Not much seems to happen in February. As part of the student calendar, it’s sort of a non-month that flies by so quickly that we’ve barely recovered from January exams before we have to wake up, smell the pancakes and ready ourselves for March deadlines. However, living in Nottingham surely provides us with the live music fix we need to shake us out of the February slump. Here’s what we enjoyed most during the past month…
Spring King (Rescue Rooms, 18/02/2017)
From the moment Zane Lowe launched Beats 1 to the thunderous clatter of Spring King’s ‘City’, the Manchester lads were propelled to success with the same swiftness with which the Tories scrapped the maintenance grant. Their boisterous debut Tell Me If You Like To came out shortly afterwards, followed by a year on the road performing blistering, infectious live shows to masses of eager-eyed fans.
A tour schedule that intense, however, can take its toll on even the most determined musicians. In October 2016 – when the band were originally booked to play the Rescue Rooms – frontman and drummer Tarek Musa fell ill from exhaustion. “I had paramedics in my house,” he explains during their rescheduled headline show.
Now fully rejuvenated, the four-piece return to Nottingham with untameable vigour; supported by two of the most promising newcomers on the current UK circuit.
“[Kagoule’s] Cai Burns’ restrained Siamese Dreams-y guitar squall sounding beastly over the frenzied drumming of Lawrence English”
“We’re a stupid band called Get Inuit,” introduces Jamie Glass, the opening act’s adorable, Weezer-esque lead singer with an IT worker’s demeanour and the vivacity of The Vaccines. Although sometimes veering far too close to Blink-182 for comfort, the four-piece concoct a riotous, sugar-coated punk shambles; their recent single ‘Barbiturates’ tumbled through clamorous melodies into a brilliantly playful crescendo.
The second serving of potent sludge comes courtesy of local trio Kagoule, a band who I hold something of a grudge against. During their 2014 gig at Northampton’s beloved Labour Club – a tiny, ramshackle venue and the lifeblood of the local scene – bassist Lucy Hatter surveyed the room with a look of condescension like someone had just shat on her doorstep. Back on home turf, they’re far more accommodating, Cai Burns’ restrained Siamese Dreams-y guitar squall sounding beastly over the frenzied drumming of Lawrence English.
Up until this point, the audience has seemed, surprisingly, almost disappointingly, placid. However as Spring King launch into their frenetic headline set the crowd ignites immediately, the band’s ferocity transforming us from posturing wallflowers into a chaotic whirlwind of bodies. ‘Who Are You?’ – a song as rowdily flamboyant as The Cribs overdosing on sherbet lemon – receives a particularly messy reception. At one point a shoe floats over the mosh pit.
Renowned for their astonishing live energy, Spring King are nothing short of spectacular, their (admittedly derivative) brand of pop punk centred around Beach Boys style harmonies and a relentless barrage of guitar riffs. Mercifully the sedate, sinister ‘Take Me Away’ provides a brief respite from the onslaught. It’s a chance for both band and audience members to catch their breath, readying themselves for tumultuous final song ‘Rectifier’.
Regardless of what the “punk-is-dead” naysayers will have you believe, we’re not witnessing the dying embers of rock music here; instead, the UK scene is a blazing inferno, stoked on a diet of Savages, Fat White Family, Shame, Yak and, of course, the fantastic Spring King. Long may it burn.
VANT (Rescue Rooms 24/02/17)
The dense crowd that gathered for VANT’s Rescue Rooms gig last Friday was both lively and overwhelmingly adolescent. The evening gathered momentum easily, with a set Nottingham favourites Babe Punch. It’s always great to see a touring band choose their support act from local stock.
As soon as the young, London-based band took to the stage, the room was overcome by an intense state of frenzy. Those looking to head-bob edged to the side lines with a cautious hand over their pints as the pulsating audience began to resemble one of those absurd Renaissance paintings of a party gone wild.
The music itself seemed average enough; the sort of post-00s-indie-rock-white-guy stuff that is probably best heard in a live setting. VANT were headed by their namesake and founder Mattie Vant, who provided enough charisma to maintain a fairly consistent state of swoon amongst his audience. Mostly, though, it was the crowd that made the night: VANT’s presence had inspired some devoted, teenage fervour. The excitement was palpable. Plus, there was no queue at the bar.
