It’s been aaaaaaaages since I wrote about a gig. I did go and see Chvrches a few months ago but I went along with what I thought was a bad cold, but turned out to be full-blown flu, so I wasn’t in much of a state to write about it afterwards. They were amazing by the way, Lauren Mayberry is phenomenal and she and the band exceeded my expectations several-fold. I also had tickets to the Twilight Sad but didn’t make it because my daughter had just come out from a short hospital stay. Buuuuut, May is my birthday month and thankfully a whole bunch of shows were announced to end the gig drought.
I went to Stag & Dagger 3 years ago and had a blast. I kept an eye on the line-up for the previous 2 years but nothing stood out for me. This year it looked a whole lot better and being only 2 days after my (scary big) birthday I decided it was time to return.
Suitably fuelled up, we dropped into the Garage to collect our wristbands and venue guide with stage times. Unfortunately I managed to give myself a paper cut retrieving the programme out of my back pocket which wouldn’t stop bleeding and had to cadge a bright blue plaster of the staff in Costa’s. Always glam and dressed to the nines, me…
As it was still fairly early in the day, only 2 of the venues were open. After a quick Google & Spotify search on the bands on offer (neither of us had gotten round to doing any research on the unknowns prior to the day) we first tried to get into Nice n Sleazy’s but found it was already full, so we popped next door to Broadcast and came across a band called Pleasure Heads. The place was also packed. We assumed because other eager music lovers such as ourselves had got there early and were crammed into the only place letting folk in, but we soon discovered that Pleasure Heads have a whole lotta fans who like to sing along at the tops of their voices. I liked the sound of the band. After a few songs-worth time of a comparison nagging at me, I realised they somehow reminded me of the Manic Street Preachers. I couldn’t exactly say why, but this is definitely a good thing. My only slight downside was that I felt the singer’s vocals were a bit shouty, but this could just have been the venue/circumstances/reaction to the crowd joining in. Overall I liked them, although I couldn’t see them at all, positioned as we were just by the stairs in our own little weather system with cold air from outside meeting the very hot air from the small packed room.
A quick drink pit-stop later, we made our way over to the Garage to see 2 of the bands that were on my To-See list, Honeyblood and Dream Wife. Honeyblood had been vaguely on my radar for a while but have been getting a fair bit of 6Music radio play recently. I was convinced that I had seen Dream Wife before, but couldn’t remember where or when. In any case, I had been listening to their stuff online for about a year or so.
Honeyblood were very good. Loud, not afraid to rock out, but with beautiful, occasionally delicate lyrics and melodies.
Dream Wife were something else. Full of lively stage presence, they captivated the whole room and quickly had us under their command. Their songs were catchy, infectious and uplifting. Lead singer Rakel engaged constantly with the crowd, encouraging participation, throwing teasing looks and then the next second delivering a stark warning to anyone who dared to get in the way of her “bad bitches”, the group of girls she drew, pied-piper-like down to the front for a safe, respectful mini-mosh. The mosh kinda failed, but you couldn’t fault her enthusiasm and charisma.
After a stroll back through town to pick up a free birthday burrito, we headed back to the festival area for Pip Blom. I had heard them, again on 6Music (god bless my car’s digital radio), and was interested to see what they were like live and to hear more from them. They were playing in the CCA, which had pressed one of the larger halls into service, maybe to compensate for the lack of ABC. Maybe it was the less-than-optimal venue, maybe it was that we were still riding the wave from Dream Wife, but Pip Blom just didn’t hit the mark. They were good enough, but not very….interesting. There was nothing to pique my interest or make me get an insight into what their USP might be. It was all a bit samey. That was until the guitarist started singing. His mic was for some reason turned up about 8 notches louder than everyone else’s, which jolted everyone every time he piped up. My friend had to leave a bit early to get her train, I thought they got a bit better on the last 3 or 4 songs, the sound a bit grungier, but I was still a bit disappointed.
All in all, it was a good day and night. I really like the way you just flash your wristband and can dip in and out of any venue, seeing any band that takes your fancy or discovering new ones along the way. And given that it was bloody freezing, I was most definitely glad it was an indoor festival. I’m glad I finally saw Honeyblood live and Dream Wife were awesome and my highlight of the day.