Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Layers / Scholars / This Is Sinister @ The Sunflower Lounge, Tuesday 12th March 2013

Ahhhhhh springtime, dontcha just love it? Longer days, buds on the trees, daffs springing up everywhere, the sudden reappearance of our old friend Mr Sun...except someone, somewhere seems to have failed to read the script this year as the temperature allegedly plummeted to a nut shrivelling -10 today (with wind chill). Good grief. Happily tonight’s compact and subterranean venue rapidly achieved a slightly more tropical feel courtesy of This Is Sinister. They’ve been knocking around for a few years now and what was once an odd mix in their early gigs seems to have gelled remarkably well. Psych, prog, country, rock, genre’s immune but somehow they make it work. Musical trainspotters might make links to Pearl Jam and At The Drive In in places but this lot are frankly impossible to pigeonhole and there aren’t too many bands you can say that about these days. Pick of the set included Idle Pleasures and the country rock tinged Never Find A Way, complete with added harmonica, neither of which I can find online anywhere so you’ll just have to go and see ‘em instead. Oh, and ask them to do tonight’s closing number too, a spirited and pant wettingly enjoyable version of Twist and Shout that might just be one of the greatest covers of all time...

Time then for battle of the front men, with London boys Scholars sending their dude up first. The Sunflower Lounge is a little like an adventure playground with stuff to jump off, climb up, stand on, lean over...and Mr Scholars was all over it, leaving the stage after the very first note and spending most of the show in amongst the crowd. You have to admire bands who really make an effort and one glance at Scholars’ You Tube account (172 videos so far and counting) plus their extensive range of merch shows you just how serious they’re taking their one shot at fame and fortune. Happily they put just as much effort into their performance, delivering one anthemic rocker after another. There’s a decent blob of punk spunk in there too with both Bad For Business and Damages (off forthcoming album Always Lead, Never Follow produced by Hundred Reasons’ guitarist Larry Hibbitt) coming across like The Hives getting it on with Rocket From The a sex dungeon. 

It’s new single Black and Blue, with its vocal gymnastics and quiet / loud / slow / fast bits that most make Scholars well worth studying though and if record sales had anything to do with energy tonight it’d sell a million.

A year or so into their existence Layers are shaping up nicely thanks in no small part to lead vocalist Lance’s ability to bring a little more soul to the traditional rock set up. Oh yeah...he’s a human dynamo too, that might have something to do with it. Sensing that he needed to up the stakes if he was going to top Scholars’ main man he took an even more physical approach to performance, culminating with an audacious / suicidal set closing backflip and crowd drenching courtesy of a bottle of mineral water and just the odd drop or two of sweat. In between they played a short but nuclear powered set peaking with last year’s statement of intent, Corners. It’s a freakin' great rock song, neatly tapping into the full range of human emotion in just three minutes, fear, regret, anger...throat shredding insanity...and Lance made the most of it leaping about like his feet were on fire (maybe they were...I wouldn't be at all surprised). Impressive. It was all over far too soon though but, as the old saying goes, always leave ‘em wanting more eh? Appropriately enough the slightly more reflective (only slightly still rocked like a mutha) closing number Gradually was dedicated by Lance to tonight’s promoter, the lovely Rhi Lee, who’s sadly been seduced by the glamour of Laaahnden. Cor blimey...apples and’re ‘avin a larf...leave it Phil/Grant he/she’s not werf it etc etc. Rhi’s been an invaluable supporter of the local music scene here in Birmingham for a while now, putting on some amazing gigs as well doing her thang at The Flapper and The Institute. She’ll be sorely missed. What a 'Rhi Lee' (sorry, couldn't resist it) great night to end on though.

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