Sunday, 19 October 2008

Giro Junkie/ The Nanateas/ Nemo/ The New Subterraneans @ The Glebe, Stoke. October 17th.

Review by Danny Hill

Photos by Darren Washington

It’s hard to imagine that in a few short months from now The Glebe, a brilliant pub and live music venue, will soon be under the city council’s control. Gone will be the pub’s pool table, its huge, impressive PA system and stage, and replacing it will sit office workers, bored-looking, clock-watching, form-filling and sipping water from plastic cups, the soft hum of an air-conditioning generator, clacking keyboards and stretching limbs the only sounds to permeate the almost oppressive silence. All in all, a dazzling contrast from what The Glebe will be remembered by: evenings of raucous laughter, of celebration, drunken hysteria, fun and frolics and, most importantly, the music it provides.

Nights like last night, for example.

Introduced jovially by compère The Trent Vale Poet, the first act on last night’s bill was acoustic act and singer-songwriter Giro Junkie, otherwise known as Rich Bloor, with his (as yet) short collection of songs, taken from his recently released EP “If you feel like working… sit down, it’ll pass.” Bloor excitedly hopped onto the stage, and the first noticeable thing is the lad’s summery temperament and instinctive rapport with his audience. Cheerfully joking and bobbing up and down on his stool, he didn’t waste any time getting down to business. His songs included ‘One Ballache After Another’ and ’Slavery Was Never Abolished.’ ‘Confiscate The Hippies’ has shades of Weller’s choppy rhythms and ‘Novemtree‘ is perhaps a little more Lennon-esque in its heartfelt sincerity. He also included a new song ‘Prescription Smile’ with its lyrics concerning drug abuse. Lyrically, Giro Junkie’s songs are socially conscious and with a fair amount of congenital working-class wit to boot. Giro Junkie is clearly on the side of the common man. Musically his right handed fingers sought a number of complex chord progressions as his left beat out some engaging, foot-tapping rhythm patterns.

Bloor himself refers to his style as ’second-hand junk songs,’ but the thought-provoking and sometimes poignant lyrics he provides are irrefutably folk. Last night, Bloor improved throughout each song, so much that it was a shame to see him leave the stage. By the end of a comparatively short set he had held people’s attentions for a good space of time. On his MySpace profile Giro Junkie sets out plans to move further afield and get a band together, as well as producing an album. With such raw creativity and ideas, and of being such a young age, he’s certainly an artist to look out for in the future.

The Nanateas are one of those bands that, when you eventually come to hear their songs, you kick yourself for not having listened to them before. Quite simply, one of my newest favourite Stoke bands. The beauty of The Nanateas is all in their simplicity: a trio, one vocalist/ acoustic guitarist in Andy, one bass player/ backing vocalist Dan and drummer Ang. No clever effects or quirky gimmicks here, just a collection of quite brilliant songs. They opened their set with ‘Street-lamp Life,’ raw, infectious and anthemic, reminiscent of early Travis in their ‘Happy’ days, before commercial mediocrity loomed. To their merit, The Nanateas have very quickly discovered that simplicity combined with melody memorable songs do make. As testimony to this, the tra-la-la-la-la choruses of ‘Three Cheers For The Lonely’ and the catchy ‘She’s Got A Light On’ soon have the crowd to their feet, nodding heads appreciatively. Andy’s vocals bring Elvis Costello to mind, but bouncier, with added exuberance. New song ‘Deidre’ soon follows, as well as an impressive rendition of Radiohead’s ‘There There.’

Nemo are a band that really need no introduction. As bassist Lee Goodfellow, drummer Kramer Caldwell, guitarist Paul Hancock took to the stage, to great applause, lead singer Andy Harrison cried: ‘We are Nemo and this is what we do!’ before bursting into the sheer frenzied electric-riffery of User.

If live gigs were family weddings, Nemo represent everyone’s favourite mischievous uncle, pint of ale in one hand, his tie loose and shirt unbuttoned, drunkenly leering at anything in a short skirt under the age of twenty-five and flashing his bare arse at anybody who dare take offence. ‘In the next referendum vote rock ‘n’ roll!’ screamed Andy. ‘Because what’s anyone else gonna do for yer?’

Nemo are in their element when performing Desmond Says, a swirling guitar loop and screaming vocal performance that epitomises everything that Nemo are about, and, of course, with customary assistance from the pith-helmet wearing mascot, Uncle Drew. There were a few birthday cheers for a number of people in The Glebe last night, including Nemo’s own lead-guitarist Paul and the tireless band promoter, Jotty, and Nemo were the band to deliver their three cheers.

The New Subterraneans announced this was to be their first gig in eighteen months, and given their sound and tuning difficulties at the beginning of their set it was a wonder if they were ever going to get started at all. But just as the crowd were beginning to grow restless, the band begin, bursting into almost deafening noise with 'Whippin’ Boy'.

I was speaking with bassist Graeme outside the venue and was witness to one of the most surreal and craziest characters I have ever met since reviewing for Stoke Sounds. At one point I’m sure I saw him swallow a whole cigar! But this is the mindset of The New Subterraneans, the punk ideology, still as alive today as it was all those years ago during the ‘70s. Stalwart ambassadors of the punk movement as they are, it’s would be obvious to draw comparisons from their style to bands like The Clash, The Buzzcocks or The Sex Pistols, but that would be too easy.

After a shaky warm-up The New Subterraneans, wearing suits and ties, were soon into their stride, playing old favourite, ‘Lost’, an anthemic crowd-pleaser, with bassist/ backing vocalist Graeme and drummer Andy in particularly animated form, while lead-singer/guitarist Gary played and sang with a youthful vigour.

If there’s one thing that needs reinforcing here, The New Subterraneans are loud (so much so that I hastily retreated to the back of the room), and in true punk fashion they don’t care who their thunderous music or sometimes brusque comments towards their audience offends. They continued their set with ‘Vicious Noise’, a song aptly titled for what it was. Out Of My Head soon followed, as well as crowd favourite ‘Better Move’. Witnessing such intensity left me feeling both elation and well worth exhaustion; which, in retrospect, is entirely what The New Subs always set out exclusively to do. So fair play to ‘em.

The night wouldn’t be over, however, for a mass-sing-along, as all of the artists and bands that featured tonight (including The Trent Vale Poet) united on stage for one last song. Everyone is having a good time, in good company, and there’s not one swivel chair or piece of electrical office equipment in sight.


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