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It’s that time of year where unsigned bands with names like Dude, Hollywood Waitress, and The Fantastic Super Foofs all descend upon a carefully chosen city (usually Manchester), aiming for the attention of someone who can give them that lucrative record deal. Sure, the endless parties, showcases, drinking, panels, presentations, freebies and drinking are all part of the In The City music conference too - needless to say, your hapless correspondent engaged in few of such activities.
Arriving fairly late on the Saturday night, thus sadly missing some hot unsigned action which included Jetplane Landing, the first ‘act’ witnessed is The Cooper Temple Clause in Manchester Uni’s Hop And Grape venue. The sound is muddy and the venue increasingly sparse as the night draws on, the band don’t seem keen playing to disinterested pissed-up students. And who can blame them? Having seen them four times already this year, this was the worst. Yours Truly wanders back to ITC HQ, The Midland hotel, to drink Red Bull and watch her friends get as drunk as possible in a short space of time.
Our long weekend of rock begins proper on Sunday, downstairs in an odd little venue called the Life Café, a showcase of three very different bands presented by Glasgow City Counsil. Josephine, featuring ex-DiS writer Roz, are first up, and get fired up for what at first seems like a Greatest Hits set (bearing in mind they’ve only released one single), with ‘Hit The Youth’, ‘Vinyl Hit’ and ‘This Is Not An Exit’. It’s all top stuff, with the music ranging from jaunty indiepop to a twisted take on The Fall. They look like the coolest gang in town. Lapsus Linguae have no problems in confusing several A&R people, with a glam punk image and a sound nearer The Cardiacs being buggered by Nick Cave and Tori Amos. They also stage fights, knock over some equipment, and fall over a lot. At one point, a guitar breaks and its owner dashes over to a member of Pariah, asking “can I borrow your guitar? I’ll be really gentle with it!” Liar. The aforementioned young lads Pariah finish the gig and leave people speechless. There are a few technical problems but the songs shine through, them being big, emotional soundscapes which could be compared to Mogwai (obviously), Sigur Ros and The Flaming Lips. Absolutely stunning.
Back to the official ITC unsigned gigs now and Oxford’s The Rock Of Travolta are strutting their stuff in Po Na Na’s. It’s utterly packed, which is maybe no surprise considering their high-profile support slots – including Radiohead – and the fact they’ve already signed a publishing deal with Rough Trade. Entirely instrumental, they come across like Billy Mahonie meets Spinal Tap, with lots of posing and veering just on the right side of prog rock. A highly entertaining band. After a few minutes, Pinhole are blasting out a highly tuneful, melodic, power pop noise downstairs in the Granby. They are young, cute, from Liverpool, and are releasing their debut single on John Robb’s Thrill City label. The potential is massive.
Going upstairs in the same venue and another Scottish mob is present, namely The Grim Northern Social. These guys haven’t been together long, a couple of them are at least twice as old as members of Pinhole, but they have the stage presence, the songs, the stunning vocalist and the quirky twist on commercial indie rock which could catapult them into the mainstream. Popping downstairs again for a few minutes and Serafin are rocking out to another packed room. The more I hear them, the more I prefer them to Ben Serafin’s past band, Stony Sleep.
Monday was spent taking in some of the panel discussions, mostly dull but slightly interesting, with the discussion on UK bands breaking America being the most lively. Day Of Rock begins with Kasino in Copper Face Jack’s, playing to a nearly empty room. Perhaps not one of their best gigs. Mercury Tilt Switch are a lot better than one was expecting. Was never convinced by the MP3s I’d heard – thought they were a little sloppy and lacking direction – but live, MTS are a different kettle of fish altogether. Tight as fuck, energetic, and very, very NOW, they have the power of Hundred Reasons and the confidence and dedication to back it up. All that’s missing right now are any really memorable songs, but that will come with more time. Keep an eye on this lot.
Laziness takes over soon after, as your humble journalist wombles on down to the Granby again to take in the rest of the night’s entertainment there, missing the huge queue outside another venue for hot tip Nylon Pylon. It proves to be a worthwhile exercise. Seachange are a good rawk band who, like MTS, are worth keeping an eye on. Truck Records signings Black Nielson are missing their drummer tonight but plough on regardless, with some truly beautiful songs. They could well follow Goldrush’s footsteps and sign to a major, should they want to. Downstairs, Our Lady Of Miracles are a pleasant surprise, sounding not unlike a heavier version of The Muffs, with a pouty female singing and two cool-looking blokes backing her up. Ace!
We stumble back upstairs to see Ella Guru, a scouse bunch supposedly being mentioned in the same breath as Coral. Yet again, another great rock act worth watching out for. Bendy Toy, a one man electro act from Edinburgh, finishes the night with samples ‘n’ beatz. His single picking up over a dozen plays in the recent weeks ensured a full venue, and he is the best of today’s unsigned bunch by quite a long mile. In an ideal world, Bendy Toy would be No. 1 for weeks on end.
Your tired DiS reporter wusses out the next day and ventures back down to the capital, missing the rest of the panels and closing party. But hey, let’s do it again next year, eh?
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