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Not The Winter Sprinter

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 ambition.

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 is to be applauded.



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