The Main Guy & the Other Guys @ The White Eagle Polish Club with Buck et al, NozL. 19th July 2013
by Geoff Dunn
It’s cold. It’s been raining on and off all day and I’ve spent a good deal of it umming and ahhing about whether to go out tonight … I’m on a bicycle you see … turning up sodden and cold to a gig is not my idea of a fun night. But then, about 6pm … What ho … the radar’s clear! I’ll go! See, it’s that easy and I wonder briefly what on earth I spent my time looking at before weather radars appeared in my life.
I hear a band from out in the street as I ride up … at least I’m not early this time … a couple of smokers outside, the bike rack’s empty … I head inside. There’s a band playing, pumping away but that’s about all … I count 6 patrons in the bar and the three smiling bar staff make a total of nine. I fail in my beer pronunciations again. I practice with the staff and get smiles and a little cheer when I get it right but as soon as I’ve walked away with my beer I realise I’ve forgotten again.
There’s a tall thin lad sitting on the door, he’s sporting a lazy silver mop of hair and wearing a tailored grey waistcoat over a long sleeve shirt with a faint check and fluorescent orange earplugs … he regards me with a look I’m sure he reserves for the many idiots he encounters and says that he can hear me fine but I’m not convinced he’s the one with the hearing issue … turns out this is Buck from Buck et al … more on Buck later.
In the hall the crowd’s a little thin … I grab one of the couches up the back and settle in. NozL are up, be-robed and be-Fezzed and not just you’re average street Fez but tall, statement Fez adorned with strange curling insignia sitting well with the priestly mutterings of keyboardist-lead Tom Harwood.
They love their aural wipeouts this lot… crescendos and intensity building mashups with the odd jazz chord and, in the midst of a particularly disorienting one, I swear I’m immersed in an ode to Joy Division. NozL dip and dive in their ferociously musical way, at once punk, ska and smoothly transitioned intervals lulling me into false calm before well-positioned rantings and swirl of wipeout. I find myself besmirking an enormous grin at the sheer nerve of their outpourings and energy. People are trickling in and I sincerely feel they deserve a bigger crowd … a way bigger crowd.
Back to the bar, it’s quietly humming now. I’m in a conversation with bar staff and friends about flu vaccine efficacy and mosquitoes as disease vectors (in particular Aedes albopictus, commonly known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito and chikungunya … nasty … go look it up)
Buck et al take the stage and I see the frontman is the lad from the door … though now he’s standing on seemingly impossibly thin legs. An effect not helped (or perhaps greatly helped) by the front-panelled black leather tights he’s wearing … perhaps they’re pants … ok tight pants then. They strike me as deeply wrong these pants/tights/whatever. If they were all leather? Yeah. All black tights? Yeah … but the combo? Mmm … not really. His acoustic guitar, slung a little high causing his tackle to catch the stagelights in a fashion unflattering … let’s just say the pants distracted me and not in a wholly good way which is a shame because I enjoyed the music. Speaking of costume, the drummer was wearing a plush nylon tiger suit. I’ve done my time as a drummer and I reckon the plush nylon and percussion combo to be a recipe for steroid creams. At least they made an effort. The songs were well-crafted and well-executed. The band swap instruments and are equally fluent in each. I enjoy Buck’s turns on the keyboard (perhaps because he sitting down again) and more than once I find myself thinking ‘did he really just say that?’, the outbursts polite company would ignore but onstage became this seemingly high-maintenance Morrissey. I had problems balancing Buck’s desire to shock with his desire to be taken seriously.
The Main Guy & the Other Guys, down from Newcastle, take the stage. There is an air of professionalism about the Guys. Matching grey/blue collared shirts, black trousers and pointy boots. They set the tone perfectly, opening with a three-part harmony leading down a twisted corridor into a tight room of dark, Cavey ballad. I’m reminded how much I like a band that opens well and this lot are no exception. Fronted by ‘The Duke’ this crunchy four-piece take us on a musical journey to pretty much everywhere. The lyrics are clever without being smart and the performances tight and delivered with energy and craft. The room is filling and the space before the stage disappears. As The Duke fires up a KORG Microstation and a beautifully rounded square wave oscillates it’s way across a boppy disco power shuffle with added jangly guitar, the dancers appear! They can’t help themselves! The guy in the paisley shirt and his curvy red companion rip up the dance floor and set the groove. It’s a frenzy … well ok not quite a frenzy … but there are dancers and some them are slinky. Have I ever mentioned I like slinky? It’s followed by their new single ‘Partyhard’ and it deserves to go big places … catchy with a melody, speedy pulse and chorus that stick like a sweet glue. 80’s inspired Casio boppiness maintains the dancer’s momentum. A stripped back multi-vocal track over lush guitar appears that is easily the best mixed track of the night.
At times the Guys’ set leans toward the unpleasantly loud and my companion, who is knowledgeable in these things, yells into my ear reckoning the on-stage bass rig is set too high, dragging everything else up with it. That’s likely a minor quibble though and the gig is solidly mixed and lit by house mixer Dave Howe … in fact when I take a pew up near the sound desk it sounds rather nice.
Too soon the gig’s all over. My companion and I pool our remaining coins and go sort of halves in a copy of the Guys’ EP … he’s suddenly gone all shy so I ask The Duke to sign it for him. It’s very good and as I listen to it on repeat on Saturday morning (I got to take the EP home you see) … the songs still sound as good as they did the night before. It’s Just A Roll Of Toilet Paper (feat Kira Puru) is another stand out track but they’re all very good and faithfully produced.
I glad I came out tonight … it’s always worth the effort.
Some other notes …
Ania the barmaid is the lead singer in a Polish Punk outfit called Bad Pharmer … my companion and I make notes … she’s suddenly become even cooler.
‘Zhiv-eee-yetz!’ Fuck I’ve done it! I even write the phonetics in my notebook … next time I’m going to learn a different beer 😉
Thanks to all the bands, Nigel and the CMC for the opportunity to write this review for you.