The Captain’s Rest, Glasgow.
1st March 2011.
Another weeknight, another beer, another basement in a pub in Glasgow. Welcome to my life.
First up tonight is Two Zebras. There’s a slight sense of disappointment that there are no zebras on show at all, never mind two of them. At least that doesn’t mean we run the risk of breaking any animal cruelty laws. Two Zebras is instead one man – Danny- his guitar and laptop. Most of the music comes from the laptop, with Danny playing and singing along to something he made earlier. There’s always a risk that when you watch someone play along to a backing track that the attention can wander, or worse leave you with the feeling that you could have just have listened to a record instead. Thankfully Danny has more than enough energy, charisma and between song chatter that he keeps us in the crowd engaged throughout and stops the mind from wandering. An especially good thing for me, since my mind is far too small to be allowed to wander off unsupervised. Decent songs certainly help keep you interested too, and Two Zebras supply enough lo-fi poppy fun in half an hour to keep me happy.
So Many Animal Calls don’t have it particularly easy tonight. A bit of a delayed start due to a wonky mic and a singer with a dodgy throat don’t seem to take their toll too much though as SMAC rattle into their set. I often feel like I’m “too old” for So Many Animal Calls, especially since I don’t much care for a lot of bands that do similar things as them, but there’s a certain something about them that never fails to grab me. They are a charming wee bunch, with minimal egos and a nice line, intentional or not, in self deprecation. When a guitar string goes there’s a meek apology for having no banter to fill the gap as guitars are swapped rather than any tantrums or freak outs, though this also results in me being name-checked from the stage with a plea to not be mean to them in my review, putting my impartiality in the bin. I give them a lot of credit for recovering from the technical hitches as the pick up where they left off without missing a beat, when I’ve seen countless bands lose their composure and confidence entirely when things go against them, and fall apart completely. Material from their forthcoming new EP sounds strong, as does the earlier songs with We Sleep Back To Back still standing out as a highlight. The addition of a forth member to the band recently makes a difference from the earlier gigs I caught when they played as a three piece, giving the band a bigger, fuller sound. For a band arguably having an off night they still played a blinder. So Many Animal Calls might have asked me to be nice, but so long as they keep delivering the goods they don’t need to worry.
Trapped In Kansas are a band I’ve not seen in a while, which might have been a bit of a bonus. Last couple of times I caught Trapped In Kansas things suffered a little bit from over familiarity, through no fault of their own. With new material from a recently completed EP sitting alongside some old favourites I’m given a reminder of what drew me to them in the first place. Being technically excellent often leads to a slightly clinical performance, but there’s no hint of that from Trapped In Kansas tonight, with energy and warmth added to the musical quality. There’s also an eagerness to get loud enough to shake the crowd into motion, brushing off the “math rock” tag for just plain old rock. Older songs sound fresh, while the new ones make an instant impression. This is probably as good as I’ve seen Trapped In Kansas, and a nice refresher of what the band are capable of when they are on their game.
Let’s Buy Happiness are pretty new to my ears, having only given them a quick listen previously. When they swing into action first impressions are good, and nothing that follows changes those impressions. There’s something slightly old fashioned, and right up my street, about the jangly guitars and sweet vocals of Let’s Buy Happiness. Their songs are packed with hooks and melodies that wrap themselves around you, before wiggling into your brain and/or heart. They too seem like a charming bunch of people, with a mixture of sweetness and cheekiness adding a little something extra to their songs. In short, lovely stuff. I might be late to the game on Let’s Buy Happiness, but they did their job tonight by sending me home a fan, with a smile on my face.