Seatbelts, Strawberry Guy, Sara Wolff, Roy: 81 Renshaw Street, Liverpool



Seatbelts topped the bill at a high quality venue, Getintothis’ Steven Doherty enjoys a high quality Friday night out.

First time at this venue, and it’s easy to see why it’s so highly thought of local circles and managing to attract some big names.

Small but perfectly formed with a great sound, the sort of place that there needs to be a lot more of in this city.

Tonight promises a headliner in the ascendancy, flanked by two supports being talked about in favourable term. Little wonder then that it is sold out, even on a night of stiff competition for the live musical dollar.

First up tonight, Sara Wolff.

First encountered at a Deep Cuts night late last year, she stole the show that night with her naïve and charming set and it was intriguing to see whether this would work on a second viewing.

Sara and her band seem to be feeling the cold, shivering onto the stage, but don’t take long to warm themselves and the crowd gathering early to see them.

Cotton Socks and Hands are two early examples of what seems to be a lesson in creating effortless, already fully-formed pop songs.

The songs are full of coy understatement without ever being twee, and in parts bring to mind a Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci or a (of all things) Crowded House element of simple, crafted lilting loveliness.

Scarf Song sounds like a hit single in waiting, with it’s catchy, yet disturbing, chorus. An absolute delight.

Strawberry Guy (aka Alex Stephens) while not playing live with The Orielles, is a purveyor of dream-like lo-fi pop. In essence a solo project, he has expanded the line-up in order to play live and tonight this has mixed results.

What Would I Do is an early highlight, with it’s Ben Folds feel to it, and the ever-increasing crowd are starting to bop along. However, towards the latter stages of the set, the band start to overpower the material somewhat, and it starts to lose its subtlety, resulting in a stodgy feel to the set closers.

Given time though, they will get closer to the recorded versions, so we look forward to that.

Instead of a faceless DJ playing unfamiliar tunes as is the usual, we instead are treated to some spoken-word from local story-telling institution Roy, who regales us with two separate disturbing tales of the sometimes horrific nature of being.

Multiple wins for Alffa and Gwilym at Gwobrau’r Selar 2019 Welsh language music awards

The Scouse references add light and shade (shade, mostly due to the subject matter of the stories), the quality of the humour in the writing shining through. Always a good sign, when the audience are silent and captivated, some bands don’t even get that level of concentration. I implore you to check him out on Twitter – @badwool9.

Seatbelts arrive on stage with a tangible sense of purpose. It’s their first gig for a little while and they look energised. They storm into A World Drained Of Wonder and that storm doesn’t let up, their Talking Heads-esque sound gets the sold-out crowd really moving.

They seem invigorated by their new material (their latest single Spanish Songs was released today) which gives an added confidence to the older stuff too, especially tonight on Hey Hey Tiger which sounded huger than ever in this small room.

They end with Content Crush and then proceed to film the video for their new single here, hopefully this will capture the self-belief that has been in spades throughout their set. It is heartening to see a Merseyside band so obviously on the up.

Images by Getintothis’ Marty Saleh