Dear UK Indiepop scenesters,
I must apologise for my non-attendance at the Indietracks Christmas Twee show. It was Saturday morning, I was doing my Christmas shopping at Brent Cross when I got a call from a friend formerly of Glasgow about possibly going to the cinema that night and well, it was preferable to a long trek to Nottinghamshire, Derby and random isolated railway stations.
We saw American Gangster, a long and engaging Ridley Scott movie. I feel there is some degree of fuckwittery in our friendship, her place is miles away on the other side of town and mine is a shithole at the moment. So whilst we get on really well and are fond of each other, it was just a pleasant evening out and drive home to opposite ends of the Northern Circular, followed by hours on wikipedia reading up on Frank Lucas, Senator Charlie Wilson and Star Trek.
So it led me to today's quick drive up the M1 to Sheffield. Whatever I'd missed at Indietracks was in a shadowy corner of my mind for before I left home I'd had a quick blast of YouPorn, some retro lesbian skit.
My car radio was bust, so for company on my way north I just had dark thoughts and memories of girls who'd fucked me over in the past. The familiar teen soap storyline of close friendships and fun times slowly leaning towards something more intimate when cometh the revelation that there's someone else, bad, mad, on the internet and less able to be introduced to parents and I'm cast out. Variations on the theme, usually with some degree of knife-twisting, despite buggery and brutalisation, its still deeply unsatisfying.
When I got to Sheffield, I was furious. Fire in my veins.
It was dark and wet, the rain in this city unrelenting as I had my weekly parental phone call. Mother concerned I hadn't eaten all day, convinced me to get fruit, veg, meat and all other food groups from a nearby supermarket.
And so it was, snacking on dried berries from Tescos that I stumble to the venue, The Red House, spotting MJ Hibbett helping a Validator unload outside. I've developed an uncanny ability to see him at gigs far away from the city in which I live, such as London/Glasgow and Sheffield/London.
Tonight Pete Green is promoting his first gig, they're still sound checking, but the turnout is already better than half a dozen gigs I've put on. CrystalBall is here, I engage in conversation. The girl who goes to even more Hibbett gigs than me is here. No sign of Indietracks survivors yet. I hope they're okay, whoever they are.
Sound checking first are The Deirdres, the mob who I missed at The Windmill a month ago. They look like they have an average age of 12, std dev 0.5 and make me wish that my own teenage band, Shouting Ralf, had made it out of Pnosni's garage back in '96. Their drummer even looks like Chris Stageman.
So this pub, The Red House, is pretty nifty. I've discovered four rooms so far, the gig room, the dark snug room, the quiet well-lit room where I write and the outside smoking bit, its kind of like The Crystal Maze with the décor.
MJ Hibbett and the Validator soundchecked a lot quicker, two swift run throughs of Mental Judo, from their 2006 album We Validate, particularly significant to this blog's conceit in that the first verse refers to a conversation MJ Hibbett had with Big Duncan from The Hector Collectors at a gig in Edinburgh, the album version includes a sample of Iain Smith introducing The Hectors, recorded live by Adam Smith.
First act to start proper was Nat Johnson from Monkey Swallows Universe, just on her own centre-stage, with a guitar and a tape loop pedal, surrounded by what could be close to a capacity crowd.
Whilst girl with guitar has been done to death thanks to Sandi Thom and her cohort and girl with tape loop pedal has cathedrals devoted to its cause, Nat Johnson's Chrissie Hynde-style vocals bring a much needed freshness to the genre. Gentle and Tender when admonishing folk in the crowd for burping and the realistic acceptance of songs which don't end properly are strangely reassuring.
Only a short set, which I liked.
The 10p Mixes on second, some tall perminator twat who manages to stand right in front of me twice in a minute. I'd heard good things online about the 'Mixes. Just a two-piece boy girl singing, guitar and a keyboard for solos. They started off pretty jolly, indiepop at it sparkly grass-roots, but their half-remembered cover of Johnny Cash's Jackson let them down, then the rest of the set veered between amateur musical requiem numbers and more half-remembered stuff. The sounds was a bit weedy too.
I sentence them to another six months rehearsing in a bedroom.
The mighty Hibbett takes to the stage next, a warm and raucous set, which is definitely in my Top Five Hibbett sets. Folk singing along and dancing all the way through, a secret plan to get this mob as the support for some major league band's stadium tour, to introduce them to a loving new audience.
The final act of the night were the aforementioned Deirdres. They were fab. There's about seven of them, all young and happy and smiley, maye a touch nervous, who knows. Some mad cross between The Loves, Motown, The Polyphonic Spree and the Go Team! All handwaving and shouting and folk having fun.
Dramatic interludes involving spilled drinks at the front of the stage and the barman performing a mop solo to clear it up.
Have you ever noticed how these reviews kind of trail off as the night wears on, and I get bored of scribbling, or maybe after the last band I'm more concerned with getting home than considering my opinion of the band.
170 miles in silence, save singing along to the songs in my head.