Scared To Get Happy Fest
The Primitives, June Brides, Yeah Yeah Noh, Blue Orchids and others..
Saturday 22nd June 2013
We reviewed the Scared To Get Happy box set a few days ago. Billed as “Story Of Indie-Pop 1980-1989” it’s as complete guide to the early days of what we now know as “indie pop” as you’re likely to find. Many of the bands on the CD came together in London last week for a “box set launch show”. Here’s our review of it.
This gig was the launch of the Cherry Red 5 CD box-set of prime era indiepop (1980 to 1989). Unlike the 2CD sort of re-issue / re-imagining of “C86”, this cast the net much wider than just the twee jangly brigade. Hey, I like that sort of stuff but 10 bands of it would have been too much for me personally. Wisely the people putting together the box set & this gig realised this and leavened the jangle with edgier bands like the Blue Orchids and Yeah Yeah Noh which made for a fantastic evening in a packed 229.
We arrived at the smaller of the two stages of the venue just as Yeah Yeah Noh were going to start. Now, you know when bands you love but who you’ve never seen live come back and they don’t live up to your expectations and it’s all very very disappointing? Well this definitely was NOT one of those occasions – √√x were magical. Starting with a drastically re-modelled “Prick Up Your Ears” they interspersed their fine back catalogue (which few bands of that timescale can match – everyone joined in with “Bias Binding” and “Cottage Industry” which was incredible) with some strong new songs, the best of which for me was “Let’s Start A War” which had the classic Yeah Yeah Noh of sarky / funny lyrics, tight neo-psych punk merseybeat instrumentation welded to of all things a danceable beat! And it was a catchy as anything!! What a strange and wonderful hit single it would be. Soul, DIY Punk, little bits of funk mixed with a shedload of psychedelia topped off with √√x’s unique world view. It’s as if they’ve just dropped back into our world, like they did in 1984, when we need them most. Class.
Of course five bands playing on different stages meant that I couldn’t catch all of them, though in fact I only missed the whole of the Wolfhounds because they clashed with √√x (my mate Rob who went to see them said they were fantastic on the night). After √√x I flitted between the two rooms and saw a bit of 14 Iced Bears (not really enough to judge them properly on, but the few songs I heard were ok) and Mighty Mighty (strong finish to their set I felt). I intended to see more of the Brilliant Corners than I actually did in the end, 20 years since they last played and featuring the highly tuned song-writing talents of Davey Woodward and they sounded in fine form, but as the venue filled up the want of a drink and also the chance to catch the Blue Orchids was too good to miss.
For me there’s nothing like this band – kind of insanely catchy creepy-fairground music taking you on a fast ride of whirling lights into a world much like our own but much stranger and seen through fun house mirrors. Though pre-dating the C-86 era by a good few years the Blue Orchids don’t sound dated in the least. The playing of this band is incredibly fierce and the tunes are shot through with some of the biggest but un-obvious hooks and choruses you will ever hear. The gathering momentum of “Low Profile” reaches its peak with a euphoria that is simply joyous to behold. There is a determination and guile to play these songs, there is commitment, energy and style…they’re totally natural on that stage because this is what they do best and better than anyone else. “Flood”, “Disney Boys”, “Dumb Magician” and the rest, finishing with a pounding “Work”, if we lived in a fair and proper world they would be bigger than One Direction.
I wanted to see the BMX Bandits as I was charmed fairly recently by their “Theme Park” LP, even though Duglas T Stewart looks like bandleader James Last dressed in Rude Boy Toast-meister Judge Dread’s clobber and there’s a lot of talk between the songs I found it enjoyable, this is the high water mark for the more twee side of things this evening. They finish on a high with both sides of the “Sad”/”E102” single and it was a neat contrast to what we had seen before. I really think the organisers got things spot on by mixing things up and also no one overran – very well done for that, pretty difficult I should imagine with 10 bands on.
Back into the smaller and for me better stage next door and the Popguns were into their set – I last saw them in 1988 and only had a vague memory of that, but they put on a great show, harder and rockier than I remember and none the worse for it. Excellent drumming. Wendy Morgan’s voice was sounding a little like the great Pauline Murray at times, which is always a good thing. Great stuff and there was a really good atmosphere as the crowd were all really into it.
A quick look in next door, to see arguably the most successful band of the evening, the Primitives. Tracy never seems to age and her and her cohorts seemed in pretty fine fettle, but to end the evening I had to at least see some of the June Brides and again they were on great form, though I could only stay for half the set it was worth it just to see them do the classic “Every Conversation”. Again the atmosphere just seemed up a notch in this room and the band responded accordingly. This rounded off the night excellently.
In summary I thought it was a truly great night of music that struck the right balance between what has become known as the C-86 indiepop crowd and their harder edged but no less tuneful contemporaries. Well done to all concerned, it was quite an evening.
All words by Ian Canty, who apologies for the lack of photos but “the place was like a murky, dimly lit aquarium”. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found here.