Monday, August 02, 2010


Underachievers Please Try Harder have been putting on club and band nights at Café Saki for several years now – and at each visit I’m reminded how well this small student bar works for gigs. Watching bands play in the windowed alcove whilst police vans or the 15 bus to Flixton shoot past behind them is one its many little quirks. Shame then the venue's licnese has been under threat. Tonight’s line-up was heavily-leaning to the DIY garage end of the Underachievers indie-pop spectrum.

Second on the bill and first band I saw were Boy Or Bison. The trio play with familiar elements of 60s West Coast music before the drugs put a cloud over the youthful innocence and summer fun. So snatches of cartoon themes or surf riffs mix with bubblegum heartbreakers called ‘The Fog Of Love’, all drenched in a so-retro-its-now reverb-heavy sound. They had an enjoyable, easy-going vibe but when the songs got too familiar or clichéd or slack it was easy for the attention to wander.

Next up were Brown Brogues who seem intent to make sure your attention doesn’t wander. One or two songs into the set lead singer Mark beckoned the crowd forward so the front row were in the alcove right on top of the band. And in short: Brown Brogues are even better when you are closer.

One thing that was emphasised for me tonight following their June slot at the Deaf Institute was how the contrasting physiques of the duo match their playing. The drumming of Ben is solid, immovable and primal. The guitars and vocals of Mark are as distorted and unpredictable as his swivel-hipped gyrations. Sometimes his guitar neck points upwards, sometimes downwards, even out into the beer garden – but it is rarely still. But throughout such jerky contortions the drums keep pounding. For all its primitive visceral appeal, this is sophisticated garage rock par excellence in which the duo appear to work by telepathic communication (no set-lists, improvised or unplanned song endings).

Mazes I last saw in the sunshine of an early afternoon Deerhunter show. This nocturnal setting with its rough plasterwork and dressed-down interior better suited their brand of melodic fuzz-pop.

Earlier in the evening ‘Box Elder’ was on the PA – and this song reminds me of Mazes: not the cryptic and arch later Pavement stuff but the practising-in-the-garage joyful abandon of knocking out great tunes. Tonight the melody and fuzz competed with general noisiness. I was sometimes frustrated that the vocals became lost in the mix and the band were plagued technical problems which made the early part of the set seem a bit stop-and-start. But when it all came good and with songs as strong as ‘Bowie Knives’ and ‘Cenetaph’, it was hard to resist.

Tonight was £3 on the door before 10.30pm. That’s for four bands. I only saw three of them – that’s a pound per band (or fifty pence per Brown Brogue). It’s shockingly good value that deserves regular support (and makes any quibbles here look plain mean-spirited). So please support future Underachievers Please Try Harder nights, buy stuff from these bands and sign the petition to help to keep Café Saki as a licensed venue.

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