ELEPHANTS ON WHITBY BEACH

ELEPHANTS ON WHITBY BEACH

Sunday, 16 November 2008

WHITBY NOW PART ONE: FRIDAY NIGHT

This review is actually a work in progress, but I thought I'd post it as it is and add stuff like photos as they become available. I just wanted to get something up on the net as soon as possible. Its a way of saying thanks to everyone involved for a totally superb couple of nights. It all ran like clockwork and everybody was completely chuffed.
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JAMES AUGER kicked off the first ever Whitby Now weekender with an assured set. Despite being the only solo artist in the Friday night running order, his only ammunition being an acoustic guitar and an honest, plaintive voice, his songs filled the room. They reached out and touched people and that surely is the point.
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A song about Gothenberg left me intrigued. What is it about the city that provokes Whitby musicians to write songs about it in their droves? Actually I can only think of two, James and High Tide, but you know. Maybe others will surface and the truth will out.
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Since stumbling across DISCARNATE whilst idly trawling MySpace for Whitby bands, I've been instantly hooked. I think it's because they don't ease you into their world with a nice singalong cover, they just hit you with it. They are unlikely to be invited to play at a wedding.
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I was hoping for an ear shredding set of obliterating guitar mayhem and pitch black growls dragged out of barbed wire vocal cords. I wasn't disappointed.
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People who wouldn't normally be in the same room as a death metal band were at first stunned by the thrill of it all, then gobsmacked at the musicianship on show, and finally won over by the charm of four lads who managed to enter into the community based spirit of the event without ever sacrificing a single iota of credibility.
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You can delve deeper into the heart of Discarnate by reading the Popwatch interview HERE.
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THE SCARLETT ALLIANCE are a two piece inspired by The White Stripes and mirroring their line up of singer-cum-guitarist and drummer. Hell, even Jack's guitar is pillar box red. I don't think he had his famous special shoes on, but they're a sight to behold if you ever get the chance.
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They have some good material and they're developing a sound of their own. Blue Skies is particularly beautiful. Simple and uplifting, if it makes you think of Summer when actually it's the middle of November by the icy North Sea in a dimly lit auditorium drinking lager from a plastic glass, it can't be bad.
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For me they need to let rip and dirty things up sme more. Some songs need a knee in the plums before they give up their secrets. It's hard when there's just two of you against The World, but I like their philosophy of "This is how we're going to do it, and that's it."
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THREE FOOT NINJA passed by like an express train in the night careering along on those glittering indie rails that so many bands have polished in the past.
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As Three Foot Ninja played, a rumour that the Merkins, who were due to go on at 11.30pm as the next to last band, would be without a drummer started to spread around The Spa like a chinese whisper. Harry, their new drummer, and a very fine one at that, was having a problem with the house kit. A soap opera plot was starting to unfold in the usual Merkin way.
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They've been through thick and thin this band, and if you don't believe me read their authorised autobiography HERE. It seemed clear that another controversial chapter would have to be grafted on.
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Any thoughts of despondency were quickly quelled as WASTING CHARLIE took to the stage and pulled off a stunning set. They were obviously enjoying themselves, and that's always infectious. Girls were dancing right up close to the front with their hearts beating like hummingbird's wings. The bass player was all over the shop, up on the drum podium and jumping up and down like nobody's business.
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They were tight and crisp, with an almost sixties guitar sound in a couple of the solos. It's that clean, melodic quality that cuts through the song and lifts it a few notches. I thought they had a lot more punch this time around. Its the best I've seen them play.
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The Kings of Leon have become inexplicably popular lately. Nobody liked them when they sounded like themselves and had an intriguingly scruffy beardy backwoods look. Now they've turned into U2 suddenly they're worth their weight in gold, as a friend pointed out.
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THE COMMITTEE began their set with a version of The Kings of Leons' popular hit tune On Call ( I think, please correct me if I'm wrong) in which a keyboard was used for the first, and possibly only time in the whole concert. Sounded so refreshing to hear an instrument you don't strum or hit for once.
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They played a blinder despite some string related technical difficulties, which I only vaguely noticed myself. Dave the singer seems to think it compromised the set, but it didn't. No one spots stuff like that, it's how you cope with it that counts.
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Their own songs are better than their covers. I Wonder Why has been likened by Jon Horne to Eddie and the Hotrods. Astute as ever, he's spot on. Marvellous.
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Obviously it wouldn't be Whitby Now unless somebody came onstage dressed as a large banana and their fellow band member sported a giant donkey's head. That tradition was upheld this year by PANDA LASAGNE, who are always willing to step into the breech when something hugely daft is required.
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As barmy as a weasel in a teapot, they pummelled out a string of surfbeat scattershots and sweated like Tom Jones on bonfire night. I particularly like the one where someone shouts 'Hey! Hey! Hey!' lots of times. Oh, and the one about that peanut off the Planter's packets with the monocle and the top hat.
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For an insight into Panda Lasagne's somewhat off-centre psyche, there's an audio interview HERE.
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The Merkins were now desperate, trying to contact one of their old drummers and get him to drop what he was doing and rush to the rescue, trying to persuade Kane Waterfield that he could do it, even though he didn't know the songs and was due to play in the band directly before The Merkins, they even toyed with the idea of gigging drummerless! At one point they were asking if any members of the audience would be willing to have their heads shaved and wear a purple stick on beard. It was that desperate.
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James Whale had done a sterling job as compere for the evening, and fellow Yabbas had been in charge of the music between bands, which was better and more appropriate to the acts this year than it's ever been. Now it was YABBADABBADOO's turn to shine, and shine they did, like a 1000 watt light bulb. Within seconds the dancefloor was full of gyrating bodies, and happiness filled the room, and even spread to the smoking area outside. I swear I saw a seagull tapping his feet to that Magic Numbers song.
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The songwriting of THE BANTER is about what they see around them. Not the urban jungles of the inner city, or the pretend americanisms of slick posers. Places such as Helredale and Baxtergate get namechecks. We all populate their songs in a way, because we live there too.
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The Land That Time Forgot is a cracking tune, driven by a wiry guitar riff and Kane's superb drumming. When he stood shirtless on his stool at the end of their set, flinging his sticks far out into the audience, it was the sign of a band at the top of their game.
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Its a good job they weren't asked to do an extra song actually. It would have been a bit quiet.
As all good soap operas do, THE MERKINS' saga came to a redemptive end. Harry relented and played a cracking set. Pug gripped the microphone like his life depended on it and heavy metal rained down on us once more. A disaster had been narrowly averted.
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Unfortunately, as it always does, the audience thinned out a bit around eleven and sadly the band played to less people than their music warranted.
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FIVE X NINE brought proceedings to a searing finale with their sheer driving rock force. Kyle was wound uplike a watchspring and was shouting people up onto the floor. It ended in a whirlwind of flailing guitars and shuddering foundations. Heaven.
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To see FiveX Nine's rather mint video, click HERE.
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Brilliant night!

1 comment:

I I I said...

knew it was coming tonight and glad i stayed up for it. great review chris.