The Music : Manchester Ashton Under Lyme The Witchwood/Colchester Arts Centre

Post-gig, the fans wrestle for the setlist, drumsticks and anything not taped down...

Ashton Under Lyme’s Witchwood occupies a street where the shops are uniformly boarded up and the dog-walking locals look as weathered as the cobbles: a less likely place to find a band with a burgeoning reputation for recreating the kind of circa-’89 lysergic rock thrills you’d be hard pressed to find.

Inside, however, the sticky carpet is almost hidden by acres of flared denim, while spliff-glazed eyes blink in lazy anticipation. Because, although [a]Music[/a]’s last single, ‘You Might As Well Try To Fuck Me’, wasn’t exactly a chart topper (it was ineligible for the top 40, for starters) all the nights on this four-date jaunt are sold out and now the intoxicating, sauna-like atmosphere is heavy with devoted excitement.

Linchpin Robert Harvey swaggers on stage, shaking his flowing mane, flanked by excellently-named John Squire lookalike Adam Nutter and bassist Stuart Coleman. Phil Jordan, the drummer, also sports a standard pair of flares and shoulder-length metallist hair. They look seriously cocksure: they know they’re in charge.

From the moment [a]Music[/a] take over to the last feedback wail, Harvey and the crowd dance themselves into a bug-eyed mental zone where Led Zeppelin and ‘Second Coming’-era Roses‘ genes are spliced, diced and rearranged into a thrilling new order. As Harvey karate chops mid-air, ‘The Dance’ mixes up screaming vocals, blues-rock guitar and a dancefloor-issue backbeat.

Post-gig, the fans wrestle for the setlist, drumsticks and anything not taped down. “There’s not enough bands into grooves anymore” shouts one punter. “The record industry is buying into a lot of shit. Bands don’t

mean anything any more, ‘Pop Idol’ is shit. I just want

something new coming through – I’m not asking for a new scene. We need some sort of an explosion of real music with a heart and soul. That’s why [a]Music[/a] are top, the best new band at the minute”.

Day two in Colchester finds [a]Music[/a] outside playing jumpers-for-goalposts football in a rare burst of winter sunshine (“sunshine is the best drug” reckons Adam). They’re incredibly relaxed; after two years in the band and ‘You Might As Well Try To Fuck Me’ Harvey and Nutter’ve been able to stick two nicotine-stained fingers up at the careers advisor that told them they’d make good gardeners. Jordan was supposed to be a florist, apparently, while hapless Stuart Coleman was told – somewhat implausibly – that he’d end up as a trout farmer. “You fill in a questionnaire, they feed it into a computer and it comes out with loads of random shit,” he explains in his defence.

A life of fish husbandry thankfully avoided, now the band are able to concentrate on translating the outstanding energy of performances like last night at The Witchwood onto record.

“We’re more focused now”, shrugs Nutter. “We’ve been changing what we do live to how we do it in studio.”

“We’re quite blessed in the way our music sounds” postulates

Harvey. “You can dance to it or bang your head to a good tune.”

“For the last five years people haven’t danced at gigs, just jumped up and down,” adds Jordan.

The conversation moves on to ‘Pop Idol’ (“a surge of

silly little bastards” spits Nutter), Leeds’ number one sport – joyriding (“if those people who nick cars picked up guitars, they could make a good noise,” claims Jordan), the myriad wonders of Tetley bitter and the possible resurrection of the Queen Mum to save the monarchy. “Newspaper said she opened hundreds of buildings,” sniffs Jordan. “Is that the best they can say about her?”

Tonight’s performance at Colchester Arts Club brilliantly upstages the previous night. It’s still loud but not so much of an assault on the senses, proving that [a]Music[/a] are dabbling with stadium dynamics in fun-sized venues.

Backstage after the gig, NME finally gets the chance to check out the perimeters of [a]Music[/a]’s roomy trews. And the winner is… stickman Phil Jordan.

So Phil, are flares coming back? “It’s just a northern thing,” says Phil blankly. When did they come back in? “Flares?” says Phil with a withering look, “about 1970.”

Rowan Chernin