First a word about the excellent Static Gallery which has turned, in a matter of months, into one of Liverpool’s most interesting and eclectic venues. A post-industrial warehouse, complete with noodle bar, friendly staff and excellent sound, it’s impressed me every time I’ve been. If they can only remedy the shambolic toilet situation – two cubicles for both sexes! – it’ll be nigh on perfect.
Increasingly the quality of the concerts has also been occasion for rejoice too. This midweek serving of prime retro psych is typical of a line up that frequently matches some impressive out of towners with the best in local talent.
Primal and gritty – The Cubical
First up are local lads The Cubical. You might recognise this lot from their regular busking stints outside the city centre branch of Schu where I always enjoyed their versions of Leadbelly songs drifting over the lunchtime hubbub as I hurried to Tescos.
Thankfully for them it would appear their days of begging outside overpriced footwear emporiums are over, as a record deal has materialised and a shiny debut disc scheduled for next year. It’s no more then they deserve as they’ve brought something both primal and gritty to that usual scouse stew of influences that takes in Beefheart, The Doors and Howlin’ Wolf.
Star of the show is front man Dan Wilson who stalks the stage like a malevolent tramp begging for the crowd’s attention as if asking for change and a spare ciggy. Check them out now before they get moved on.
Elder statesman – Howie Payne
Five years ago things were looking good for The Stands. As frontrunners in Liverpool’s ‘cosmic scouse’ scene, they were receiving plaudits from Noel Gallagher, touring the US and releasing a great debut album. It’s easy to forget that they had four Top 40 hits.
Fast forward to 2008 and The Stands’ leader Howie Payne is slowly emerging as solo artist after a few years of record company turmoil, diminishing sales and the indignity of seeing one time contemporaries (and family members) selling out arenas.
Given this background it’s a wonder Howie can even get out of bed these days but thankfully the mantel of elder statesman is one which fits him well and adds a poignant and bittersweet edge to his poetic and wide eyed tales of devotion and lost loves. Yes, he looks and sounds like Dylan and knows it but with songs this good only a cruel man would deny Payne some success.
Isle of Wight mentality – The Bees
The Bees have always sounded like they should have come from Liverpool. Perhaps it’s their Isle of Wight mentality which has always given them the air of unfashionable outsiders, content in their search for a great melody and the next spliff.
Previous gigs have seen them welcomed as visiting heroes and tonight was no different as they emerged blinking from a recess that’s seen them move record labels after 2007’s unfairly ignored Octopus album.
Often dismissed as happy go lucky, retro copy cats, the truth in fact, is that The Bees manage to combine more elements of pop’s gloriously messy history in one song than many do in a career.
One minute they’re reinterpreting acid-soaked pysch on These Are The Ghosts, The Russian seems them out funk fellow Isle of Wighters Level 42 with a wired Afrobeat to boot, while crowd favourite A Minha Menina has them channelling the delirious tropicalia of Os Mutantes.
Each song is welcomed back like an old friend with the heavy use of Wash In The Rain and Chicken Payback on TV only compounding these songs’ status as indie standards.
The new songs? Surprisingly they only play a handful but they each fitted seamlessly into a 90 minute set which saw the crowd and the band vying each other for bug eyed enthusiasm. A party band par excellence, great musicians without being muso wankers – what’s not to like? Once again there’s a buzz about the Bees.
Jamie Bowman is a music journalist and man-about-town.