Words: Gary Lambert Photos: Fi Carroll
There are some nights that stay in the memory because a band plays who are ready to take on the world and it is great to see them in a venue where you can
bump shoulders with the lads and girls as they take to the stage. You know watching them that soon enough these days will be long gone as the bands take their place in much bigger venues, and you’ll be left crowing at the bar that you liked them “before they went commercial like this”. It’s strange when a night like this happens and there are three bands who are all ready to take on the world – albeit at slightly different stages in the process equally. A Friday night in Liverpool is always a party, but in EBGB’s it was beyond a party. We had the fun and excitement, but there was also a tension in the air as everybody waited to see what happened.
The first band on the bill, April, were the most traditional indie of them. To be honest, I was a little worried about their performance as the previous time I had watched the band, I ended up feeling frustrated that the band were showing off more fealty to their inspirations than actually being inspired by the British music scene circa 1994-98. This time though, the Leamington Spa four piece had moved up a grade or two and excitingly have found their own sound rather than “the one that sounds like Shed Seven”. The group are a tightly formed unit who are ready to push on and develop their tunes to grab people by the ears and demand their attention.
Now, The Shimmer Band have a sound that is, in my opinion, perfect now. The lazy comparison would be to Kasabian, but I think they have more in common with those true kings of the indie dance crossover, Primal Scream. Their set seems a bit out of place here because the crowd is mixed between people who want to throw themselves about in a mosh pit and those their on the recommendation of Mark Riley (although he’s still Lard to me). Nevertheless this awkwardness does not seem to be noticed by the band, or if it was, it did not effect them. They are loud and funky, and there was no way I wasn’t throwing some shapes to them. Albeit sober shapes.
Despite everything that had gone before them, the night was really focused on Cabbage. Almost certainly they are the most hyped new band in the country right now, and everybody seems to have an opinion of them and their left wing politics. I love the fact they have got something to say which isn’t just a tale of a Saturday night hitting on a girl unsuccessfully, and I was proudly wearing my “Born In The NHS” t-shirt upon arrival at a family party the next night. The guys perform with a passion, an anger, a fury and remind you of the beauty of working class life and pride. Cabbage unite people. I’m certain this tour will see plenty of fathers and mothers choosing to go with their kids to watch Cabbage, not as chaperone, but as a shared experience. The parents were definitely standing at the back though for the entire show which was stick firmly in my memory for the scenes at the front of the basement where the promoter, merchandise staff, ticket collectors and any other paid hands had to get themselves between the stage and the safety barrier as the energy generated by the combination of music, power and youthful enthusiasm saw the railings almost fall to the stage. Indeed Cabbage had to request people be careful not to overdo it because they couldn’t afford to replace their pedals if they were broken in the scrum.
If though you are going to go to watch Cabbage thinking that you’re going to see a band with something to say and instant pop tunes, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The lead singer, Lee Broadbent, does not have the northern pop vocals of a Liam Gallagher, an Ian McCullough or an Alex Turner. Instead the legendary frontman, and indeed band, they are most like is The Fall. Tuneful awkwardness abounds, but the vigorous and confident nature of every song makes you forget about dancing and want to throw your body in any direction in order to match the band’s kinesis.
I beseech you though, go to Cabbage to watch Cabbage. Don’t go there so that you can say that you saw them before they were big. They might not want to get that big. They might want to fight to awaken minds rather than fill arenas. It’s their decision alone. Don’t force them to be something they are not. And a word of warning, ten years ago (ish) I remember a lot of fuss about a dangerous, streetwise band with an incendiary live show and crazed following. Unfortunately everybody else remembers The View because of a song about denim.