Friday, August 07, 2015

Goodnight Lenin / Hoopla Blue / Chartreuse @ The Hare and Hounds, Thursday August 6th 2015

Three and a half of Brum’s finest bands on offer this evening courtesy of the lovely This Is Tmrw team. First up relative newbies Chartreuse with their neat boy/girl vocal interplay, 80s tinged pop (think a little bit of Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout and Deacon Blue mixed up with the more recent Best Coast) and shimmery surftastic guitars. Bonus points for the double drumming climax too which saw the band’s female vocalist Harriet teach hers a lesson it won’t forget in a hurry. Impressive stuff.

Hoopla Blue continue to defy genres, gleefully drifting from Floyd-y noodlings one minute to Wild Beasts-ish flights of fancy the next, adding a little Highlife and steel drum sounding synths along the way. Texturally rich, musically schizophrenic and played with the kind of intensity that makes you think their very lives depend on it the Blue are growing into something really special. Hoop hoop hooray.

Speaking of special things tonight was the first ever appearance of a 7 piece version of Goodnight Lenin, their numbers boosted by the addition of 50% of Free School (or 66.6% depending on if you count Greg Bird as a full time member). As their last gig at The Rainbow proved GNL are going through something of a metamorphosis right now, adding rawer, rockier, hookier material to their existing more folk focussed back catalogue. Tonight’s set kicked off with a brace of new tunes that well and truly fitted into the first category, played with such ferocity that lead singer John Fell even busted a string. Holy folk! There’s still an American vibe to the music but these songs have more of the gutsy feel of Springsteen at his bombastic best (Start Over, dripping with mentions of ‘gasoline’, could well be the distant cousin of Born To Run) and with the new members sprinkling a little electronic fairy dust over the whole thing it’s the ‘phattest’ they’ve ever sounded.

There was still room for plenty of ‘old skool’ Lenin in the set too though, pick of the bunch being a sublimely brilliant version of You Were Always Waiting and firm fan favourite Old Cold Hands. Whether these songs will carry on being played if the band continues to get its rocks off remains to be seen...or heard.   

A mid set Twitter contest for the audience proved that the band’s not lost its sense of fun, something which perhaps helped them build a devoted fanbase in the first place. Challenged to tweet something witty the winning entry was “What’s ET short for? Cos he’s got little legs”. Boom boom. The prize? A copy of Jurassic Park...not the latest one but the old one. Still, the bloke who won it seemed chuffed enough.

There’s room for much more electronica if this 7 piece experiment’s going to continue, perhaps more so on the older, gentler songs, and when the band hits a groove you’re sometimes left wanting more but most importantly of all they seem to be enjoying playing more than ever right now. Free of the weight of expectation that came with the release of their much anticipated debut album perhaps they’re just seeing where the road leads ‘em this time? Judging by the audience’s deservedly enthusiastic reaction to this new 'meatier' Lenin it’ll be bigger venues than this before long.

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