Quidrophenia #7 at Oporto Bar, Leeds
Seven years running and still going strong, every August Bank Holiday Monday since 2007 has seen Oporto Bar open its doors and pack the place out with a whole load of local acts playing across two stages throughout the day. And all in the name of charity too; all the proceeds from Quidrophenia (the title is, in case you didn’t guess, a reference to the recommended donation upon entry) go to Cancer Research UK . What a grand way to spend your Bank Holiday, says we, both altruistically, entertainment-wise and (if you’re that way inclined) hedonistically.
It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Leeds, a fact the punters at Oporto this fine Bank Holiday afternoon are desperately trying to distract themselves from noticing. Entering the shadowy innards of this Call Lane bar in the name of charity is heroic and most selfless under such summery conditions. Luckily, distractions are aplenty, with every available room in use for Quidrophenia and the two stages essentially alternating between having a band on and having a band off. The Gaslight Club has been ousted from its traditional spot, hosting its usual mix of broadly acoustic singer-songwriter music in the bar room. This leaves the gig room to Leeds indie label Dead Young Records, who have curated a diverse group of bands for your entertainment. You could see every single act here if you so desired, hopping over the door jamb from one room to the next. We’ll do our best folks.
Early entrants were few due to the accursed weather, leaving the handful of people in attendance with their own personal set from opening act Abbe Smith, whose brand of folky, full-voiced acoustic music was a strong start for Gaslight Club. Backed by finger-plucked acoustic guitar, her voice is the real selling point here. Ranging from sultry and smoky to high and pure on the drop of a pin, from folky to soulful in a nanosecond, her vocal dexterity was a pleasure for the ears. She closed strong with traditional spiritual song ‘Wade In The Water’, her vocal range on full show for this moving slave song.
Richard Petch then took the DYR stage ably backed by his band to play some mildly diverting unabashed pop music. Pleasant enough, but for me unmoving despite their commendable enthusiasm. That left David Lawrie, acclaimed player of the nylon string guitar, to pick things up on the Gaslight stage. The guitar itself has a beautiful sound to it, played with little beaters and probably invented by someone who thought piano keys were cheating and so bypassed them entirely. Its notes ring pure, although as an instrument it has a soporific effect for sure, making the mind drift off. Further backed by a talented guitarist playing spanish-style, Lawrie’s vocals have a grunginess to them that provides a good counterpoint to the soft instrumentation. His set would be better received at a candlelit evening, his songs speaking of nocturnal goings on, but for all that it stuck in the mind.
Not as much as the next band did, however. Put on at midafternoon presumably to baffle the crap out of everyone who expected things to proceed in the same nice manner as before, Super Luxury were super fucking noisy. Delayed by an errant drummer lost to Leeds taxi services, once they started it was like a bomb had gone off. Squalling distorted guitar, rumbling bass and crashing frantic drumming; all was played with gusto and passion over technical ability for the most part, but it was all the better for it. At the end of the day, it was just damn fun in a similar vein to Pissed Jeans. And the singer. By God, the singer spends less time being a singer and more time working himself up into a frenzy and running around the room. If something could be climbed onto, crawled under or wriggled through he did just that. This included skating round on a wheeled case, going under the stage and getting stuck in Oporto’s distinctive portholes in the central wall. Very haggard, very awesome. All this was wasted on the somewhat nonplussed and at that point predominantly Gaslight-orientated crowd, but for those who dug it it was spectacular. Finishing caped in a Union Jack while letting off a confetti gun in one last Partridge-esque act of insanity, Super Luxury were insane, atonal and borderline incoherent, while also being the funnest band of the day.
