Eighth Rule, The Wutars, boy outside, The Little Villeins plus James Ralphs

In the words of Robert Plant, it’s been a long time since I rock ‘n’ rolled at the Nag’s Head in High Wycombe (he may not have said that full sentence, I grant you), and last night’s gig was in the upstairs room, a great setting for up and coming bands.  It’s easy enough to find free parking space on the side roads in High Wycombe, and it was £5 entry to see 5 bands.  There really should have been a bigger audience, and they would not have gone away disappointed.  I heard about this gig through Maidenhead Windsor Wycombe gig info, so if you want to know about gigs in the area, or have a gig to advertise, check them out.
First up was James Ralphs who is a singer/songwriter with quite diverse influences.  He had a full band supporting him at this performance, and they put in a very good showing, with him providing vocals and also guitar for most of the songs.  He started with Plasma Screens, which began slow and melodic before the beat picked up and the guitar got heavier and started to drive the track, leading into a very nice solo.  Unfortunately, James’ vocals were getting drowned in the mix at this point.  Red Room has a rock/reggae beat, a very interesting guitar sound and bounces along to a sharp ending.  Stairs has a light rock feel to it, with a pleasing bass sound and very solid drums.  James’ vocals are finally higher in the mix for The Fall and they come across as tuneful and expressive.  Sit Back Relax sounded different to the demo currently on his MySpace page, very much a Police sound, could almost have been a So Lonely intro, as it flows into a more melodic chorus.  Living With You was another with a rock/reggae beat and that certainly seems to be the direction he is taking his sound.  They finished with Spent, with an intro very much like the Stranglers on Waltzin’ Black, then going into a heavy track with a solid beat and a fine melody – it was my favourite track of a very promising set.
Next up were The Little Villeins, described as “unique distinctive, whilst sending subtle hints to their influences shooting up your musical spine” – a lot to live up to, and they managed it…eventually – I thought at one stage it was just going to be the two guitarists, Tom and Frankie, but then the vocalist, Snowy, appeared, and finally they managed to find their bassist, Alex, and drummer, Hevs.  They began with Trouble At The Market Cross, a sharp sound, biting rhythm, short and to the point, got a 60s rockabilly feel to it, for me.  The opening to Hung Up reminded me of some of the burst of the Ramones, before it moved into a slower section with a more pronounced beat.  We are invited to “feel free to have a little dance to this one” and they break into Naughty Girls, with a ska beat – a nice number which certainly bounces along.  We’re Alright calls for audience participation in the chorus section, and it gets it – Snowy has a very good rapport going with a partisan audience.  It’s a more rocking number, The Jam meets Blur, which I suppose means the Small Faces – not a bad sound to have !  Move It On is a relatively new song with a very upbeat tempo and a sound that reminds me of the Buzzcocks, and especially Ever Fallen In Love – again, not a bad sound to have in your songs, and they do have a very good guitar sound in this track.  For me, they saved the best for last with I Can Relate to That, a guitar intro leading into a strong driving upbeat track, the bass and drums combining very well within this well constructed song, very much rocking into an epic ending – you can hear a softer acoustic version on their MySpace.  Or you could go along to one of their gigs, enjoy a band with some excellent songs, very proficient technically with loads of potential with the sound they are generating, and come away with one of their free 12 track cds.
It’s a change of scene as we welcome boy outside on to the stage – well, I say ‘welcome’ but there is so much chatter going on in some quarters that it is one man and his acoustic guitar against the chattering masses.  I am pleased to report that the one man won, with a brilliant performance of technical excellence, fine compositions, passionate vocals and a distinctly angry edge.  It would appear this is a new solo venture for Aidan Cooney, and he deserves to do well.  Devil In A Tea Cup opens things for us with an upbeat tempo, a rock/country sound and vocals which are plaintive at times, but always full of emotion.  Escape To The Blue is stuffed full of attitude tonight, in the eyes, in the rough vocal growl, a slower number with a deep melody, the song was growing into a very solid sound before the sound inexplicably died on him, but he recovered to slow it to the end.  Gypsy Moth has the vocal sound of Johnny Cash to start it off, which is dark and haunting in this venue, the guitar being the only shred of light to cling to.  He finished up what turns out to be a shortened set with Last Valentine, much more plaintive vocals, an air of desperation in places, a melodic track with some bounce in it, classic Americana, and shows boy outside to be a diamond in this lineup.  He closes with “thank you very much High Wycombe” but we should be thanking him for a set which provided a fleeting moment of real class.  He is playing the Hope & Anchor in Islington on 26 February – I intend to be there, and I would recommend that you be there too.
