On arrival to Stealth, I had an instant feeling that this was going to be a slightly cosier gig than those held within the vast expanses of the ominous cavern of Rock City. When hearing that The Big Pink were not playing due to the lead singer having laryngitis, and that the gig was to be moved to the even smaller venue Rescue Rooms as a result, I realised this was going to be even more of an intimate performance than I had initially thought. Claiming my territory at a spot by the bar, I prepared myself for what I thought would be entertaining, though probably fairly generic, up-and-coming indie music with a few overly-styled, eighties-esque haircuts and many a pair of brown brogues thrown in.
I will admit straight away, the first band on proved me very wrong. Nottingham’s own Dog is Dead showed originality and talent, sporting a very skilful saxophonist, unique keyboard melodies and a multi-tasking drummer who incorporated the use of a glockenspiel into their music. Although unsigned, Dog is Dead played with the fluency and skill of a platinum-selling, major-label rock band, minus the massive ego of course. Fresh-faced and humble, this band had me captivated from start to finish and left me wanting either to buy a CD or get saxophone lessons.
Frankie & The Heartstrings were The Big Pink’s last minute replacement; although also tight and skilful in performance, this band were less charismatic and charming than their predecessors, and definitely filled the typical ‘cool band’ quota with pretty repetitive chord patterns, floppy hair and ostentatious facial expressions. They were promising in talent, but didn’t really bring anything creative and thrilling to the night.
Darwin Deez, however, really did surpass expectations… Think aerobics class mingled with a catchy indie-pop playlist and a happy atmosphere, and you’ll get the idea. With a pretty much choreographed dance from him and his band mates during songs and a friendly aura, Darwin Deez didn’t just play; he performed, and had a lot of fun with it. He soared through ‘Constellations’ and ‘Up in the Clouds’ with great live vocals, and impressively got the pretty subdued crowd dancing and singing along during ‘Radar Detector’. I’m definitely detecting a whole lot of flair for performance, Darwin.
The night was a chilled out and friendly affair, proved to me when I saw several band members swimming around in the crowd of less than 60, unperturbed and not harassed, before and after sets. It was filled with fresh, innovative sounds, and uncovered a lot of talent, which I am sure we will be hearing more of over the next year.
The Topman CTRL tour is being covered on Friday nights on Channel 4.