I’ve been looking forward to this particular gig for well over a month. Having seen Crimewolf more times than I can actually remember this year already, and having never seen Pet Crow before, I’d bought my ticket ages ago. A bit of a testament to the local music scene that the support bands were the draw for me tonight. I mentioned I was going in passing to a few friends who then educated me in the ways of Listener. Good stuff. But can any of them live up to the expectation live?
The Hairy Dog on a Thursday. Weekday gigs can be a challenge for any band, the audience tired from a working week, having clocked off and eaten less than three hours before Crimewolf fire up.
An attentive and sedate audience, it’s all very civil for the first half of the set. Technically flawless as a band, the smiles from their master percussionist to the bassist during the semi-improvised drumming that leads into the start of the second song is always worth looking out for. Hints of loose structure dropped into tight prediction across the whole set. Tempo rises soon enough and Chris Tree’s manic guitar work wakes everybody with a particular bonkers riff that has his fingers oscillating across the fret board like a one man relay without no finish line.
Culleton treads a fine line of sarcasm, smiles and compliment throughout, and succeeds in dragging the audience closer; a sure positive knock-on effect for the bands that follow. They’ve been in the studio of recent and if their live efforts are anything to go by then that will be a worthy acquisition.
Recently nominated for a ‘Her’cury Music Award, Pet Crow are clearly ready to show Derby why they deserve it. Drawing loosely on the new wave/no wave scene from the early nineties, Danielle‘s drawl is like a much more palatable Kim Gordon, hints of Ladyhawke’s Phillipa Brown; and the crowd are appreciative as she does it so much better.
Solid rounded bass punching along steadily to minimal guitar, fast hi-hat work to a steady pulse, there’s a lot of space and room to breathe in these songs which makes a pleasant change to hear a band allow that dynamic to exist rather than opting for a wall of distortion. A very relaxed performance, it’s like watching a genuine garage band as the band mainly play for and to each other, only turning to the audience in order to chat to them between songs. And lots of chat and smiles there are. Jumpers for goalposts and all that. Cheery misery pop with strong backing vocals and a salutable amount of cow bell. Their new single How Are You Wired? is out this week while they released debut album A Simple Guide To Small And Medium Pond Life on local label Reckless Yes earlier this year.
There’s always mild trepidation when you see an American band doing the whole “Go Team!” thing. From a British perspective there isn’t enough tea and we’re not entirely sure whether to pretend we haven’t seen it, or to cheer as well. “Nothing bad can happen!” comes their collective shout and they take their places.
Listener have been on the receiving end of a bit of bad luck over here. At a gig in Birmingham they had phones and passports stolen whilst on stage (the knock on emotional effect seen tonight as Dan Smith’s rucksack is right beside him throughout the set). A GoFundMe campaign was set up whilst they were at ArcTanGent and by the time they’d got back to check how it was going it had smashed its target. It would be understandable if the entire affair in general had soured them slightly to the UK run of gigs, but these guys are utterly resilient and it is truly wonderful to see such an approach.
Dan’s vocals live contain the exact same power that he puts into the recordings, but live you get to see the rend on his face and spasmodic torso jerks he performs in order get particular inflections out of his body which he consistently maintains for the entire set, completely barefoot like some glorious savant toddler. Energy is high from the first song as the singer-bassist throws himself around the stage, sweat arcing in the light like an Uzi strafing under room clearance orders, and it isn’t until around four or five songs in that they first address the audience directly. He introduces the rest of his band; Jon Terry on the ‘Wizard’s Rod’ who is both placid and committed throughout, and Kris Rochelle on the ‘Devil’s Kettles’, crisp and tight.
The delicacy of the quieter introductions to songs is so deafening you could hear a pin drop onto the carpet. Recent new song There’s Money In The Walls has the whole room captivated with its thin guitar melody and stripped chords washed in Cathedral reverb before everything kicks in full tilt.
The set draws to a close with a wave of humble thanks and appreciation of the bands, the venue and quite impressively a massive plug for the Dirty Fingers coffee shop upstairs. Clearly Derby and The Hairy Dog has made a positive impression on them.
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