The light filtered through the blinds of the upstairs windows of the Rutland Arms and shone onto the dansettes like it was some sort of Indiepop heaven. And for a few hours, it was. My Little Owl is a new indiepop venture for popkids Vinnie and Markie (aka The Mini Skips) and this inaugural gig was a cracker.
First up was Pete Green, perennial pop purveyor of this parish. You know the one: stripy tops, clever lyrics, guitar held together with stickers (now including Grimbsy’s area dialling code). As the set progressed Pete navigated some deft changes in style and tone from the singalong, crowd-pleasing Best British Band Supported by Shockwaves opener and a neat cover of Martin Solveig’s Hello, to more reflective material from his new album, The Glass Delusion. Pilot Light is a beautiful song and a fine example of his oft-deployed catchy chorus/clever lyrics combo. Pete refers to his more reflective stuff as “sparklegloom” but I prefer fellow Little Owl One performer Daniel’s observation of “knockout w(h)ist”
John T. Angle was a new act for me and her set was a treat. Indiepop is full of the kind of voices that you would trade your right arm for and her voice definitely falls into this category (sadly my right arm is very useful for things like lifting alcoholic beverages so I’m stuck with my unremarkable tonsils for now). By the end of her set there was a tear in my eye. I hope we’ll see her again at future gigs in Sheff.
I’m fairly certain that The French Defence is the first indiepop act that I saw live, in the very same venue. If you have the Indietracks compliation album (and if not, why not?) you’ll be familiar with its lovely opening number If You Still Want Him and yes, the rest of The French Defence’s set is that good, if erring a little more on the side of wistful. Indeed, it was mooted at one point that he’d managed to out-wist Pete Green. To be honest, it was too difficult to call, so I vote that the pair of them do some sort of cardigans-at-dawn, wist off outside the merch tent at Indietracks to settle this vital matter of indiepop importance.
Having missed most of their set at Going Up The Country due to my friend’s child need to eat food and play some sort of cricket game app on his mother’s phone, I was pleased to get another chance to watch The Sunbathers. Despite their base in the land-locked East Midlands, their devotion to retaining a seaside vibe makes it hard not to be uplifted. One of the joys of indiepop is the more than occassional appearance of a melodica and The Sunbathers generated several envious glances as they produced not one but two of these marvellous instruments. Anyway, their set was so lovely that I listened intently and let my chip butty go cold.
A short interval treated us to Tonieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’s Wheels of Steel and where else but in an indie pop gig would you hear such forgotten gems as track seven from the acclaimed album Banjo Party Time?
Post-interval and further treats were still to be unleashed. The Mini Skips were a delight, as ever. Mark and Vinnie’s voices work so beautifully together and their cover of the Dean Friedmann classic Lucky Stars is always something to look forward to. New material such as Evil/Shy complements Advice for New Lovers as they deliver their Good Cop/Bad Cop take on romance. Lyrically, bad cop always wins for me. Their sets always leave me with a big soppy grin on face and that night was no exception.
Despite Norbert the Bear’s strop (artistic differences?), Daniel and Norbert Dentressangle played a blinder. As ever, the set was enhanced by Daniel’s superbly deadpan wit. World of Sandwiches – surely the only song about falling in love with one’s future spouse that mentions a delicatessen counter – is joyfully memorable to the point where after only one listen you’re guaranteed to hum it every single time you set foot in a sandwich emporium. Despite, or probably precisely because of its title, the song is wonderfully heartfelt and, like indiepop itself, makes you believe the world can occassionally be good.
The Bees Niece, who hail from Norway via Salford, had a unique sound, which entirely suited the venue and the hour. Employing a range of instruments (including a saw) and influences (British weather, Socialism, Swahili) they deliver something rather magical, poetic and witty. They also delivered possibly my favourite lyric of the night “I didn’t occupy Palestine and neither did my bike” from Stolen Bike. I hope I get a chance to see them again in Sheff soon.
The night’s headliner, Kirsty McGee, delivered a set that was both intimate and powerful in its delivery. Her beautiful song Sandman was featured in the recent Danny Boyle film Trance. Listening to live music in such a small venue can be incredibly moving and such was the haunting power of Kirsty’s voice, I can honestly report that I was in tears for most of it. Sometimes such moments in life are necessary and to cry to such beautiful sounds can feel like a honour.
All in all, a wonderful night. Thanks My Little Owl.
Next up, a review of Macho Music Is Stupid’s recent definitely-nothing-to-do-with-Tramlines-for-legal-purposes frankly stonking all dayer. Hopefully, by which time, I will have discovered how to edit. This post has been lonnnng. Thanks for sticking with it.