Monday, October 05, 2009

General Fiasco / The Onlookers / The Fall, The Rise @ The Academy, Birmingham, Sunday 4th October 2009

Forsaking the Antiques Roadshow (how rock n’roll am I eh?) a comfy sofa and a gentle drift into dribbling oblivion after chuffing my way through an entire roasted cow instead I made my way to the new Academy for a night of equally new music in the shape of…deep breath…The Fall, The Rise, The Onlookers and General Fiasco. General Fiasco? Admit it, as band names go that’s kind of asking for trouble. Short of calling yourself ‘Colin Cockup and the Halfwits’ you couldn’t arm your critics with much more ammunition if you tried. Anyway, we’ll gloss over that for now and focus on the opening act, ‘ladeeez and gennelmen iiitttt’s The Fall, The Rise!’ Oh, hang on. Where’s the audience? Hmmm, I’m not a mathematician but there can’t have been more than 15 people here, in a venue that must hold around 250 people. Shame. That’s the allure of the Antiques Roadshow I guess. Those that were there, mainly a line of teens clamped limpet like to the barriers, probably weren’t the best audience for The Fall, The Rise’s take on At The Drive In / Biffy Clyro. With larynx shredding vocals and a lead singer who paced the stage like a caged animal it was an engaging performance (sprinkled with a nice line in self depreciating wit) but, without the buzz of a decent sized audience, they were really up against it. Set highlight (and new song – you can listen to it on Their Space) ‘As Close To An Apology As You’ll Get’ shows that, 4 years into their career, the band’s name could well be coming true. Fans of a raw, head down rock would be well advised to check them out.

Next up (and arguably deliverers of the most consistently impressive set of the night) The Onlookers. Bringing an iPod’s worth of influences the lead vocalist has a Kings of Leon sort of sound (even straying into Noddy Holder style blues hollering at times), whilst the music sweatily embraces everything from Sex Pistol riffs to The Doors, The Small Faces and Hamburg-era Beatles. The bluesy feeling ‘Woodlouse’ got the best response from the crowd (which stubbornly showed no real signs of growing) and the band neatly avoided any mid set lulls with a well paced selection of tracks.

On then to Northern Ireland’s very own General Fiasco. I knew less about this band than I do about Quantum Physics but a quick search on Google reveals that it’s made up of three Bulgarian transvestites in their 80’s. Hmmmm…maybe the Interweb isn’t the reliable source of knowledge I thought it was. Ahhh, no, hang on, I have it now. They formed at school in Northern Ireland a few years back and have since supported The Wombats, The Pigeon Detectives and The Enemy (educational huh?). Recently signed to Infectious Records (who’ve previously snapped up Ash and The Subways amongst others) General Fiasco are attracting a fair bit of attention right now, earning themselves a support slot on The Enemy’s next major tour and the attention of Zane ‘I’m nothing like Murray from Flight of the Conchords’ Lowe. Okay, here endeth the lesson (there’ll be questions later so I hope you were paying attention), how was the gig? Well, you just can’t fault the energy or deny the catchiness of some of the songs, especially ‘Rebel Get By’ (an anthem for generation Skins if ever I heard one), ‘Sinking Ships’ and new single ‘We Are the Foolish’ (out soon and – neck on the line here – a surefire hit) replete with shouty out ‘HEY!’ bit for the crowd. Musically they came across as a mix of the Kooks and Green Day (unsurprisingly there were echoes of Ash in there too)…in other words catchy pop with a rock edge. The crowd (still not much bigger) consisted of a few superfans who I noticed knew most of the words and there was some gentle bobbing about. For me some of the mid set songs were a tad samey, a problem accentuated by the strength of the tracks already mentioned, but this is a band at the start of their career so there’s plenty of time to develop more killer and less filler. The lead singer also does that eee-lonng-aaaat-iiiiinnnggggg of words from time to time that’s ever so popular these days, (his voice is strong enough to dispense with such vocal clichés), but that’s a minor gripe. All in all an impressively solid show from a band you sense have a lot further to go. Fiasco well and truly avoided.

PS: This was my first time in the ‘new’ Birmingham Academy. A great improvement on the old one, but then again a second hand septic tank would be a great improvement on the previous place. Tonight we were in the equivalent of the old Bar Academy. This version is so much better, a square room (rather than a long one) giving plenty of space to move about and a decent view wherever you stood. Not sure about the flashing urinals though…most disturbing seeing your genitalia (or anyone else’s for that matter) lit up like a Christmas tree. And £3.70 for a pint of Strongbow? Shocking.

PPS: There are some more super pictures of this gig (and many others for that matter) taken by the lovely Wayne John Fox right here (look under "Sets" "Live music").

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