Over the past two days I've been at two gigs and seen six bands - four of whom I'd never heard of before. On Thursday, The Castle Hotel (first time at this venue) hosted @Dog_Is_Dead with the @ColdOneHundred and the @CollectableFew in support, while @TheWombats with support from @GetPeople and Zen Arcade (who, if the have a web presence is drowned out by a popular album - this may be their 'Coming Soon' page) ravaged Manchester Academy on Friday.
The Castle Hotel puts on gigs in a tiny little back room which is probably smaller than the waiting room at work. With the band spilling off the stage onto the normal floor. This actually presents an odd problem... with no stage or barrier to mark the limits, the crowd left a nice respectable gap... and had to get called forward so that more people could fit in at the back - it was a bit like being on a train "Would revellers please move all the way to the front and away from the doors, we apologise for the small formation of the gig, but the second room has broken down and is being repaired". I don't know, but I think it also affected the rowdiness of the crowd - we were all very civilised.
But it was a good gig. Local band, The Cold One Hundred opened the evening with a lively performance. My initial thoughts on hearing the lead singer's voice was that he had got lost on the way to a Hurts audition. Not sure that comes across as much in the recordings on their myspace, and the rest of the band is not Hurts-like at all. They were a lot of fun and I certainly wouldn't be upset to see them again when I know some of their stuff a bit better (I'm currently chair dancing to Hedonist 8-).
The Collectable Few, from London, kept us going. Again, not a bad band at all. I'd managed to work around the various issues regarding playing things to listen to a couple before going so I felt good being able to sing along to the chorus of Headstrong.
Dog Is Dead are a bad I first came across at Dot-to-Dot last year. They hail from my birth town of Nottingham and they have a sax player. I'm sure I've mentioned before that an almost sure-fire way of getting me to love your band is to use an odd instrument - i.e. not guitar, bass, keyboard or drums. Starting their set accapella did seem to confuse some people who insisted on talking through the very start of it but it kick started a wonderful set marred only by the, IMO, underuse of the sax and the lack of Zoo in the set list.
Friday night, as mentioned earlier, was The Wombats. I saw them at The Static Gallery in Liverpool towards the end of last year and they are one hell of a fun band. This time was the rather larger Academy 1. Queuing to get in I felt depressingly old... youngsters talking about looking forward to being a student and comparing fake IDs. And talking about how middle aged Blur fans can't like Florence and The Machine or Klaxons.. .thankfully I'm a wee way off middle age, but really, Blur and Florence are mutually exclusive? Who made up that damn stupid rule?
But oh god, the energy they brought. It's time for another Hurts comparison here I'm afraid... At the Hurts gig there were a lot of first timers complaining about the waiting and suggesting it would be better to just put the album on in their bed rooms. Here they were cheering the techies. They brought such wonderful positive energy to the gig. They crowded to the front and help create a wonderful atmosphere. This is what crowds should be.
However, one word for the Skins generation - if you find yourself forming a circle there had better be a damn good reason... like an ironic cover of Come on Eileen or New York New York. Or The Hokey Kokey. Using up space and pushing people around is not cool. OK? And on a more general note, no, you and your fifteen friends cannot fit in that six square inch gap I'm dancing in...
The support here did exactly what they were meant to do. I thought that first act Zen Arcade were a band I had somehow missed as the reaction to them was huge for a first support act. A quick internet search suggests not - although they do appear to have a myspace page. This crowd were buzzing. And they were good... the songs were easy to sing along to and dance to.
Second act, Get People, again managed to produce a stonking set. They were perhaps the most interesting of the support acts with their samples and technical gimmickry.
And The Wombats... mixing old stuff and new into a wonderful, bouncy indie disco set. But those eyes on the screens at the encore, surprised I didn't have nightmares...
The crowd and venue play a big part in how I judge a gig and the bands. I want to be able to dance and sing along without feeling self conscious. Music is not something that should be experienced while being static. Music should be fun, should be there for you to get your groove on. All the bands were very good for that - but the venues and crowds made a huge difference.
Seriously, if you haven't got tickets for either tour see if you can scrounge them from anywhere and go support the support acts. It's been an excellent two nights for me.