Having barely recovered from the twisting, jerking vision that was Dutch Uncles’ lead singer Duncan Wallis in full flow (seriously, that dude makes a wheat field in a hurricane look static) and with a modest Orchard Pig Cider hangover just about in check it was onto day two with Victories At Sea playing a rare late afternoon set. Serving up a super cool alternative 80s indie vibe J P White and co should really be playing arenas by now, seriously. Tracks like Stay Positive and Dive are the kind of bouncing up and down tearily hugging yer mate anthems that bands like The Killers have...well...made a killing out of. Adding old skool synths to walls of layered guitar and White’s haunted man vocals the band drew a huge whoop of appreciation from the swelling crowd at the end of their set and, to be honest, if they’d been headliners rather than openers I don’t reckon anyone would’ve minded. A clear case of Victories at Tea...
Sheffield’s Best Friends may have started off by busting their kick drum pedal (how rock ‘n’ roll eh...breaking your kit before you start...not even The Who managed that) but their take on scuzzed up surf pop (think a northern England version of The Drums) soon made amends.
Bonus points to the bassist who remained resolutely hidden behind a curtain of dirty blonde hair throughout the entire set somehow managing not to bump into anything or fall off the stage. Check out recent single Nosebleeds (one of the tracks of the night) for the very best of Best Friends.
Wide Eyed have come on leaps and bounds over the past few months with their goth tinged rock sound recalling a mash up of My Bloody Valentine at their less extreme with bands like The Mission and The Cult. They’re a band of few words so don’t expect any knock knock jokes but their ability to (wanky muso alert!) craft atmospheric guitar soundscapes is growing and given a few more months you can see this becoming a particularly potent mix. The last track of their set hit an especially pleasing motorik groove which might hint at their future direction.
Let’s just pause for a moment and appreciate how many fucking great bands there are in Birmingham right now. This festival alone dished up Hoopla Blue, Boat To Row, Victories At Sea and Wide Eyed but it’s perfectly possible to add another couple of dozen to this list without any great effort. If you’re going to spunk £20 or £30 going to see Arctic Monkeys (there’s a band on the slide now in my humble opinion) do yourself a favour and spend a similar amount on going to 5 or 6 ‘local’ bands as well. Trust me, this is a bit of a golden age for music in Birmingham, let’s all make the most of it eh?
Anyway, lecture over. From further afield (Canada via Italy in fact) His Clanceyness, possibly the most tattooed band of the weekend (the female keyboard player was especially well inked). There’s a hint of Tindersticks to some of their more low key songs albeit with an added 50s style guitar twang. Jonathon Clancy’s vocals have attracted comparisons to the late great Lou Reed, not a bad place to start – there’s certainly a laid back slightly monotone edge there – but happily his range is wider with a vaguely country-ish feel on tracks like Machines. Pick of the bunch this evening was Summer Majestic though, with its Satisfaction (by the Stones) referencing guitar riff and “Tch tch tch tch” backing vocals instantly winning the band a fair number of new fans...me included.
Can it really be 8 years since the first Sky Larkin release? Jeez, where does the time go? Happily Katie and co don’t show any signs of running out of steam. In fact she and the band were on tip top form this evening, chatting away in between playing a mix of crowd pleasing favourites (step forward Matador and Fossil, I) and new songs including this year’s Loom and forthcoming single Newsworthy (out 9th December in fact), both typically fine pieces of jangly indiepop.
Nice to hear a shout out to Johnny Foreigner too (they’d have been a great addition to this bill).
As performances go Distophia’s had to be the most widely anticipated by the local crowd. Having split in 2006 (seemingly only reforming as a one off for this festival) their story is a salutary lesson on the evils of the music biz...boo hiss etc. They were poised to have possibly their breakthrough record released then, at the very last minute, their label scrapped it in favour of pushing fading (or maybe that’s faded by now) indie rockers Hard Fi. This is a great shame as Distophia were clearly much loved by their fans (a fair number of whom were here tonight) and, as I recall, highly rated by other local bands too. Amid plenty of witty banter (predictably Hard Fi featured heavily) and a wonderfully self deprecating sense of humour about the whole situation they found themselves in, their set was a long awaited celebration of what might have been, a glorious two fingers up to the fickle music biz and a chance for their fans to mosh themselves into next week. Even removing the element of sympathy that comes with getting so royally screwed it was a hugely entertaining set and tracks like Robert Redford and Joanne still easily stand up against the kind of alt rock anthems that broke big in the 90s.
If you want to hear what all the fuss was about they’re apparently putting the long delayed album up online as a free (“Because we don’t give a fuck!”) download shortly. Who knows, maybe the story won’t end with this gig but if it does, heck, what a great way to finally go out.
That just left Yuck to wrap things up and they did so in fine style kicking off with arguably their best song to date, Middle Sea. They’re an interesting looking bunch, lead singer Max Bloom positioned himself stage left leaving the centre spot for the effortlessly cool bassist Mariko Doi to occupy whilst on drums the generously ‘fro’d up Jonny Rogoff provided the beat. There’s an unmistakeable Pavement feel to some of their livelier stuff whilst other tracks like tonight’s dreamy Rebirth hint at more of a shoegazey vibe gently lulled the crowd into a sonic reverie.
As inaugural festival’s go This Is Tmrw pulled a blinder, cool bands, a great venue, a decent dickhead free crowd, excellent sound (big up the sound guys, Greg on the Saturday...not sure who handled Friday’s EDIT: It was Dan Sprigg...cheers Swanny!) and the kind of event that Birmingham should be screaming about. I’ll certainly be ‘leaving’ a space in my calendar for next year’s.