The Hope Anti-Supermarket is exactly that. What was once New Brighton’s Kwik-Save, and then it’s Co-op, is now a multi-arts space – ‘A home for independent artists, musicians, crafters, makers and creators to co-exist and collaborate for all of the community to enjoy’. It’s the ideal venue for me to ease my way into festival season by attending Micro FestEVOL. With ten bands for a tenner it was certainly value for money (metaphorically taps jeans arse-pocket twice).
Opening the festival were a pleasant conundrum of a band – The Quiet Man. Their first song Truth and Lies had a 90’s pre-brit-pop Scouse-indie sound to it (Cast/The Real People). Their last song, the beckoning Look For Me had a faint Lindisfarne, folk-rock feel to it. Both were beautifully executed.
Ambedo Blue are a young four piece who describe their sound as ‘melancholic trance music’. They looked confident and had a some decent tunes including Dance on Me and This Time – a song with a chucking guitar riff and a funky bass line that got the well spaced-out (geographically) crowd moving about a bit.
I was disappointed by the late non-appearance of Lucy Gaffney with her hypnotic, Lo-fi rock but was intrigued to see her replacement – Razzmatazz. I think I saw Razzmatazz‘s debut performance at Future Yard, and I remember thinking that their music had a vague, baggy, Madchester aura to it. I’m not sure if there have been any changes in personnel since then, but they now have a much heavier, classic rock feel to their sound. The lead singer was unmistakably the same – velour tracksuit, Andy Weatherall hair, and athletic stage moves based on David Lee Roth and Vegas era, karate Elvis.
At every festival you unearth a hidden gem. Today’s diamond in the rough were Casino. Their reinvention of Northern Soul stompers was both surprising and invigorating. They are not Mod revivalist, their reference material is the real deal – American Soul, Tamala Motown circa ’64 – ’70. The sound of their own songs like Love Go On and Back In The Day had a 4/4 beat, rhythmic guitars, sparking keyboards, and soulful vocals. So authentic was their sound that I had to question the band’s singer to confirm that their tunes were all original compositions and not some lesser-known Motown B-sides. Casino were exciting and unexpected.
I’ve seen Hushtones a few times and their performances always bring a smile to my face. The first time I saw the quintet was outdoors, on an overcast day near the banks of the Mersey. I said then that their infectious melodies and soaring harmonies brought out the sun. Nothing I have seen since has changed my feelings towards the band. Tonight’s set was built on songs from their debut album Greetings From The Other Side – Wild, Sideways, the languid, jazz infused State of Mind, and culminated with the driving rhythms of Sinking. There were a couple of new songs too, Summertime and the extremely catchy, very poppy, I’m Not Sorry.
The Hushtones’ set was one of the highlights of the day, and it appeared to be the apex of the festival as far as attendance was concerned. As the evening went on the crowd incrementally thinned. Capacity may be a bit of an issue for Hope Anti-Supermarket. It’s a big place, after all it used to be a supermarket – some of the fixtures and fittings are still in place – it adds to the ambience. At one point I did a quick head count and got to about 150. There were a number of people in the outside area, but the venue was never more than at most, a quarter full. It felt difficult for the bands to generate an intimate atmosphere in such a large space. The venue is still in it’s chrysalis stage and I’m sure the owners have interesting plans for the future. On the upside the sound and lighting systems seemed great, staff were friendly, the place had a real positive vibe about it, and there is some seriously good street art around the venue.
Back to the bands and next up were By The Sea a band who played some ethereal, effect laden tunes such as Dream Waters – whose influences would appear to be bands of the ilk of Ride and My Bloody Valentine, and a touch of Jesus and Mary Chain.
There was an entertaining performance from Trudey and the Romance. The four piece’s passion for jump blues, 50’s Do-Wop, and rock and roll shone through in their performance of original songs Doghouse and Sandman. Their overall sound was Link Wray meets Bobby Vinton. Listening to guitarist/singer Oliver Taylor say ‘Thank you very much Ladies and Gentleman’ between songs, with an Johnny Cash drawl, you’d swear that he came from Mississippi. He’s actually from Chesterfield.
Joeys were a new band to me. I enjoyed their set of budding anthems. Their songs seemed to be an intelligent mix of swirling British Indie guitar music and growling American Alt-Rock vocals. I Found You starts with rolling drums and a delayed guitar riff that just keeps going and going, building until the yearning vocals come in. The structure of Joeys sound feels slightly Kings of Leon influenced.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of The Heavy North recently. They are gigging relentlessly, and their song Darkness In Your Eyes was chosen as the ‘Big Opener’ for the excellent, soon to be released brits & pieces III compilation which I’ve only just reviewed. Even so, I was momentarily thrown by the new look of singer/guitarist Kenny Stuart. Gone were the flamboyant waistcoat and bandana headband, to be replaced with a Johnny Cash ‘Man in Black’ outfit. What hadn’t changed is the bands ability to play some seriously good heavy, blues-rock tunes. Satisfy You has thumping drums and bass, maximum electric guitar riffage, all underpinned with Hammond organ style keyboards giving the song a Deep Purple edge. The Heavy North are not just about noise and power though, they are able to take you on a trip down the delta with songs like Awake, and the wonderful As Long As You’re Here With Me. Their debut album Electric Soul Machine is due out April 23rd. Check it out.
The evening’s headliners Gen and the Degenerates came on stage just after 11 pm to an expectant if by now a sorely diminished crowd. They gave a raucous, vibrant performance full of charisma and passion. Those that stayed the distance were well rewarded by the bands full-on, vital display. Not happy with barrier the stage presented to her Gen marshalled staff to move a trestle table to create walkway into the crowd. They hoped that by being among the crowd it would create a feeling of togetherness – it worked brilliantly. Energy flowed both ways. It was like being at some chaotic house party.
They have the tunes to back-up that energy too – songs like Girl God Gun, Underwear, and Wild Thing. Gen and The Degenerates’ display combined the spirit and attitude of early Manics with the rhythmic feel of The Nightingales (a couple of tunes reminded me of the latter’s Gales Doc). If your interest is piqued (and why wouldn’t it be?) listen to their new EP available out 30/3/2022.
Respect to FestEVOL for putting on such a great line-up of eclectic acts at Hope Anti-Supermarket, a venue I’m sure to return too, it’s a valuable asset to the thriving hub that is the regenerated Victoria Road area of New Brighton. Oh, and kudos to whoever was in charge of the ‘between artist playlist’ – you can never have enough Gang of Four and Bauhaus.