If variety is the spice of life, then combine fluoro, beer, alt.rock and cuddly marsupials
For the casual punter, paying for a showcase gig can be a bit like sticking your hand into a mixed bag of sweets and pulling out a jelly baby, a Malteser, a grape and a bit of lint. Variety: it might make for good television and radio, but does the formula translate into a successful gig line-up?
Tonight’s crowd has neatly divided itself into separate camps set up around the hall: emo kids in their newly-purchased new-rave neons press against the barriers waiting for Hadouken!; a sizable delegation of 30-something men – clearly taking the night off nappy-changing duty – join the masses for The-Stone-Roses-reincarnated magnificence that is The Twang in the middle of the hall; while Clyro loyalists opt for a skirmishing formation, so that their between-set cries of “BI-FFY! BI-FFY!” take on a terrifying, seemingly all-pervasive resonance.
Nobody is here for The Wombats. They might be a little bloodless, but that doesn’t stop these puckish Liverpudlians from being endearing, what with confessional numbers like ‘Backfire At The Disco’, and the way they beg the entire audience to impart a giant psychic kiss to their plush Wombat mascot Cherub. Cribsian copyists they may be, but The Wombats’ guise as amiable underdogs will fare them well.
If anyone was left feeling warm and fuzzy after that, current champions of the uncomfortable listen Hadouken! are quick to dispel it, proving happily that Test Icicles’ abortive experiments with grindie didn’t fall on deaf ears. It’s a stunning set on all counts, but one that falls prey to the perils of the showcase – discounting the 200-strong Day-Glo mob, the rest of the audience looks a little queasy.
With Hadouken! gone, The Twang’s fans crawl back from the safety of the bar. Though many are young, it’s the aforementioned fathers-of-three that stand out. They greet The Twang’s arrival onstage with ferocious, deafening zeal. Four songs later, and with a cocky cry of, “Let’s fuckin’ ’ave it!”, The Twang erupt into the gossamer bliss of closer ‘Cloudy Room’. By the time they pile off stage, there are scores of bleary-eyed menfolk embracing one another, elated to have witnessed first-hand the rebirth of baggy.
Lead by Zane Lowe, the cries of “Mon the Biff!” that have bounced around the hall all night now reach a crescendo. Officially one of the greatest rock bands in Britain today, it’s a shame that Biffy Clyro choose to churn out a rather uninspired retrospective set, particularly when upcoming LP ‘Puzzle’ sees them on the cusp of greatness. Still, for the first-timers in attendance, any Biffy set, no matter how poor by their standards, is an awe-inspiring, heart-pounding, skin-flaying tour de force. ‘Justboy’, ‘Joy.Discovery.Invention’, ‘57’: the reaction to material off their first album ‘Blackened Sky’ outstrips by several dozen decibels anything else played tonight.
As the lights comes up, something great happens. The factions break – Hadouken! harcore mingle with Twang fans, Team Biffy is beaming, and somebody has bought a Wombats T-shirt. Variety, it seems, has won the day.