Audiences don’t come more difficult than this. Few in number but determined in taste, Cheltenham’s indie kids sit resolutely at the back of the venue sipping cider and blacks. Frankly, if Llama Farmers can impress here, nothing can stop them.
But first, there’s Twist. More challenging to the average indie punter than the tight T-shirted simplicity of [a]Llama Farmers[/a], Twist are – yikes! – girls. Young girls at that. Who rock like Banshees with an axe to grind or mini Courtney Loves without the Versace.
No doubt that’s a comparison set to haunt singer Emma Fox. All eyeliner and hair, she’s the spellbinding rough diamond you hope refuses to be polished; the perfect combination of sultry pouts, charming innocence and an earth-shattering, plain beautiful roar as a voice. Watch this space for more…
After that, the [a]Llama Farmers[/a] take time to impress. Singer Bernie Simpson doesn’t have a fraction of Emma‘s charm and you’re left praying for him to keep his mouth shut and get on with the songs, especially during embarrassing stage quips such as, “We’re from London. Oh yes. Can you tell?”
Cringing aside, [a]Llama Farmers[/a] are redeemed by their extensive – yet tastefully selective – pilfering of Great American Records. They smash through their choices with just the right degree of irreverence, making them their own with a slapdash punk gloss. In the brilliant ‘Get The Keys And Go’, for instance, they master the low-key haziness of Pavement but ram it unexpectedly against stilted Placebo guitars and hastily explosive choruses. At other times, Bernie‘s deep, occasionally mournful vocals wander back to Nirvana‘s ‘Unplugged’ period, while on ‘Yellow’, there are glimpses of everyone from REM to Johnny Cash.
It’s a more traditional, get-what-you-paid-for set than Twist offer certainly. But as Bernie circles the stage like a possessed beast, tripping over his feet and mesmerised by the squeals of guitar, it somehow seems just as exciting. Feedback moans, the [a]Llama Farmers[/a] rumble noisily to an end and Cheltenham’s indie mafia allow themselves a small smile.