The place was busier than I'd anticipated when I arrived. Do The Right Thing got things warmed up nicely with their ska-infused acoustic indie. 'Chicken Wing' might have been inspired by the riff from The Smiths' 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' but the cover of Snow's 'Informer' was simply inspired. Good fun.
Idiophonic's set wass all about the atmosphere. Sadly, their smug am-dram electronica suffers from an arch campness and the fact that the material isn't nearly as glittering as they think it is. Not such good fun.
We Could Be Astronauts haven't come from nowhere, having formed from the ashes of previous local bands who'd enjoyed a degree of success. Even so, having shuffled toward the front for the start of the set, was surprised to turn around and see just how many people are behind me. Tonight is rather disingenuously billed as Astronauts' debut gig, although I saw them deliver a festival-stealing set at Galtres Festival last August (which they also plugged as their debut gig).
At that show, the bassist was wildly inebriated. Tonight, he's rather more together, but remains a flailing mess of hair and paisley, and single-handedly encapsulates what We Could Be Astronauts are about. Forget the 80s revival. Surely everyone's bored of it by now anyway. We Could Be Astronauts are the perfect antidote, blasting out tightly-woven riff-centric old-school Zeppelinesque rock with aplomb.
The classic themes of self-destruction and damaging lifestyles run through many of the songs, and they really crank it up, dispatching 'Fucked Up, Corroded, Broke Down, Exploded' and 'The Catastophist' early in the set. There are plenty of other highlights to follow, though, and Robert Loxley Hughes isn't only blessed with Robert Plant's hair, but a charismatic stage presence and a powerful, gutsy voice. The rest of the band - the twin-guitar attack and the rock-solid rhythm section, in which some sturdy drumming and 8-string bass wizardry combine to deliver real punch - have clearly hit their stride.
The songs receive an enthusiastic reception, and there are some people down the front a few feet from where I'm standing who are going absolutely nuts. Not without good reason: We Could Be Astronauts have landed as a timely reminder that rock 'n' roll can still be exciting, and revisiting the legacy of the 70s doesn't have to lead to sounding like Wolfmother. It's early days, but the buzz around this band is quite something. May there be many more debut gigs to come: be prepared to see them take off.
We Could Be Astronauts On MySpace