There is a familiar face among The Wutars, with Alex Gold following his stint on bass with The Little Villeins by fronting the Wutars.  The Wutars are described by the NME as a “Jangling Jam influenced indie band”, or by Turning Worm as a “frenetic indie guitar band with the jerky quirky eccentricity of Libertines thru sharp punkyindie and a Hamburg era Beatles vibe.”  I saw the Libertines supporting The Coral once and I thought they were an absolute waste of space on the bill.  The Wutars are certainly not that.  Oh La La La provides a very high tempo start to proceedings, and to be honest they do not let up.  Tonight the song seems more about rhythm than melody in terms of the instruments, the vocal refrain being used to provide some semblance of melody in this live version.  Different Story is another uptempo number, bouncy with a strong guitar opening, a great combination between bass and drums, and overall a very dramatic stage performance.  And Your Bird Can Sing may not be the first Beatles song anyone might think of, but it’s still a tall order to carry it off, and they do the song great credit, in their own indie style.  A big guitar intro takes us into Waste My Days Away, the drums driving it along with guitar breaks coming in over the top, and it continues along with no let up.  There is a more melodic intro to Shirley, a very pleasing bassline, lighter drums, overall a more laid back feel, and then the drums start to build, the track explodes, settles and then drives off again at a higher tempo, while still retaining the melodic edge.  Fortune is another fast paced start, moving into a good rocking number, a very tight sound, and excellent drumming.  They finish with The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and it has a fuller guitar sound, a harder feel, as they take it medium paced, giving it a mellow feel, and end it on some feedback, which was a nice touch.  There was a lot of energy in the performance, much to enjoy, and some great songs being very well delivered.
Headline for the evening were Eighth Rule, with a wonderfully branded drum kit and their frontman, Iain Littlemore, in an Eighth Rule tshirt – clearly a switched on band (even if he did spoil it for me later on by going down to a New York Jets tshirt – well, how do you expect a Miami Dolphins fan to react to that !).  Apparently, “the band has an original mix of indie and rock, with uplifting lead lines and focussed, driving rhythms that are guaranteed to blow the mind of any self respecting music lover” – I am not sure if my mind blew, but they were certainly very impressive.  They opened with Rewriting You, melodic guitar taking us into a high tempo opening, strong vocals over the indie sound, and a storming powerful track.  Fantasmas is on their MySpace site and is their new single, very much an indie sound, reminiscent of Bloc Party’s Banquet for me, and they maintain a very tight sound through the phases of the track.  Implicit/Explicit is introduced as a “love ballad” (it isn’t) and they thunder through the track.  Nights Like These has a nice riff opening with the drums then hitting in, a more stacatto rhythm, as is the indie way, with an excellent guitar melody behind it as the song rocks – and I am sure I caught a very inventive samba beat from the drums in the middle section.  Echo has a little guitar sound at one point which makes me think of the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant (my favourite track of theirs), and some thumping bass is met by melodic guitar breaks, the track moving on with the drums breaking through, as there seems to be a constant fight for supremecy between the instruments before the drums close it out.  “The last song is a very nice quiet one” – of course Do You Feel You’re Heading Down is nothing of the sort, with some sustained drumming and guitar work taking us into a hard rocker, a hint of a ska beat before it rocks out again, the track seeming to constantly change its focus, sure I can hear some of the Jam’s Eton Rifles in there, a false ending, the guitars keep it growing, and it is a powerful end to the set.  They came back for an encore with Closure, which featured a great guitar solo, brilliant vocals – I think the best compliment I can pay this track is that I fully expected it to have been a cover version – it wasn’t, which just goes to show the strength of the songwriting from Eighth Rule, and I would not be surprised to see them go on to far bigger things than this.
It was a great evening overall, and I will be looking out to see how each of the bands progress, and will happily catch them live again if the opportunity arises.  On a not related at all note, as I was trudging through the sluch along Amersham high street earlier today I passed Bradley out of Eastenders.  Just thought I’d mention that.

This entry was posted in Gig reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.