There are two ways in which a band will keep you out late on a chilly winter’s night. The first is loyalty: being one of those bands you just adore, knowing they’ll put on a good show and keep you entertained. The second is to catch you when you’re already out and draw you in for more by simply being brilliant. Often the second comes first.
In the case of this week’s Sesh, I was drawn out by loyalty. My first Sesh of 2015 featured two bands I have not seen previously and one I’m rather attached to. I’ve written quite a lot about Streaming Lights, admitting my reservations when first introduced to them years ago, and then my falling for their charms.
And so, this Tuesday, I stepped out into the cold air and made my way down to the Polar Bear. Meeting with my Browse comrades – Paul and Luke with their cameras, and Darren reviewing for the mag – I was rather giddy.
I arrived, as I often do, during the soundcheck for the opening band, Magic Carpet Factory. Lead singer, Adam Desforges, stepped up to the mic, a guitar around him and a maraca in his hand. Turning to Paul, I joked that they “had me at maracas”, having previously got quite anxious when Black Delta Movement hadn’t played my favourite tune ‘Butterfly’ (featuring maracas). We chatted quietly through their soundcheck, growing louder as the music over the system came on. The audience grew too; the room becoming busy but not heaving.
The joke turned more serious as the band started their set with a bass beat from the drums coursing through the veins of the crowd. Hiked up by the guitars, the music cradled Desforge’s voice. I struggled throughout the night to say who they reminded me of, having a rather classic indie rock sound – enjoyable easy listening which got our feet tapping. I particularly enjoyed their song ‘Midnight Kiss’ which has catchy lyrics I felt I could sing along to. An ideal warming opener, especially as I anticipated the energetic set to come.
Paul’s verdict on Magic Carpet Ride was that they were ‘very good’, giving them both thumbs up (again demonstrating why he doesn’t write the reviews).
And The Hangnails from York took to the stage next. They had been highly recommended by Black Delta Movement, who they have seen and played along previously, and so I expected a similar sound from the two men and their instruments.
Being a duo, I was quickly impressed with the power they created on stage. Martyn Fillingham, on guitar and vocals, and Steven Reid, on drums, performed with as much energy and presence as a larger band, pulling the crowd forward. I was just getting used to their sound, when Fillingham stepped up the vocals, screaming the lyrics into the mic and hooking us in once again as we became comfortable and enticing anyone not already knee-deep in their sound.
And again, as I got used to this faster rhythm and increased volume, they altered the tempo and brought everything down to allow us to focus on Fillingham’s voice during a calm moment.
They demonstrated a professionalism which many Hull bands can learn from. Two men on stage, captivating the audience with such precision, making those alterations when we’d just begun to attach a specific sound to their name. This short set was a collection of their songs, including some newer ones, which demonstrated their diversity as musicians. We’d been talking only earlier in the night about how bands we’d grown up with had lost our favour because they’d changed their style, moving on when we weren’t prepared to. I’d commented that one thing I love about the Manic Street Preachers is that they have adapted to move with the times, developing their own style to suit them as they change through the course of life, admitting that there are albums I rarely listen to but adore simply because they are theirs. With And The Hangnail, this worked to keep the audience fresh.
Their last song was a full showcase of their talent, starting heavy and powerful, then mellowing to a rhythmic drumbeat and simple chords, ensuring the Fillingham’s voice was a fierce focal point on the stage, before jumping straight up again and concluding loudly.
Paul’s verdict on And The Hangnails was a difficult one. Having not considered that he’d already used up both of his thumbs, he settled with doubling up in order to offer four thumbs.
I knew he’d struggle further with the headlining band, as we’d both come out to see them and had been sat with them for a proportion of the night.
Playing tracks for their album ‘Kick’, as well as one of their “rocky ones from back in the day”, Streaming Lights performed with the energy and excitement I have come to expect from them. All three – Steve Minns on guitar and lead vocals, Ryan Gibbins on bass, and Chris Flynn on drums – were smiling throughout the set, at each other and out into the crowd. The sheer enjoyment of being on stage filtered through the room, and people stepped forward to dance in front of them.
It’s difficult not to repeat myself when reviewing a band I’ve seen recently before or spent time with. Streaming Lights put on a show as only they do, chatting with each other and the crowd, posing for pictures when the camera came around and throwing themselves about the stage.
I have said before that it’s saddened me to see them play to scattered crowds. The last time I’d seen them, they’d played during a meal at a charity ball, giving the energy to their music but not receiving much back as their audience was more interested in the food. They’d agreed that it was difficult to engage with this crowd. But this was not an issue as they headlined the Sesh, with eager fans moving and singing along. Yet, their banter was mostly negative. However laced with sarcasm, it struck me that if they are to knock themselves down then it offers others the opportunity.
I am a fan of Streaming Lights. I like that their sound is different – something you may not engage with straight away, but which grows on you quickly. I like their silliness, their drunken performances which are still perfectly executed. Though Steve consistently questioned Ryan as to which song was next, they launched into each song as a team and played them all with the velvetiness of their mastered tracks. I like that they are so energetic and eager, on and off stage.
Paul’s verdict was five thumbs up, though this was slightly biased and mostly based on his previous use of the system.
Overall, it was a fantastic night. I left the house giddy with anticipation, knowing it would be a good night. Magic Carpet Factory were really enjoyable. And The Hangnails had be hooked throughout, dragging me in if lethargy even winked in my direction. Streaming Lights were as wonderful as I could expect. I left The Polar Bear buzzing with the energy of the night, convinced that it was somewhat warmer.