Piskie Sits, The Acutes, David Broad, The Seven Inches
Penny Broadhurst 22/01/2007
On The Bone have a decent following for their eclectic gigs, and rightly so. Their reputation comes from their ability, like fellow Leeds promoters Tea Time Shuffle, to put together line-ups that on paper seem wildly disparate and yet on stage work extremely well. It's often disappointing to go out for the evening and see 3 or 4 bands in the same genre who either sound far too similar, or, as often happens, one band will stand out far above the others and show up the others' shortcomings. That and it's a bit dull. Equally, while guitar-based music enjoys its current mainstream popularity, every two bit pub has opened its back room to "promoters" who stick 4 or 5 clashing bands together simply to fill regular slots and fill a room with no thought given to the enjoyment of the audience, or even any real passion for the acts playing. If you can drag at least ten mates down, you're on the bill, doesn't matter what you sound like or if you're any good. James Brown and Tom Goodhand, the young men behind On The Bone, openly admit that they never put on bands they don't like and don't accept applications to play their nights. If you're any cop and tickle their fancy, expect an invitation, if not - stop begging.
Tonight's gig is the album launch for Wakey Wrath wonders, the Piskie Sits. They finally make it on stage at 10.45, but before this we are treated to three other acts. Indie poppers The Seven Inches have come a long way from their early shambolic ramblings and can now be impressively described as "tight", "melodic" and all that jazz. If anything they have gained in appeal with their increased professionalism as it has become possible to hear all of flamboyant frontman Ian's witty and heartfelt lyrics and their confidence in their material and updated line-up shows. One (new) song fell apart dramatically in a way that wouldn't have been untypical of their earlier gigs but was shown up by the spangliness of the songs that surrounded it. Melodies and harmonies in abundance, new singer Emily particularly impressing tonight with a lovely pure tone, and no song outstays its welcome. One suspects that if they start to accept how good they now are and stop getting distracted by props and pedals, their fortunes can only continue to improve.
David Broad follows, with a well-judged set of blues, folk and bluegrass that culminates in an excellent rendition of 'John Henry'. I think he suffered more than most from the problems that beset the Packhorse as a venue - it's a small, sweaty box full of smoke - and this rendered his vocals less on point than usual but his excellent guitar-playing remained undimmed. Broad is technically very accomplished but never showy and his passion for playing and shy banter between songs add to his charm. Fans of Gillian Welch, Bert Jansch and Paul Curreri should find much to love here.
Hot tip and fashion icons The Acutes are up next. An excellent drummer and promising openings to all their songs are let down by the fact that every song slips into a repetitive drone that goes on far too long and their singer (they are a duo)...insists on singing in a high American whine despite being quite obviously from these shores. A little transatlanticism is sometimes hard to avoid unless you want to sound like an Arctic Monkey, but this was plainly unnatural. Imagine a two man They Might Be Giants singing fairly dreary lyrics to a pounding danceable beat and you've got this band. I find it hard to seriously dislike them, because they do have potential and a certain something about them. They just don't really have any songs, and the forced vocal is both irritating and weird.
A short break for an ill-advised quiz and then our headliners begin to set up. My companions and I begin to worry that the curfew will kick in before the band does, but not to worry. The Piskie Sits also favour Yank-tinged vocals, which still aggravates me in principle but at least the actual vocal tone of the singer is not piercing or unpleasant (unlike with the previous band) and the obviously Tyke banter and humour of this band ensures that there is little pretension and bags of character. There's a definite US slacker influence (the one band that keeps popping up in my mind is Pavement), but the songs are under two minutes, fast and fun so I never lose patience or interest throughout their short set. On The Bone have chosen to show anime during tonight's proceedings and Piskie Sits more than any other band seem to be soundtracking the cartoon. It shouldn't work for me, but it does. The only letdown is the insistence that the band play an encore when they had kept their set so small and perfectly-formed. A good night, topped off by the Wrath label head honcho Paul Morricone's appearance (as the house lights went up) in a beige flasher mac, stencilled with the Wrath logo, opened to reveal tons of Piskie Sits CDs lined up in the coat lining - spiv style. Roll up and buy the album.