Gilles Peterson (The I Club, 24/02/17)
For those in the know, Gilles Peterson’s world-renowned radio shows are essential for musical discovery. Each programme, whether he’s presenting on BBC 6 Music or at the helm of his newly-launched Worldwide FM, is a musical bastion teeming with forgotten gems, eye-opening contemporary pieces and extraordinary free-thinkers.
Brought back to Nottingham by Mimm – a multifarious arts collective and streetwear brand – Gilles shuffles on inconspicuously to his home behind the decks, readying himself for a mesmerising four-hour set. Behind him, amidst a backdrop of scribbled cave paintings, the words “Searching For The Perfect Beat” flash repeatedly in spite of their Afrika Bambaataa connotations. It’s a philosophy that the DJ first adopted as a teen on his own pirate station and has followed ever since, uncovering impeccable music with such enthusiasm and dedication.
“[some aging DJs act as] if Ocean’s prosaic conglomerate of starved libidos is somehow representative of all young music lovers”
Over the past few years, I’ve heard a number of ageing DJs complain about the lack of adventure shown by the current generation of clubbers. They claim we’re adverse to discovery, only venturing out in order to hear songs we’re already familiar with as if Ocean’s prosaic conglomerate of starved libidos is somehow representative of all young music lovers.
Tonight, however, people of all ages seem insatiable for something they’ve never heard before. Flat capped fans who may well have attended Gilles’ legendary Dingwalls sets rub shoulders with ravers who look they’re in on fake ID, drawn to Gilles by his obsession for phenomenal new artists such as Minor Science and Kojey Radical.
On the radio, Peterson prides himself on playing a proportion of songs so obscure that it’s impossible to locate them via Shazam. As a DJ that love of rarities shines through, although he’s not above including a few well-timed classics; General Levy’s ‘Incredible’ and a South American interpretation of ‘You Don’t Love Me’ both receive a spin.
Barely announcing his arrival, the veteran’s opening choices blend seamlessly into the house-centric vibe created by warm-up DJ Synic. ‘Space Program’ – one of the standout tracks from A Tribe Called Quest’s masterful new album – is a brief splash of hip hop amongst the chest-rattling kick drums, tribal chants and exotic jazz-inspired wig outs.
When Gilles’ set descends into a dense, cavernous bass sound, the crowd reacts like something out of Mark Leckey’s ‘Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore’. Those brutal, at times gqom-style, rhythms are snubbed by a sudden blast of disco, which rolls into the late DJ Rashad’s footwork anthem ‘Dubby’ and the shattering dub of Shy FX’s ‘Soon Come’.
After a brief drink break (it’s thirsty work dancing to all that astonishing music) I return to find 2 Bad Mice’s ‘Hold It Down’ ringing out across the dance floor. For some reason the break heads seem to be out in particularly full force tonight; Shy FX’s timeless ‘Shake Your Body’ receives possibly the wildest reception of all, and I wouldn’t be surprised if our earlier cries of “jungle is massive” were audible from the Ocean smoking area.
As they approach middle age the majority of musical innovators have a tendency to stray towards the middle of the road. Gilles, however, remains as essential as ever. A formidable selector.
AJ Tracey (Brickworks 25/02/17)
AJ Tracey didn’t look too interested in doing the gig when he first jumped on stage. Still, he managed to shell down Brickworks, even seemingly half arsed.
The crowd brought energy and AJ brought good vibes. Everyone was jumping. I thoroughly enjoyed the set.
My only issue would be that I felt that the setlist was upside down. Tracks like ‘Pasta’ and ‘Luke Cage’ came a bit too early in the set; I feel they were more suitable closing songs than ‘Naila’ and ‘Buster Cannon’ which he closed the show with. That being said, AJ Tracey did not disappoint and I hope to see him doing his thing in bigger venues in the years to come.
Image Courtesy of Paul Hudson via Flickr (CC Search)