Monday, July 26, 2010
Chapel Club / Dead Lights / Victories at Sea @ Off The Cuff Festival @ The Flapper, Friday 23rd July 2010
Considering the musical talent that exists here in Birmingham, not to mention the fact that we are, I believe (demographically speaking), Europe’s ‘youngest city’ it’s pretty piss poor that we don’t have music festivals coming out of our ears. There are some notable exceptions of course. Both Moseley Folk and now Mostly Jazz do a grand job at showcasing the best in their respective genres and Soweto Kinch’s Flyover Show is nothing short of a national treasure. To this list we can add ‘Off The Cuff’. For some reason I missed last year’s event altogether, but it’s clear that, out of the somewhat barren festival wasteland that is our fair city, something’s stirring. I’m sure reviews for days two and three will appear all over the shop, but day (or night) one produced a fine trio of performances, the undisputed highlight of which was Victories At Sea. Would someone please put me out of my misery and tell me what other bands their lead singer has been in? I’m sure I know his face but I’m damned if I can remember where from. Gah! Anyway, this was their first gig and I can confidently pronounce (you know me, I’m not given to hyperbole, not much, well... a bit...) that they could well become one of the best bands in Birmingham. Oh yes. Alternating between brooding intensity and break out thrashiness (I kept thinking of Joy Division slugging it out with The Twilight Sad at an Interpol gig) their lead singer (you know, the one who I can’t remember) actually seemed to be living the words as he sang them. There are plenty of great vocalists out there but he just seemed to have that edge somehow, one track in particular (it might have been called Ripples, but then again it might not) stood out as something special. His minor frustration at the odd technical hitches (I must say I didn’t really notice any) only went to reinforce the fact this gig really, and I mean REALLY, seemed to matter to them. There's no music on their MySpace page yet so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Tonight the victory was all theirs.
Next up Dead Lights. There’s a vaguely Kasabian-ish feel to some of their tracks that you could imagine going down well at a festival 1000 times bigger than Off The Cuff is right now. There was one track when two of the band sang an octave or two higher than the lead vocalist which was, quite literally, music to my ears. Pick of the set was ‘The Rise and Fall Of...’ with some fine dirty, scuzzy guitars acting as an unmade bed for some naggingly catchy sing song lyrics.
Finally, and making their second Flapper appearance of the year, rising indie darlings Chapel Club. Perhaps unfairly compared to The Smiths when they first hit our earlobes they do, never the less, have that kind of melodramatic 80’s feel to a lot of their tracks, which, having been a melodramatic teen in the 80’s suits me just fine. Lead singer Lewis is blessed with a ‘come to bed’ voice which, combined with the woozy guitars on tracks like ‘Bodies’ could make a young man come over all peculiar (lucky old Peculiar eh?). Elsewhere, and often coming as a bit of a shock after the quieter moments, you’re slapped senseless by a wailing wall of guitars. It’s an intoxicating mix, much better appreciated live than on their recorded output to date. When they put their mind to it they’re capable of some killer choruses too. Both the opening track from tonight’s set, the Mama and Papa’s referencing ‘Surfacing’ and ‘Five Trees’ claw their way into your brain and refuse to leave. Elsewhere shoes were well and truly gazed at, especially in new song ‘The Shore’ which Lewis tipped as being more of an indication of what their debut album will sound like. For me though it was still their brooding breakthrough song, ‘O Maybe I’ that really quickened the pulse this evening, the spirit of Morrissey literally dripping from every word.
Of course it’s still early days (is this the second or third Off The Cuff?) but this is exactly the kind of new music festival that Birmingham’s been screaming out for. How about making it more than just an annual bash, with an Autumn/Winter version too perhaps? I’m hoping it might also inspire others to try something similar, I think the whole thing pretty much sold out so there’s clearly the demand out there. Who’s up for it eh?