It’s a hit and miss affair down in the Baltic Quarter as 24 Kitchen Street hosts Merseyside’s finest up-and-comers, Getintothis’ Patrick Clarke makes sense of it all.
Off the beaten track and somewhat underused, yet perhaps the perfect distillation of the Baltic Quarter’s calculated neo-gritty charms, 24 Kitchen Street is nothing if not an unusual venue, and for Wampire it’s got the crowd to fit.
Filled by half or so this particular evening by a modest mix of the standard circuit regulars schmoozing as ever at the bar, pissed-up middle aged couples getting their drunk-uncle dance on to Bido Lito‘s Craig Pennington‘s magnificent between-band filler and joint-smoking backpackers skulking louchely amid the courtyard, it’s a more ragtag gaggle than usual that lie in wait for the much-hyped Portlanders to seize the tiny stage.
The Vryll Society precede them though for a comfortable opening set that’s solid enough but still left lacking just a little. Charismatic and dynamic they launch headstrong toward sturdy, if a little-by-the book, psych-rock for the most part, but every now-and-then ebb slickly back into a slower, crisper mode that’s nothing short of exceptional.
Their closer Deep Blue Sky for example is simply another level, a steady, swarming concoction of Stone Roses rock ‘n’ roll that sees the band at their best. It’s far from a consistent knock-out, but the occasional flash of brilliance would indicate this society’s still got something special to come.
Getintothis debutantes and the NME‘s latest squeezes RongoRongo follow with a set to boast both talent and unfortunate inexperience. False-starting on near every track in their first-ever helping of the live limelight thanks in no small part to an apparently ungovernable click-track it’s anything but a smooth half-hour. That said this self-proclaimed ‘beta-test’ is still one that succeeds, and that’s thanks to little else than the supremacy of their slender catalogue.
The creeping post-punk grooves of Shiver, for example, translate faultlessly to Kitchen Street‘s faux-desolate concrete confines, once they actually get going that is, while the mutated oscillations of the lengthier Slice of Heart are every bit as lusciously lugubrious live; irregardless of the hitches, then, it’s a set to affirm their early promise.
Inexperience is far from the minds of the ever-impeccable Hooton Tennis Club, however, who are only out to affirm, yet again, why their newly Heavenly-backed star only continues to hurtle topwards with such ebullient effervescence. With minor technical difficulties to start soon overcome it’s not long until their summery infection of pop-infused grunge has wormed its way amid the rabble with joyous nonchalance, elevating the evening to an impeccable height.
Hooton Tennis Club are a very, very good live band, primarily due to nothing more than sheer zeal. The quartet’s particular path of slacker/stoner/surf pop-rock is hardly seldom trodden, yet it’s one done extremely well, and on-stage they’re universally infused with a glee never bordering on grating that’s their songsmithery’s perfect complement; there’s no sullen-looking bassist or self-indulgent drummer to draw away from the complete experience, they’re just exuberant to their heart and soul.
It’s a shame the same can’t be said for Wampire then, who for all their hazy platitudes to an expectant crowd just don’t seem all that bothered to be there. Their set’s by no means a disaster, the genre-bending calibre of tunes themselves still undeniable live, it’s just lacking in anything bordering on enthusiasm.
Eric Phipps drawls interminably between songs about the soundman’s sperm and his craving for a joint with a degree of dopey charm, but in the wake of Hooton Tennis Club‘s no-nonsense euphoria it simply misses the mood.
It’s a patchy affair, but not one without its merits. The Hearse for example is masterfully played, every crevace of their Ariel Pink lo-fi sonics firmly mined, while the sweeter, more doltish country swoons of Life of Luxury is endlessly enjoyable with its delicate jaunts of giddy guitars and delicate piano, which compounds the frustration that they’re simply not backing it up with any energy.
Whether it’s a middling crowd or maybe just too much time with the tourists out the back, then, the sad fact is that the set just doesn’t quite click, and it’s an ever-so-slightly limp conclusion to an affably eccentric evening that overall is still more than a match for its offbeat audience.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Tom Adam