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They say that burying your lead is one of the worst things you can do in journalism, and although the urge to just slip this next fact in half way through the review is high, I’d better get it out of the way first. What I mean by this is that it'd be a shame for an unfortunate turn of events to outshine what was certainly an inspired display of music and resourcefulness as well as just general humanness.
One and a half songs into High Places' set, just as the chorus kicked in on 'Visions The First', the sound suddenly cuts out on account of the US to UK power converter exploding. Anyone who’s heard their records would’ve instantly realised how gigantic a blow this would deal to their sample heavy set. Or, for newcomers, all it would take is a cursory glance at the desk full of cords and electronic miscellany for thoughts along the lines of “oh, fuck!” to pop up. That sentiment was written all over Rob Barber and Mary Pearson’s faces, too.
After a massively humble apology and some futile attempts to find a new power converter, Mary loops out a few sweet vocal bits (it was just the microphone and the mixing desk effects that still worked) and Rob clatters some now un-electronic rhythms with sticks on wood. “So you guys know how lots of people say we sound like Beat Happening? That’s what we’re going to be doing tonight”. And, indeed, the remainder of their set is stripped back as such and filled with a similarly resourceful quirk, imbued with their own wide-eyed sense of pop wonder.
They ask for requests, and soon move through 'Head Spins' and various songs from 03/07 – 09/07 and the new self-titled record with some enthusiastic help from the audience singing and humming basslines, and clapping out some rhythms. The set comes out triumphant and the very human essence at the heart of High Places is strong and reflected right back off the attentive audience; pretty amazing considering the lush and layered nature of their distinctively wobbly experimental pop. However, it’s probably lucky that this happened in a small underground room in Newcastle rather than a large one in London or New York.