Halfway through Independent Venue Week, Thursday was my first chance to get out and taste something from the diverse menu offered. Arriving a little later than I usually do, I dived into a crowded room, just as the live music was about to start.
Hull’s own, Young Jack were a wonderful warm up act to support the visiting bands. Always charismatic, always full of energy, their music gets any crowd moving. And the crowd were on their feet from the very first song, spilling forward quickly.
Their sound is funky rock, mixing in the up-beat soul rhythms with classic guitar-lead rock. I’ve described the band previously as Rolling Stones meets James Brown. And indeed, the one cover they played was one of his. Their own songs are equally catchy, with a chorus which is easy enough to pick up and sing along to, intermixing powerful instrumentals. They’ve mastered a fantastic sound, though at times it is a sound which seems too old for the young lads: the aural demonstration not quite matching what you see on stage.
Lead vocalist Luke Bowe engaged with the audience at times, suggesting that we “clap along a little bit” to a couple of songs. But overall, a hometown crowd will do this out of loyalty rather than because they are entranced by the music or performance. The bands who followed, both hailing from over the waters, had mastered these showman tricks, taking the stage entirely.
Not the headline band, but sandwiched into the central slot, The Apache Relay were the highlight of the night, for me at least. From Nashville, Tennessee, they describe their sound as indie roots. As with Young Jack, you heard the clear rock sound with the undercurrent of other influences: country, folk and blues. Harmonies sweeping you off your feet, a bass beat getting those feet tapping again, and the stunningly soft and charming voice of Michael Ford Jr.
Ford’s hips were swaying with the music, hypnotising you further as the music drew you forward. A softer sound than the other two bands, I felt the last of the shivering cold from outside warming, as though I were sat before a homely hearth. Starting with a mellow sound, this grew in volume and intensity, demonstrating a range of musical comforts. Though I’d not heard much of their music before the gig, I found I was swaying quite naturally to the sound. It was instantly enjoyable, with my favourite track being the one which concluded the set.
Throughout, Ford was engaging with the audience. He introduced members of his band, announcing that it was drummer Steve Smith’s birthday. Leaning into the crowd, there was conversation which filled the short intervals between songs, complimenting the crowd and venue as he stated that it was an “honour to be playing this legendary venue … you’re beautiful Hull”. And the crowd responded well by shuffling even closer to the stage.
For a Thursday night, the Adelphi was packed – the few yards in front of the stage rammed with feet. Space was tight, making any dance moves minimal. But this is a testament to The New Adelphi Club, an iconic venue in the city.
Headlining band The Weeks took to the stage as everyone shuffled forward yet again. Between bands, people filtered from the front, only to eagerly return to their places. All the way from Jackson, Mississippi, they brought a very classic rock and roll sound.
Again, lead vocalist Cyle Barnes, demonstrated a variety of skills whereby the frontman becomes middleman between the musicians and their listeners. He was also complimentary, announcing at the start of their set that “we’ve been looking forward to this gig”, again calling the people of Hull beautiful (which, of course, we are). There was energy from all members of the band. Due to the increasing surge of the crowd, who seemed to find space which hadn’t been there during the previous acts, I was unable to see much of the stage. However, you could feel the energy flowing back over you, and every now and again Barnes’ would appear as he bounced across the stage. With no instrument, he displayed his enthusiasm for their music by moving around throughout the instrumentals, and leaning into the crowd when at the mic.
The audience didn’t need to be asked to clap along for this band, who are well established on the stage, taking control of the entire room through their natural rapture.
I was comfortable with the sound of all three bands. Though performing different styles of rock, they were equally engaging and enthusiastic. And it was through their demonstration of this that I found I was joining in with the movement of the crowd, whose own excitement seemed to grow with each set.
A long day of drizzle, I had almost been tempted to let the weather put me off. Nothing could lift the spirits on a day in which even the sun hadn’t wanted to grace the skies. Still, LIFE were playing, and I had yet to see new Hull band Vulgarians perform. And, if that wasn’t tempting enough, I was rather excited about seeing Frankie & The Heartstrings on the penultimate night of their IVW Tour.
The Adelphi was comfortably busy. Surrounded by friendly faces, the clinking of glasses and rumble of chatter defied any doubt that it was going to be a good night was quickly dashed.
Vulgarians started the proceedings. Their sound is more metal than rock, with Ryan Wilson-Preen’s deep vocals and powerful instrumentals lead by Tom Morrell’s guitar. I appreciated that you could hear the lyrics, as recently it’s bugged me that live gigs focus more on making noise than allowing the audience to concentrate on the words. That said, it was the instrumentals which held me with Vulgarians. As charismatic as Wilson-Preen is, his voice cannot compete with the lead singers of the bands set to follow him on stage, making them stand out even more as something different. Though stood on the opposite side of the room from him, it was Morrell who had me engaged.
I’m glad Vulgarians are getting the chance to share their music with varied crowds, and as a new band they will have a lot to learn about their own sound and the way in which to work those crowds. Wilson-Preen was on the edge of the stage almost throughout the set, but there still seemed to be something holding him back from directly connecting with the audience. This will come over time, and it is clear this band has what it takes to leap to the next step.
Anyone who’s ever read any of my other reviews of LIFE, knows that I am entirely hypnotised by the band. I can listen to and enjoy pretty much any genre of music, but the sound I really love is exactly which is on their menu: an upbeat, catchy rock sound which encompasses the punk attitude, and blends in an intellectual reflection of popular culture.
Mick Sanders started things off with a few chords on his guitar, before they introduced us to one of their new tracks, ‘Yeah’. Their set consisted of their most popular tracks, as well of some of the newer ones – some entirely new to their fans’ ears – as a taster for the album which they assure us is on the way.
During ‘All Your Friends’, lead vocalist Mez Green-Sanders was out into the crowd, demonstrating his usual passion for engaging directly with their audience. So busy was the venue that he couldn’t get far, but this never stops him from giving his all to the performance. The energy they excrete from the stage is what’s always drawn me to them. And every set contains an element of chaos. I’ve seen many live sets where microphones have fallen apart or fallen over, but never have I seen one accidentally hurled at the cameraman.
With Frankie and The Heartstrings, it’s easy to see where Mez has learned some of his showmanship from – having supported Frankie & The Heartstrings with former band The Neat. Equally upbeat and energetic, front-man Frankie Francis takes the stage by storm. He had the crowd so involved, that they became an additional instrument, clapping in time with the bass even without the need to be instructed.
The banter between band members was as joyful as that between band and audience. Drummer Dave Harper added hilarious jokes throughout the set, demonstrating his knowledge of the city when he asked who was heading to Spiders after the gig. Apparently he once had a ‘dalliance with a lady’ there. A courteous band, they thanked both the venue and supporting acts on more than one occasion; uplifting to hear such praise for our home-grown musicians.
Their songs are mostly upbeat, with such catchy tracks as their single ‘That Girl, That Scene’. The entire room was bouncing, and even though their final song ‘Fragile’ is a little more mellow, the room was a-buzz with discussion about where else to take the night – we were warmed up and, unable to stop the adrenalin from flooding our veins, we were ready for more of the same.
A fast-paced night of entertaining music where the only truly negative I could find was that it had to end so quickly.
Though with a performance that strong, whenever I listen to a song from their setlist, I am able to reignite the music with the visual. A week later, and I am still expecting the room to burst into a flaming chorus of “yep-yeah whoa!”
Reviews were originally written for Browse Magazine Hull.