The Winter Sprinter has long been a mandatory date in
the indie fan diary, used by (the now defunct) Track & Field label to
showcase the best bands on their roster.
Fortuna Pop's update of the mini-fest took place from 4-6 Jan we sent
HARVEY WILLIAMS along to two of the dates for a round up.
Wednesday 5 - the three ages of independent pop.
The noughties: Veronica Falls’ drum kit doesn’t have
any cymbals; a nice touch, I think. Their music sounds like it has a severe
head cold; quite a lot of thrum-thrum-thrumming without much clangour. Having
said that, their songs are terrific, taking their cues from 3rd-album
Velvets and the less spiky end of post-punk. There’s an equal mix of furious
intensity & bonhomie on stage, and also some fantastic haircuts.
The eighties: Making a rare return to the stage are
The Loft, for no good reason other than maybe to show the youngsters how it’s
done. I hope it’s not just rose-tinted nostalgia that makes these songs sound
so bittersweet, but boy they’ve aged well. Pete Astor can still wield a
Telecaster with some vigour, particularly during an incendiary take on Up The
Hill & Down The Slope.
The nineties: there’s a grizzled-looking fella up on
stage extemporising drink-addled beat poetry into his microphone. Of course there
is; Comet Gain have just walked on stage & once again all is right with the
world. Always an unpredictable prospect live, David Feck and his combo have
been peddling this ramshackle post-TV-Personalities vision for -what?- nearly
20 years now, though you’d never guess from watching the show. The nervous
“what-happens-next?” glances thrown about by the band are a given, as are the
protracted gaps between numbers, though at least this gives David a chance to
continue his wayward ramblings. But the songs! Oh, the songs! The passion of a
thousand scrawled fanzines lives in these songs; the passion of late nights
crying over Biff Bang Pow album sleeves & kitchen sink paperbacks. In spite
of appearances to the contrary, David knows what he’s doing. If these songs
were performed “properly” (ie. in tune, finishing together) it would almost
miss the point. Comet Gain have always been about art over craft; emotion over
Thursday 6 - January Songs
It would too easy to describe The Leaf Library
as post-Stereolab; there’s plenty of motorik, ennui-filled femme vox and
kraut-y drones. But there’s also a charming, pastoral slant to these songs that
you might not expect from your typical post-rocker. Sitting down on stage takes
some gumption (particularly if you’re the singer), so the fact that chanteuse
& synth player Kate remained seated throughout the show was a skewed kind
of impressive. You want movement? Watch the drummer.
In David Tattersall, The Wave Pictures have an
incredibly gifted guitarist, and (if gifted guitarists are not your bag), a
wordsmith with a crafty eye for lyrical detail. Their sound is taut &
spare; when David switches to solo mode, he basically has the floor to himself.
I don’t think I’ve ever attended an “indie” (for want of a better word) show
where folks have applauded the guitar solos, but y’know, some of those solos
deserved their applause. For the final two numbers, they’re joined by ‘Charles’
from Moshi Moshi label mate’s Slow Club, which rather than switching things up
a gear, actually has the effect of diluting their sound. Three-piece bands:
they can go either way.
Just ask Darren Hayman. Since Hefner ceased trading
in 2002 Darren has been specialising in what can best be described as
conceptual works, most recently an album of songs about love amongst the marshes
in “Essex Arms”. For his next project, he focuses his attention on the Essex
Witch Trials (rock ‘n’ roll!), but for now his self-imposed task is to write,
record & release a song every day in January. It’s a brave project to
undertake; exposed to being riddled with missteps and potholes, but as the
logical extension of the Instant Karma “written on Tuesday, in the shops by the
end of the week” ethos, it can’t be beaten. So, following a typically hilarious
& engaging set (during which the dj booth springs into unaided action
during a particularly poignant moment), today’s song is debuted. It was written
en route to the venue, rehearsed with the band at the soundcheck, &
performed live for (presumably) the only time as tonight’s first encore. It’s no
“Hymn for the Cigarettes”, but that’s hardly the point. For a songwriter to
still be testing himself more than 15 years into his career is to be admired.
That he’s doing it so publicly (at www.januarysongs.tumblr.com)
is to be applauded.
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