Tuesday, 22 April 2008

At the Battle of the Bands with Captain Yange/Paperpushers/The Filthy Souls/Kaseno @ Walkabout, Manchester. April 20th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

There was an air of good humoured optimism about Captain Yange when we travelled with them to Manchester last Sunday evening for the semi-final of the Jack Daniels Soundcheck ‘Battle of the Bands’; organised by the national chain of Australia-themed Walkabout bars. This particular very extensive branch situated just off Deansgate, there were four contenders up for judgement, due to two of the original six bands failing to turn up.

The announcer/soundman insisting on calling them ‘Captain Yan’ or ‘Yang’ throughout the evening, despite drummer Paul Murfin’s unheeded efforts between numbers to correct him, the band were elected first on. Beginning with ‘Fuse’, with its grippingly crunchy riff, which is about as good an opening number as you’re likely to get, the band played a cracking four song set; following up with ‘Chemical’, the ethereal ‘Calmoceans’ and finally the more up-tempo ‘Find Myself Again’. Coming offstage to suitably big applause from a surprisingly small, but enthusiastic audience, the band settled themselves down to watch the competition.

Paperpushers come from Leeds and have a different style altogether from Captain Yange. A six-piece band, they play what could collectively be called simply dance music, but the ingredients are complex; taking in disco, funk, jazz, two-tone, honest to goodness pop and soul with added shades of indie rock and reggae. They obviously love to play and their joyfully infectious enthusiasm is reflected in their excellent songs; of which, on this single hearing, ‘Clockwatching’ struck me as the most memorable. Vocalist Sarah Wassal has the most exquisitely full-bodied silky voice and the whole band gets on down, so to speak, with a most energetic fervour. Guitarist Nick Long boings around the stage like he’s having the time of his life and it is this sort of attitude that gets the punters up and dancing and up and dancing they certainly were. Finishing their act to wild applause, we all agreed that competition, at least in this quarter, was going to be stiff.

Seemingly played at at least 5000 watts for some baffling reason, the maddeningly deafening music coming from the sound system during the intervals made a flustered mime artist out of everybody present; the soundman responsible obliviously walking around with earplugs firmly and obviously inserted in his head only adding to the almost painful mystery. The veritable oasis from the racket provided by the next band on came as a welcome relief; the groups themselves playing at a far more comfortable volume.

The oasis itself coming in the form of The Filthy Souls, a quartet from Wigan. Seemingly a little self-conscious, but suitably attired and hair-styled in the very latest rock star manner, their set sounded a long, long way from the North of England; more like they had just flown in from sunny California. Boasting an unusual (for these days) Gretsch guitar and a Telecaster, they produced a very agreeable West Coast-ish guitar sound, but didn’t really do much with it; the main focus of their pedestrian performance seeming to centre on the lead vocals of frontman Dave Green. A reasonably passionate singer, his vocal powers where somewhat hindered at one point by his peculiar insistence in walking around the stage with a half-full beer bottle sticking horizontally out of his mouth while his hands were occupied with his guitar. Easily the gutsiest song of the set, their closing number featured a shrieking and yelling Green coming down off the stage and eyebrow-raisingly giving his unfortunate guitar a good bashing with the microphone before chucking the blameless instrument to the floor. Very much looking the part though, it couldn’t be said they were not without a chance.

Once more forced to endure the torturously eardrum-cracking interval music, it seemed that last act Kaseno couldn’t come on quick enough. Indeed, it was hard to tell if the applause greeting them was a genuine welcome or just sheer relief from the aural onslaught.

Hailing from Blackpool, it seemed to me that confident-to-excess frontman Lucan couldn’t possibly have come from anywhere else. A natural entertainer, he was in amongst the audience from almost the word go. Seeming to have a variety of voices, although personally I reckon he should drop the strangled metallish one he began with, he found form on the second number, the more restrained ‘Wardance’. Toothily smiling and grinning constantly, he dances, leaps, struts and generally appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself. Lively drummer Dave Dawson makes himself very much seen, while guitarist Carl Taylor seemingly does little playing-wise to attract much attention at all; the most I could I could recall of him at the end being his changing of guitar. Rubber-bodied bass player Rick Dawson bends about all over the place and very much gives the impression he believes he is in some top-notch heavy metal outfit, whilst in reality Kaseno are not too far removed from a weighty cabaret act. They have some good songs though, and the last, ‘Dreams’ is a very good song indeed.

Who won?


Taking any disappointment in their stride, Captain Yange’s Paul, Si Waite and Scott Ralph shook hands with the jubilant winners and wished them all the best at the finals in London on May 1st.

On the way home, all agreed that it had a been an enjoyable and fun night. Except for the interval music. My ears didn’t stop ringing until Tuesday.

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