Some people might tell you that the gig to be at in Liverpool on Saturday was Inhaler at The Guild of Students. Those people may well have been correct. But it will have needed to have been one hell of a gig to better The Cheap Thrills self promoted gig at the Arts Club. The band have a punk D.I.Y attitude to producing music that sits well with synth-driven, indie-guitar sound. Take their excellent debut EP Vue Du Monde as an example of their ethos. If you purchased it on a certain day, and had a ‘L’ postcode, there was a good chance that the band would delivery it to you in person. Having twice had to cancel gigs in the city, The Cheap Thrills decided to hire the Arts Club and promote the gig themselves. If we put it on, they will come. And they did. That should tell you all you need to know. The audiences in Liverpool are most critical of their own. Everyone thinks they are funny or that they can sing. Selling out a venue the size of the Arts Club Theatre is in itself a sign of quality.
First band on the bill were a new band to me, Ponderosa. They played a strange hybrid of synth-pop music with near post-punk vocals. Their own material reminded me of when The Fall covered Lost In Music by Sister Sledge. I think I was helped in coming to this conclusion by the singer’s propensity to finish each line with a guttural Mark E Smith ‘Uhh’ or ‘Owah’. They played a cover of Lay All Your Love On Me that was more Abbaesque than Abba, and finished their set with a bit of Blondie’s Atomic. With the lack of opportunity for new bands to play live recently it may take time for newer bands to find their feet. It will be interesting to see how Ponderosa progress.
Next on the running order were Wirral five piece The Jagz. I had seen these previously, a couple of years ago, supporting the same headliners as tonight. All I can recall of that night is that they had brought along a small, but vociferous band of supporters, who they interacted with between songs. Tonight they played to the whole room. A clear sign of progression. They played a supremely confident set of songs that encompassed aspects of psychedelia, soft rock, and Americana, all topped off with a big dollop of surf guitar. It was immensely pleasurable listening. The Jagz set was relaxed and playful and highly enjoyable. Their set included the title song from their 2020 EP Cathedral Dreams, a track well worth 3 minutes of your time.
The Cheap Thrills are Lewis Pike (guitar/lead vocals),Terry Eaves (Keys/guitar/backing vocals), Callum Fitzpatrick (bass), and Anton Eager(Drums). They are in equal parts synth-pop/rock band/force of nature. They are essentially an indie rock band that you want to dance to. The driving, incessant rhythms are provided by Fitzpatrick and Eager. Pike supplies the vocals and energetic, gunslinger guitar. It is Terry Eaves melodic, never-ending synths riffs and loops that fill in all the spaces and make you want to dance. They are like a hybrid of New Order and Erasure for the 2020’s.
The band lay out their intentions for the evening with their opening track – Party . The song has a glam rock feel to it, uncomplicated, simple beat, and instantly catchy, almost nursery rhyme chorus. It’s about the anticipation of travelling from the outskirts into the city centre with your friends for a good night out. After all that’s what we are here for! Following Time Waster they play latest single Heart Attack, a tune that starts with echoing, choral, organ chords and develops into a trademark Cheap Thrills banger. It’s like someone has taken you to church and you’ve ended up in a club. The crowd are already bouncing and the first crowd surfers have arisen. We are three songs in. If The Doctor has access to her Spotify account in the TARDIS then I am certain that the next songs is on the ‘favourites’ playlist. Machine is a bounding, spacey, psychedelic tune that always puts me in mind of Muse.
The middle of the set is basically comprised of side two of the bands excellent previously mentioned EP Vue Du Monde – Smile When You Sleep, Give Me Something More, and Keep Me In Check. There is a new song Escape before Lewis Pike indulges in a bit of crowd karaoke with a sing-along version of Dancing Queen. What is it with this Abba revival – I must have missed the memo.
The set finishes in typically anthemic style with The Cheap Thrills biggest tunes Saint or Sinner, Same Old Faces, and as is now customary, the throbbing, bounding Codependence. On the surface this last song is a simple statement about the nature of relationships; listened to live at the end of a Cheap Thrills gig, with the entire audience singing along, and with Lewis Pike surfing over the heads of the crowd it seems more like a statement of solidarity – we are all in this together. We all need each other. Tonight that feels about right.