I'm standing in a pub, stone-cold sober, and watching 3 men who appear to be pushing 30 playing like trio of gawky teenagers who just learned how to play the chords D and G. Their drummer resembles a young(ish) John Peel and the singer is trying too hard not to look like a car salesman by wearing a (homemade?) Richey Manic t-shirt, but it doesn't take away from the fact that this band are totally devoid of ideas. Lyrics addressed to someone who doesn't seem to know how great they are or what they could achieve in life, backed-up by the aforementioned major guitar chords just didn't do it for me, so I retreated upstairs to read about Norn Irn for the latter half of their set. Feel like Falling asleep, more like...sorry guys.
Older and Far Away look like a more interesting prospect from the off, they have a cello for a start, and a lap steel. Last time I saw marie on a stage she was playing guitar for riot grrl band Cheetaras, performing a rocking cover of Madonna's 'Like a Prayer'...this time she's sitting at the drumkit for what appear to be a country band. The music starts, and my suspicions are confirmed, these guys like their Americana. For the majority of the set they manage to make it pretty interesting though. So many of these laid-back country bands are content to go through the motions and play safe, but OAFA blend a bit of Pavementesque trickery with good old-fashioned blues emotion to make a very pleasant racket for the fair-sized crowd in attendance.
Despite their obvious talents as a band, they let themselves down on the togetherness front a bit. A couple of songs require a few false starts before they get going, and there appears to be some tension between band members and the soundman (who I thought coped pretty well in the circumstances). The lead singer/cellist and Marie appear particularly affected by any setbacks, which eventually made me feel a bit uncomfortable watching. As they fluff the beginning of the song 'Peter Parker', cello woman snaps at the rest of the band. Luckily their delightfully goofy-looking guitarist (who bears more than a slight resemblance to the webslinging wonderspider) keeps it all together, acting out the Mark Ibold demeanour to a tee. definitely worth watching again, if only to see if they split up on stage...
After a short break (after all, it is a school night), the band I've dragged my sober ass out to see tonight shuffle onto the stage - I can hardly hear Anji's vocals during the opening number as the continuing sound problems make their life just that little bit harder. Luckily, this band are not for throwing the towel in, and by the second song they have taken control of the stage with a quiet confidence that enables the music to shine though.
Their sound is soft and gentle but with an underlying strengh, a bit like Throwing Muses but with a hint of something else in the mix. It's quite difficult to pin down, but very engaging. Hey Princess are unusual in that they feature 2 sets of married couples in the line-up, and unsurprisingly have a lot more comaraderie emanating from the stage than the other 2 bands. The songs also offer something different, their sound is a throwback to the American college rock sound but incorporating the idiosyncracies of the British indie scene in its early 90's heyday. Think of Kim Deal meeting Talk Talk (in a Morris Minor on PCP, of course) and you're on the right track. This band make an effort to be different lyrically too, with numerous references to large cats and historical figures replacing the usual boy-meets-girl-meets-drugs sixth-form poetry we've come to expect from Scottish bands. Hats off to Supermiffy for managing to look so darned cool while playing a cabasa!
HP certainly left an imprint on my mind that night, their songs are now inked into my very soul. I know I'll get a ribbon for writing that down...