Well I never quite got round to writing up my last gig but seeing as it featured the same band as my most recent gig I’ll combine the two.
Back in April I had a ticket to see Maps & Atlases with support from Trapped in Kansas and Tall Ships. I really wanted to see Tall Ships, as they were very impressive as support for We Are Scientists back in June last year. I listened to a bit of Trapped in Kansas and Maps & Atlases in preparation, and they all seemed to be in the same vein so I was really looking forward to it. However I got struck down by some awful lurgy before the gig and after finishing work I was shattered and badly needing my bed. But it was Tall Ships, after all this time, in Scotland! Urgh. I dragged myself up to Nice N Sleazy’s (the venue was another attraction of the gig) and thought I’d see how it went.
Although it said doors were at 7.30 when I arrived the first support was just finishing their set. I have no idea who there were and frankly the minute or two I heard of them didn’t make me want to find out. At the break I saw Tall Ship no 1 manning the merch stall. I went over and browsed while he served someone. Sitting on the top of the pile of t-shirts was a wee hand-written sign appealing for somewhere for “4 nice guys” to stay that night. Once he was done I asked him if the sign was his. Yes, he replied, they had nowhere to stay that night and couldn’t afford a hotel. I said I had a front room they could use, but it was about 10 miles away and they’d be woken by a toddler at 6am. He politely declined. Tall Ship No. 1 (ok, I now know he’s called Ric but that still sticks) was so sweet, as he had been in Brighton, I fully believe that if they had crashed in my living room they would have been very well behaved and tidied up after themselves.
I told him I was ill but had ventured out just for Tall Ships. He seemed genuinely touched. I then reminded him that after the Brighton gig he’d invited our posse to his place but had then fallen asleep in the pub. He seemed genuinely embarrassed. No, really, he apologised several times. I felt sorry for them in their impoverished state and contributed to the accommodation fund by buying a t-shirt.
So Trapped in Kansas were on next, I got up the front to get a good view and I was really impressed with them. They were tight, interesting, melodic and thoughtful. The lead singer looks the part, all skinny and indie-looking but actually has some charisma and personality to back it up. I liked them.
Then it was Tall Ships. I was suffering badly from my lurgy but persisted. They didn’t disappoint. They played many of the songs from their 2 EPs, maybe a new one too but I was too ill and it was long ago and I can’t remember. They sounded good though. Tall Ship No. 1 has the courage to sing Vessels with the a cappella closing lines in front of a Glaswegian crowd who didn’t really pay them much attention. I loved it, and can only hope that before too long they are playing larger venues where the whole crowd sings those lines along with him. The only thing I missed was them changing instruments. That was the highlight of the London / Brighton gigs but they didn’t do it this time. Maybe there wasn’t enough room. It was pretty squashed. Anyway they still have a good energetic performance and even won over the guys behind me who had initially scoffed at their synth to guitar ratio (not enough guitars for them, a sentiment I usually share but am willing to suspend for Tall Ships).
I would have dearly loved to see Maps & Atlases, but was almost dead on my feet and the thought of the early, direct bus home was too much so I bailed. I felt bad, but really I had gone to see Tall Ships and had done just that, so it felt like mission accomplished.
Fast forward a few weeks and I see that Trapped in Kansas are due to play in the Captain’s Rest as part of the West End Festival. They were on the bill with 6 other bands as part of Overlook Records 1st birthday showcase. Fellow gig-goer Susie assured me it would be a good night, and for only a fiver I couldn’t argue to off I went.
After meeting Susie in the bar, we headed downstairs. As we were among the first 20 entrants we were treated to a goodie bag containing a piece of cake, chocolates, party poppers, 2 plastic frogs(?) and a condom. I gave my cake and condom to Susie. I also bought a compilation CD they were selling featuring 1 song from each of the bands. Another bargain at £2.
It was a slow starter, not many people were in the room when the first band came on, but it got progressively livelier.
Once again I’m afraid I only made half the gig, the Captain’s Rest had helpfully turned on the air conditioning in the basement but it had seemingly stored up all the pollen from the previous week and blew it down right into my nostrils, so I was sneezing and wheezing within half an hour. I did see Vasa (instrumental, not too bad) and Bellow Below (better, very good drummer). Then came Salo and I was just scared. They were a lot more hardcore than the others – loud, shouty, screamy and one point drive-nail-from-wall-into-head-y. I’m sure they were aiming to shock, but I found their aggression quite disturbing and unnerving. I was also very glad of my earplugs. Thankfully all bands were being kept to a strict timetable so after 20 minutes it was all over.
By this time the room had really filled up and it was the turn of Trapped in Kansas. The instant they started you could tell they were on another level from the preceding bands (nail-heads aside cos you can’t really compare that kind of thing). Their sound was just so much more smooth, together, coherent. I had remarked to Susie earlier that the trouble with instrumental bands is that they really have to make extra effort to tell the story through the music alone rather than relying on lyrics. Although TiK do use vocals there was, for me, much more of a connection to the music with them, I felt something when listening to it (other than nausea from the nail-heads) rather than being disconnected and just observing. That is not an easy thing to achieve, especially on 2nd time listening.
Although the room had filled up, it became apparent that it was full of people from / associated with the other bands. They all went a bit mental, cheering, jeering and trying to distract the guys on stage. Susie and I got caught up in an impromptu mosh/rammy/crowdsurf and given that we are a good foot shorter than most people we were in no little danger of being crushed. I started to wonder if we were the only people who had actually come along as regular punters. Anyhoo Trapped in Kansas managed to finish their set, no thanks to their label-mates, and at their urging even played their last song with their tops off. Well 3/4 of them did, apparently 1 was too modest.
The only other band that I was keen to see was the Darien Venture, but they were on last, after my last bus home so I would have missed them anyway, so I thought I might was well leave at that point and get the earlier bus and home to a pollen-free environment.
It was a good night though, I’m glad the West End Festival has embraced that kind of event and it confirmed for me Trapped In Kansas as one of my definite bands to look out for.