A miniature tour! How I love this life! Leicester was a bit of a rush because of the last-minute transport arrangements and all I really saw, apart from sound checks, was Lisa and Mattias's band Syndromet who I think play mainly in Sweden at the moment. They are wise and hilarious people, and excellent musicians as well. In this duo, Mattias plays scorching guitar and Lisa sings and wields drums sticks, dance-drumming while she performs. What a phenomenal energy ball she is! She belted out the songs at full tilt.
What a hard act to follow! Luckily, all the band people on this bill are really supportive and friendly, plus Ruth Po! was there down the front, and we'd had a good chat beforehand. The good chats are part of the fun- I loved her story about Leicester Council in the 1980s interviewing musicians and giving them grants to buy guitars! She got £300 and went off the buy an Epiphone, which eventually became hers after a few years of playing had gone by. Guitars have such stories to tell.
I managed to see one or two of The Science of Words songs before I left. They are a wall of guitar thrash: a high and loud wall- with lead guitar and vocals by Corinne. The sheer volume doesn't detract from the fine songsmithery, and I do like a strong guitar riff. I saw their whole set in Exeter and loved them.
Ah yes, Exeter next, through the throng at Paddington Station and stuffed into a seat on a very overcrowded train. I checked into my B&B and went for a wander in the town, which has suffered from an awful chain-store invasion. The aliens have landed everywhere: concrete and glass, Primark, H&M, chains of coffee shops and mobile phone shops. In some locations these abominations have died a death, but this one was quite busy. Somehow I missed the lovely park on the other side of it, which I found later while getting lost on the way to the venue. But lovely parks don't make money, do they? Maybe I should create a nice parks guide for touring musicians so they know where to hang out before gigs. I ate at a street food stall and wandered along searching for The Cavern, which is quite tucked away, but a cluster of musicians and amps on the pavement was a good alert to its whereabouts. It's a really funky subterranean venue, and they gave us all a very generous rider of food and drink before we sound checked. It has a good design for a venue, with a stage area and a separate bar and seating part that is adjacent to the stage so you can still hear the music but don't interrupt it if you're chatting.
This was part of a weekend of female-focused music making and I spoke to the woman organiser after the gig. It was such an enterprising thing to do, and I recommended that she should hook up with Loud Women and try to do some exchanges. This night, I was the first one to play and despite some very loud drunken chaps, I managed to hold my own. They felt guilty afterwards and came up to apologise, and one of them gave me a brilliant complement saying that I remind him of Kirsty McColl, and bought a CD, so I forgave them.
The Science of Sound are three guitars, a bass and a drum machine. This night, I heard their full set and really enjoyed their songs. Rocker (the catalyst for so much music at the moment, and a founder member of The Flatmates) told me that they used to be just in instrumental band and that singing is new for Corinne. It works really well though: kind of like a heavier version of Jetstream Pony, sound-wise.
The Flatmates were headlining, and Lisa hit the stage like an energy bomb: they were off! They had a new drummer for this gig, but they sounded well-rehearsed despite this. Underpinned by Rocker's Hammond organ, they roared through their set: new songs, old songs and even some singalongs towards the end. Pure pop, and pure perfect. Lisa is completely engaging as a front person and behind her, Mattias leaps and twists as he plays bass, while at the front Rocker holds the fort and the guitarist jangles with some very appealing chord smithery. Great sound, great band.
Afterwards I walked though the thick mist back to the hotel watching gulls materialise and depart like animated fog-spectres, and contemplating the joys of live performance, dressing-room bantz and indie pop music. Big thanks to Rocker for inviting me along!
The Science of Sound; dressing room (photo by Mattias); The Flatmates