“We’re guerrillas, we don’t announce gigs. We hit, then we sink back into the night.” While The Commitments is an immensely quotable film, that line to me has always felt like a testament to a long forgotten phenomenon. Modern life thrives on routine, modern living is done squarely within the comfort zone, and these days spontaneous gigs sound like a foreign concept unless you’re in the big leagues and just fancy messing with people. But then the message came through loud and clear that a little pop-up gig was occurring; a showcase of some of the finest local talent, at the delightfully cool and quirky Cafe Indie. This was very much a new experience for me and not one that I was inclined to miss!
Drawing a good sized crowd considering how short notice it was, local four piece Weirdwolf were up first. They were immediately reminiscent of Mastodon with their first couple of songs, shifting between raw and aggressive riffs, to drawn out and doom laden tones like the calls of some lumbering monster. They moved on to more melodic territory, more akin to Queens of the Stone Age, but it felt like constant retuning sadly cut their set a little short. Their as yet untitled new song (with the temporary moniker of ‘Double Rainbow’) brought their set to a close. It proved to be their most complex and progressive undertaking of the night and was right up my street, a real delight of a band to discover on your doorstep.
Our recent Spotlight band The Claxbys were up next, serving up tracks from their new EP Osnabruck. The trouble with bands just starting out is that the early studio releases rarely tend to capture their live energy. As the release was of a high standard I thought they were one of the exceptions to the rule, but they had so much more to offer in a live setting. Their fired up indie was a real crowd-pleaser. The three piece were as tight as they come, keeping pace with each other while still each having their own moment in the spotlight. The highlight of their set was undoubtedly the glorious, albeit far too brief, drum solo. I’m a sucker for quality drum work and it was actually one of the most engaging solos I’ve heard in a good while.
The Last Hearts brought the night to a close, but not before they were introduced by a local graffiti artist and poet. His spoken word intro; a scathing critique of religion, the monarchy and the Prime Minister, set the tone and helped build an air of tension before the band really kicked things off. Theirs was the most diverse and eclectic set of the evening. ‘Black Widow’ had all the hallmarks of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ brought out their post-hardcore influences as the bassist sang lead vocals, while their new single ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’ showed fantastic light and shade. The verses saw them at their most restrained and atmospheric, while the chorus had the three piece firing on all cylinders.
The energy onstage was off the charts. The frontman darted about the small stage like a man possessed, and the final song of the night saw guitars and mic stands strewn out on the floor amongst the crowd. I’ve rarely seen a band perform with such vigour, but The Last Hearts played like it was their last foray before the end of days. I found my spirits lifted, not only by the fact that I’d stumbled upon such talented new bands, but that I’d rediscovered a side to music culture that I’d thought long extinct. I feel heartened by the fact that other guerrilla gigs are likely on the go across the nation, right under our very noses. In these troubled times, where music is often the sole voice of solace and reason, we need spontaneous sets like this in our grassroots venues now more than ever. Based on this first experience I say bring it on!