Gratis Gig Wednesdays: This Many Boyfriends, Letters To Fiesta and Finnmark at Nation Of Shopkeepers
Wednesdays at Nation Of Shopkeepers have become an institution in Leeds, offering free gigs featuring quality bands that more often that not go on to pricier bigger things not long after. In this first of a semi-regular feature, we catch these bands you otherwise might miss on yr behalf before the masses do, and all for free! (Minus beer money.)
Are full drum-kits out of fashion suddenly? Did I miss this? Three bands, probably one and a quarter drums between ’em. If that. Feel free to fill me in in the comments.
First band Finnmark had their backing beats brought by drum machine. They weren’t just your typical synthetic fake sounds, real care and attention had clearly been given to make them sound as organic and natural as possible. This worked for the most part in the simpler driving sections. It fitted in perfectly with 2-man indiepop band’s general C86 Records-inspired aesthetic; jangly slightly unclean guitars, occasionally twee lyrics sung in whatever the low version of a falsetto is, contrasted with the singer’s more natural Campesinos!-esque chatty yelps on “Considering A Move To Sweden”. Their other major influence became apparent during a song sung solo by the singer on a mysterious instrument (more on that shortly) which had Casiotone For The Painfully Alone written all over it. His deep mumblecore vocals, sometimes shy, sometimes morose, owe a lot to Casiotone’s similarly flat, deadpan delivery. Overall, very enjoyable. However, occasionally the drum’s prerecorded nature held them back, making more rhythmically clever start-stop sections sound stilted. I know they’re expensive, guys, but maybe invest in another human. You’re otherwise fantastic.
And as for that instrument… Lord knows what it was, to be honest. Half organ synth, half harp synth, half something else. Looks like bathroom scales. Again, answers in the comments please.
Now this next band were something great. Hailing all the way from distant Manchester, Letters to Fiesta brought a bit of 80s goth-pop to proceedings and proved to be the stand out of the evening. Lead singer Anna-Louisa Etherington (now there’s a name) dominated the stage with a whirling performace. Her vocals were that of Kate Bush, in both vocal range and experimentation. While many frontwomen of this kind of big-voiced atmospheric band merely belt them out a la Florence, Etherington moved freely between low breathless yelps, held wails and voice-as-instrument crooning. All this over some lush, interesting instrumentation. The songs never sauntered where they could stride. The drumming, a fairly sparse kit, mixed it up enough to keep things fresh, and the bassist more often that not held the rhythm and even to a degree the melody of the song. This latter element is likely a result of the guitarist’s getting some of the most incredible un-guitar-like noises out of his instrument I have ever heard. Predominantly having a chiming bell-like quality… scratch that, it sounded like everything but a guitar by the set’s close. From a violin, to an organ, to some goosebump-inducing volume swells. Presumably he just hates the way they sound. After their epic closer, I wanted more.
After the experimentation and originality of the previous band, headliners This Many Boyfriends couldn’t help but sound derivative. An enjoyable enough but uninspired indie band, a snide parting comment from Finnmark’s singer suggesting that This Many Boyfriends were going to play a Cribs set turned out to be prophetic. The Jarman brothers would find it like musically looking in the mirror, the same high end off-kilter guitar and bratty laddish vocals. Cribs-lite, if you will. They were down a member, not that their added presence would have made this any more unique a spectacle. Their energy and enthusiasm make up for this however. The audience certainly didn’t seem to mind at all, dancing along and cheering them on. Continuing the theme of the night, the drummer played with the barest kit I’ve ever seen. A floor tom, a snare, a cymbal, no bass drum. Madness. If variety is the spice of life, with only three things to hit you’ve really gotta experiment and mix it up. Sadly, she sticks to the floor tom and snare to the rhythmic detriment of the songs. With the same flat drumming throughout it becomes somewhat monotonous past a point. My gig compadre, fellow Shlur-er Adam Netwon, is himself a drummer. Suffice to say he appeared to be in agony throughout this.
An enjoyably eclectic mix of bands tonight, though with a sadly flat end to matters. Band Of The Night™ goes to Letters To Fiesta. If you check out only one of the above bands, make it them. You’re in for a treat.