You can’t go far wrong with four bands for four quid – especially when one of those four bands is White Firs. The York / Liverpool garage power trio have been generating a fair buzz since they burst onto the scene. Tonight also marks the launch of the second stage at the Duchess, and the intimate space is absolutely fucking rammed.
Granted, a band as hot as White Firs are going to attract more than their fare share of hipster hangers-on, and the duffel-coat wearing popped-collar brigade are out in full force tonight, standing right at the front talking loudly and posturing hard. Forget ‘em. it’s all about the music, and the three acts up before the main event are each worth the money.
This is only Lost Hippy Time Traveller’s fourth gig, and they’re clearly a band in progress in that they’re extremely young – hell, I’m amazed the 8:15 stage time isn’t past their bed-time – and theirs is a covers-heavy set. But songs by Noisettes, Black Keys and and unlikely version of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ sat well with the extremely promising original material, and their musicianship’s impressive, working as a cohesive unit. Plus, their diminutive singer has a huge voice – not just in terms of belting it out, but rich and toneful, making for a fun start to the night.
Muttley is one man and his effects pedals. But what makes Simon Micklethwaite cool is that he knows how to use those effects, er, effectively. Sheets of guitar layer up over live synth loops and a metronomic old-school drum machine that pounds away steadily. It’s not that Micklethwaite’s an outstanding singer, and it’s not that his songs are catchy, but it’s the overall effect, the sonic impact and, importantly, his ability to deliver a line that has a genuine emotive pull that makes Muttley special.
Bull’s brand of guitar driven indie rock is massive on melody and huge on harmonies. They’re also pretty strong in the energy department. In the haircut department perhaps not so much, but who cares about image when you’ve got songs?
White Firs, have definitely got songs. During their blistering set that ratcheted up both the volume and intensity of the night, they proved themselves to be in a different class altogether. With a rock-solid rhythm section (drummer Jack Holdstock occupied the stool for now-defunct but hotly-tipped garage noisemongers The Federals) providing the pulsating heart of the sound and the essential foundations for the fuzzed-out guitar attacks, they’ve got the swaggering Stooges sound absolutely nailed.
Danny Barton’s vocals have a nonchalant drawl about them, but still carry a melody and delivery some tidy pop hooks. Meanwhile, brother James churns out thumping basslines as cool as you like, while occasionally throwing in some shouty backing vocals. For all the overdriven noise blasting from the amps and the PA, it’s clear they’ve got a keen ear for a tune, their appreciation of Big Star shining through the squall of feedback. It’s not hard to fathom why Sea Records signed them after only their third gig, and the chances are it’ll cost more than four quid to see them before the next year’s out.