney in Portugal 2004 but Google tells me that Theo Walcott also got a hat-trick against Croatia in 2008. Maybe that’s why some people actually rate him?
So many highlights in this set but if I had to pick one then one song is desperate to be picked and that’s “Pick Me”, an indecently catchy tune which is going to be the next single. Speaking to “Simon Pegg” afterwards, they’re hoping to have an album launch gig in Liverpool over the summer so count me in for that.
“Doing It For The Kids” verdict: A strong start from The Swapsies because they played a song that Chorizo Junior actually knows!! “Hi-5: Eardrums Pop 5 year anniversary compilation” has been played a lot in my car recently and so he recognised the song “Oh Me” and even sang along with the chorus. Chico Toreador was so into it she went and stood right at the very front which I think the band found equally endearing and intimidating.
THE JUST JOANS
I’ve been wanting to see these live since 2009 when I bought the “Love and other Hideous Accidents” EP because I liked the title and the novel packaging, a 3″ CD single in a little brown envelope courtesy of the much-missed WeePop Records. The song “Hideous Accident” is hilarious and possibly the most passive-aggressive song ever written. (We opened our podcast number 29 with it)
This was only half of the band here today as singer / guitarist David explained. He’d brought along his sister Katie on vocals and a bass player who didn’t seem to find it that funny when they joked that he was their grandad.
They played a few songs from their debut album “Buckfast Bottles in the Rain.” These included “Friday Afternoons” which recontextualises and improves a Wonder Stuff song I’m not too keen on and “What Do We Do Now” which recontextualises and improves a Sleeper song I’m not too keen on.
“Five Beer Bottles” was immense, a wonderful tale of a one night stand with a jolly singalong chorus of “pregnancies, STDs.” I also loved “Baby’s a Boy Racer” which is basically “Leader of the Pack” relocated to 21st century suburbia.
But the real highlights were the slower sadder songs “Bellshill Station” and “Every Heartbeat” that showcased not only Katie’s voice (Motherwell’s very own Tammy Wynette!) but also how David’s lyrics can be more universal. These songs are, or at least should be, standards.
No “Hideous Accident” but even so it felt like it was worth waiting so long to see them. But it’s left me wanting more. There was a fantastic new song “If You Don’t Pull” so another album coming I wonder?
“Doing It For The Kids” verdict: They were in the play area and they missed it all, the fools.
MJ HIBBETT AND THE VALIDATORS
Another band I’ve been wanting to catch live for years. Despite announcing that “we’ve all had a drink” as they came onstage, they were still Professional, Competent, Rocking and Tight!
The democratically selected setlist was about 50/50 new songs and old favourites. The new songs all seemed to be about aging in one way or another and as usual Mark’s lyrics touch a lot of nerves, tickle a lot of ribs, ring a lot of bells and hit a lot of nails on their little steely heads. “That Guy” and “20 Things To Do Before You’re 30” (complete with lyrics written on Dylanesque cardboards placards) were both laugh-out-loud funny. There was also “Can We Be Friends?” which addresses the awkward issue of middle-aged people meeting new potential pals and the punch-the-air anthem “You Make Me Feel Soft Rock.”
Democracy may not work for choosing our nation’s leaders but it worked out well with this setlist because they played some of my most favouritest tunes: “My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once”, “Being Happy Doesn’t Make You Stupid”, “The Lesson of the Smiths” and the life-affirming song that could be MJ’s mission statement “Easily Impressed.”
Rather than me trying to explain the majesty of these songs, you’d be better off going to the official website and clicking on the song titles where Mark himself will explain to you what the songs are all about WITH lots OF words CAPITALIZED.
“Doing It For The Kids” verdict: Chico Toreador was in bed by now but Chorizo Junior loved it. The lyrics were a bit too fast for him to pick up on them, probably a good thing really because some of the lyrics are not really aimed at 5 year olds! But he said that these were his favourite band of the day because “they had the fastest songs.” Using that criteria, I’d better take him to see Slayer next.
By the time The Validators had finished validating, it was waaaaaaaaaaay past Junior’s bedtime and he was keen for me to drive him home. We missed The Tuts but I’ll be seeing them at Indietracks next month (as well as The Catenary Wires and Colour Me Wednesday, can’t wait!)
I picked up 5 CDs on the day, so when I’ve listened to them all, I’ll do a review blog post to follow up on this.
In the meantime, huge thank yous and well dones to Kevin and Linda who organised this whole festival. It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing there and you can’t argue with £15 for a weekend ticket.
The all-girl band who wrote their own tunes and had a number 1 album in the US were The Go-Gos. Bodyheat played a great cover of their song “We Got The Beat” complete with handclaps and it reminded me of what a bloody great tune that is!
Some additional MJ Hibbett related links on our website:
- Podcast number 41: Election Day Special 2015 (includes an exclusive new MJ Hibbett song, not available anywhere else)
- Podcast number 8 (includes MJ Hibbett)
- What was the best anti-Thatcher song? (also includes MJ Hibbett)
Spotify playlist of some of the songs played:
But don’t just listen to that. Support these bands, buy their music and go to see them live:
- The Catenary Wires
- The Would Be Goods
- Colour Me Wednesday
- The Swapsies
- The Just Joans
- MJ Hibbett & The Validators
- The Tuts