Harmacy, Falconetti at The Delius, Bradford
The view from the bar side of “Bradford’s Leading Indie Pub” The Delius is never perfect but tonight - after two failed attempts - I was finally going to see the city’s foremost scenesters Harmacy and if this meant peering around speakers it would be worth it.
"Last gig we ended in a fight", lead guitar and singer of Harmacy Haydn Wilcox says referring the set ending brawl of the Woolen Wig Out festival of three weeks ago, "No one start anything now." Before that at Fagin’s in Halifax the locals had nixed the night complaining about the sound. Tonight it seemed unlikely that anyone would stop me seeing Bradford's proclaimed kings of slack and roll.
First though for visuals actually seeing Halifax four-piece Falconetti is not important. Appropriately they take to the stage as light from outside fades and the create a mood all East Berlin spy novels, all soundtracks to fifties thrillers. Close your eyes and see long shadows in contrasting deep blacks and bleached out whites. Should any Hollywood producer have spent the night in this part of Bradford the search would be over. Falconetti are the smallest epic band you will ever see. Neil Heywood’s trumpet twists around creating atmosphere and Matt Fortune’s drums set a pace for carrying around microfilm whilst being followed.
Evocative? I should say so. Falconetti seem to be a taste worth acquiring.
Without vocals Falconetti do not suffer, as Harmacy do, from the perennial Delius problem of vocal projections. Dom the soundman manfully struggles to balance the vocals of Harmacy’s Haydn and Chris but they are under the haze of guitar fuzz.
Seeing Harmacy it becomes clear that there is something about Haydn’s Black Francis referencing guitar which blends surf joyousness with Chris Wall’s throbbing bass lines and for a while – and through the inspired Girl From Chile and the well received On The Waves – they fill every inch of the slack and roll label they are so often given. Something less slack more attack drifts into newer songs and Chris’s bass is more Gang of Four than 4AD.
On occasion something else shines out of the Bradford trio’s song writing. A sense of social justice not there in the bands they simply sound like and seems to seep through to all their songs. Black Francis never sang about the things Ken Loach makes films about.
So on seeing Harmacy it would seem that that is the attraction of the band so often cited as leading this Bradford scene. For sure they have grown up with jangling American guitars of The Pixies or the powerful bass lines of Peter Hook but it is reflected through a prism of growing up in this City in these times into a sound that is ultimately very Northern town post Thatcher, very give me a chance to have aspiration, very look after yourself cause no one else look after you, very Bradford.
And that is very much worth seeing.
The Woollen Wig Out Festival More
Written By Michael Wood Sunday, April 8th, 2007
fourteencorners, Laura Groves, Le Tournoi, That Fucking Tank, David Broad, Serious Sam Barrett, Harmacy The Woollen Wig Out Festival at The New Beehive, Bradford
Hope is a wonderful emotion and not easily spoiled. Hope had sprung eternal minutes before the doors opened for the Woollen Wig Out Festival and in the corner bottom corner of Bradford near Lumb Lane and opposite the real best restaurant in the City soaking up the early sun it seemed that hope was in the air for all.
The Woollen Wig Out Festival had a wonderful organised shambles quality to it which probably proved its undoing later in the day but listening to Monty Casino kicking off half an hour late it and seeing the fresh faced kids picking up guitars and hammering out something loud and spiky on them it seemed entirely appropriate and in keeping with the mood in the air.
Mood is never more lifted than when listening to the incomparable fourteencorners. On early to allow the band to make a rapid exit for bassist James's mum's birthday tea kept up their own stupidly high quality. Everything is balanced on the right line of precision and roughness and this late afternoon New Limbs For Old Flame in its speeded up live version is superb and blends pauselessly into The Drive Home so we don't have to applaud at the end of the first one we are told. "You don't have to applaud at the end of the second one if you don't want" singer Josh adds in what is increasingly false modesty. Everyone who sees them stands impressed. Everyone who sees them has high hopes for their future.
Le Tournoi I didn't get last time I saw them but today in these surroundings everything clicked into place and I was won over. They are, in their own rough edged way, the bravest and most innovative band around West Yorkshire at the moment with innovation not measured on a scale of strange beeps but on short, spiked pop pieces.
They are Magnetic Fields signed to Sarah Records band with all the wonderfully haphazard elements that suggestions. William has the kind of intelligentsia hip that justifies the excellent I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all which buzzes around the cellar bar so utterly pleasantly while Emilie oozes cool and makes things sound melodic. I still struggle to hear the sounds of - or be won over by the usefulness of a - saxophone player but like the violins on old Blueboy records if it works why knock it and something about Le Tournoi works really well.
Also working well is David Broad who's fedora and suit age him twenty years as he rips through a foot tapping bluegrass set almost all of which is entirely new to me but feels well worn and wonderfully comfortable. St James Infirmary wins me over for good and I'm not alone in making mental notes to take more interest in him, and probably in bluegrass, beyond the White Stripes.
It would be hard to take more interest in Laura Groves who seems to be on the bill at every other gig I see but tonight I end up saying Hello to her Mum - she is nervous and can't watch - and standing behind to her sister - she is short and I get a great view. If hope is in the air then Laura Groves conducts it. Her voice-as-instrument melodies and picked out guitar sounds are never far from familiar but sound unlike anything else. "Suzanne Vega" someone says, miles wide of the mark, "Joanna Newsome" someone else comments but Joanna Newsome never sung about Filey as the always wonderful Coast is and perhaps that is what is so enchanting about the Shipley born singer/songwriter. Her uniqueness comes from growing up near the Shipley Glen Tramway not the Palm Springs Aerial. Perhaps she is as much a product of the area as riots or superb Chicken Pathia or Rugby League. She is fabric.
The need for superb Chicken Pathia takes over and The Hipshakers could be the greatest band ever but I've gone to eat. Next time I hope.
Kill Manticore are noisy boys and trash at guitars as if they have done something wrong. They stomp well and effectively and show the breadth of acceptance of the music scene in West Yorkshire at the moment.
Later in the night Serious Sam Barrett and David Broad will be sitting on two beer barrels deep in conversation and when Barrett takes to stage it is not hard to see why. Both are cut from the same cloth and both are are equally enjoyable pitching perfectly for place and people. Barrett's mic fails and in an hours time technical problems are going to boil over but he Serious Sam plays on and is applauded for it.
That Fucking Tank suffer the same technical problems but create a hell of a racket. By the time Harmacy come on the mics are failing and vocals sound as if they are sung from deep underground. Steve Albini would have loved the sound of Harmacy ala Seamonsters but after one song someone takes exception and a scuffle breaks out. Everything gets very strange and the end is no reflection of the day nor is it a reward for the work that went into it. It is sour but does nothing to dampen the mood. I head for the door but I hope - I hope - that we get to do this again sometime.