There was another act on the Gaslight stage here, but unfortunately the tinnitus I now had was louder. Sorry pal! Thankfully, next band DOLLS managed to cut through the ringing in my ears with some lowdown and dirty blues guitar. Played by the tiny powerhouse of a frontwoman Jade Ellins and backed by her lone bandmate drummer Ross Jenkinson, imagine Black Keys fronted by PJ Harvey. The guitar was heavy and driving, the drumming pounding with some clever rhythmic flair at times. Jade’s powerful voice was rarely restrained. It occasionally strayed towards being a wee bit banshee-like for my at that point ruined ears, but more because of the energy she was putting into her delivery than any lack of ability on her part. Damn good stuff.
We departed at this point to get ourselves some tea, so if anyone reckons we missed someone good let us know. We got back as planned just in time for the awesome Bearfoot Beware, whose discordant mathpunk got the now more lively and filled out crowd riled up good and proper. Their ADHD song structures and complex rapid all-over-the-place playing style sounds constantly like it should all fall apart. But the chaos of their songs is very much controlled; you never once think that they aren’t the ones in charge. Their tight playing and mathy love of awkward time signatures couldn’t work otherwise. And all this played with such energy as they constantly shift and jump around the stage. They are all amazing musicians, but bassist Ric Vowden always stands out as one of the most dextrous bassists I have ever seen live, coming across like Tim Commerford on fast forward. Potent, clever music delivered with all the aggression it deserves.
There was something of a shift in styles this evening as Micky P Kerr & The Dudes (sans Dudes), or Micky P Kerr for short, took to the Gaslight stage with his unique mix of comedy, poetry and song. His dirty-minded persona started by regaling the crowd with his genuinely witty and rhythmically clever poems, with subjects ranging from things that aren’t his fault (the unfed cat, the unwashed dishes, David Cameron) to long haul flights to the three stages of drug-taking at a festival (too little, just right and too much, with too much the standard operating procedure). The self-proclaimed Stage 2 entered with his picking up of an acoustic guitar to sing a song about being “sucked off at a recently released Tom Cruise film” entitled ‘Blown To Oblivion’. This ended with the different sexes of the crowd participating in a call and response, the guys and girls alternating between shouting “sucked off” and “at the cinema” at one another, one line each. Throughout he was guttermouthed and hilarious, and definitely the most memorable part of the day.
Back to the bands with The Reacharounds and their brand of classic barroom rock. It was 70s inspired to the core, with singing into the same microphone, some pretty great solos and a positive upbeat vibe throughout. All very School Of Rock, which is to say very entertaining. They all genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves, with many knowing looks and injokey laughs shared, which is always the best way to get the audience onside. It was nothing new, but when it’s this fun and enjoyable who really cares?
New Woman are so new they have no online presence whatsoever, and with this their debut show no-one knew what to expect, except that it was bound to be noisy given it consists of Bearfoot singer/guitarist Tom Bradley as its singer/guitarist and Super Luxury guitarist Chris Jacobs on drums. That prediction was very much borne out by what followed. Even more punishingly noisey and atonal than their main bands, it was claustrophobic, heady punk of the same ilk as Iceage. Yet through the noise, the style of singing (to me anyway) behind all the gain and distortion sounded vaguely crooning. Off-kilter crooning, but crooning nonetheless. As if 50s music went really fucking wrong somewhere. Or maybe the music made me go insane. One of the two. Played with increasing ferocity, it was 25 minutes of epic noise. Check ’em soon as you can.
Which left White Firs to close the night, though to a suddenly thinned out crowd. Which is a real shame, as the damned fools missed out on some quality rock music by their eagerness to get home. Playing music that sounds like Big Star put through a filter set to Jesus & Mary Chain, theirs is rock music tempered from cliche by a playfulness with distortion that sets them apart from other more old school rock bands. Not much was said by way of crowd banter, but given that their wasn’t much of a crowd that can readily be forgiven. They are playing pretty frequently at the moment, I recommend you get yourselves down and see it for yourself.
Phew, what a day. From what I could gauge, we have another successful Quidrophenia on our hands here. Amazing music, a quality bar, roll on next year.