Long Live Rock & Roll Anniversary Live Review

Fortune Drive & Ed Hicks images by Natalie Tzitzas
The Kooks image by Stuart Leech

During that week I saw 7 gigs in 4 Southampton venues hosting no less than 22 bands. So let’s start at the beginning. Cathode Ray Mission have the honour of opening the celebrations. Yes, they have some good musical ideas, but they’re not thought out well enough, or practiced enough, to be very effective. There are some serious timing issues that don’t help and, despite their obvious enjoyment, they provide a slightly disappointing start. Fortune Drive make a mends by following with an impressive set. Their solid, thumping indie rock is finished off perfectly by the cool, distinct lead vocal. The Noisettes close with a unique and energetic brand of stripped-down, poetic indie. They’re at their best when it’s kept simple, which is about 50% of the time, but they get the award for most bemusing finish - ending with a quick rendition of ‘How Much Is That Doggy In The Window’. Sunday night sees an increase in acts and also their quality. Penny Arcade have a nice, bass-driven sound but do little more than the warm-up job expected of them - not that you need to be warmed up to appreciate the genius of Edward J. Hicks. Animated, obviously painstakingly practiced and just plain talented; his songs and delivery are both unique and mesmerising. The Kings Shilling come across as a bit of a thrown together bunch – they don’t all seem to know how the songs go, all of the time – but that doesn’t make them un-enjoyable. They play nice, acoustic songs but a bit more polish would make them much better. For one thing, the singer doesn’t always sing into the mic and is occasionally inaudible. Hijera are much more solid and build their songs subtly, with good vocal delivery. Funky drums and bass, some bongos and a splash of kazoo all add to their sound, making them a band I will be very much looking out for in the future.

Jamie T’s friends have come down from London for the night – apparently to shout abuse at him between songs. He doesn’t seem too bothered and plays his simple, bass-drenched songs with confidence. Another purveyor of narrative-driven music, his vocal delivery is amazingly similar to that of the industry’s current wank-material Arctic Monkeys. I say amazingly because Jamie T’s stomping ground (London) is nowhere near theirs (Sheffield), yet there’s a Northern lilt to his voice. Tuesday sees the week really get going with The Kooks. Support from The Automatic provides adequate warm-up but the night is really about the Brighton four-piece. With presence, style and, most importantly, good songs, The Kooks are a definite highlight of the week. Wednesday night tries to maintain Tuesday’s momentum with two live acts and a nostalgic Brit-Pop theme. Steve The Model nervously starts proceedings, spending the time between songs claiming he ‘doesn’t care’ what we think and generally playing down his performance. And rightly so – it was awful. Out of tune, forced and without any obvious song-writing talent. It’s the worst act of the week. SixNationState do their best in the poor, cramped performing conditions and deliver an entertaining, energetic set. They even manage to get a good sound – something I thought impossible in the cavernous hole that is ‘downstairs at the Rhino’. Long Live Rock and Roll have three bands lined up for Thursday. The Spinouts are a strange band to watch. The rhythm guitarist is deep in concentration, the bassist looks bored and the drummer lacks sparkle. The singer/lead guitarist is full of energy and enthusiasm for the songs, which seem to lack much to enthuse about. It’s a bit like watching an eager dad who has forced his kids to play along with him. Echobeat are more fun and their music has much more meat. A lack of enthusiasm from the crowd shouldn’t have put them off as much as it seemed to. Their chunky guitar riffs and general ‘rock vibe’ were just what was needed. Metro Riots close the night and live up to the hype with their fast, slightly manic songs.

Aside from The Kooks, Friday night is really the pinnacle of the Long Live Rock and Roll celebrations - a free gig at The Joiners to launch Sine Star Project’s first album ('Blue Born Earth Boy') has the place busier than I’ve ever seen it. Katherine Hewitt provides the soundtrack as the place rapidly fills. Her voice is sweet and smooth and her piano playing sultry and emotive. It is, however, for these very reasons, quite samey. But it's enjoyable none the less. Thomas Tantrum follow with a set of fairly average songs that inspire me to make no further comment. Black Star Crash have a similar effect, despite having more of an edge to them. With good vocals, sharp rhythm from bass and drums and a tight performance overall, they fall into the same trap that so many bands do – they’re nothing more than just ‘OK’. Sine Star Project break that mould, thankfully, and provide yet another highlight of the week. Their performance has a haunting darkness to it and creates an atmosphere that draws you further into their music. Precise, anthemic and at times it's pained; uniquely beautiful. Saturday finishes the somewhat exhausting (for me) week off, starting with Dirty Violet who look like four students practising in their bedroom. Not a good look, but their sound is slightly better... though not terribly exciting. The Alaskan Pipeline follow with soaring vocals and delicately built songs that flow along nicely, increasingly resonant. They have been described to me as the ‘Local Coldplay’ (although, since Coldplay’s drummer is also from Southampton, I do recognise the slight irony there) and I can see what they mean. It’s good stuff but, like Coldplay, it’s all very alike and, after a couple of songs, actually quite boring. The Bright Space finish the night, and the week. They’re obviously and unapologetically very ‘indie’ but they manage it, where so many others don’t, with a certain edge that makes them just that little bit more listenable and watchable. A fitting end to a week that has left me in no doubt of two things:

1. Long Live Rock and Roll are very good at what they do

2. I don’t want to review a gig again for quite a while.