As if one stage wasn’t enough, of late The Parish Huddersfield have taken to hosting a Saturday night free gig (donations only) in the cellar (aka the dive bar). A nice touch was that the bands donated the bit of dosh collected this week, towards the earthquake appeal, but don’t forget to throw the bands a few quid, even if it only covers their petrol.
I must confess, dear reader, this is a review that is perhaps not as incisively crisp as some of my reviews might be. It may just have been the excessive quantity of Gamma Ray that did it – and I had been doing so well of late.
I’ve seen TopHats a few times now, and know them to be a steadily improving band that offer a banging gig. One of the two supports to Top Hats was Manchester based Palace Approach and I was also keen to see these guys live too. The bassist of Palace Approach is Henry Strangeway, who I had last caught on stage almost 3 years ago to the day, at a gig with his then band, Full Colour, at the Leeds Brude.
I will drop a few sentences to the first support act of the evening Mezcal (above). This is a band still developing with a couple of tracks dropped onto Spotify. Musically there was a lot of evidence of hard practice as the set felt tight and solid.
It always feels like magic how 3 musicians can create a dancing driving beat and Mezcal wove a rocky spell for us this evening. Weird to think how humanity has been doing this since the antiquity dark nights under the stars with the camp fires, and how there is a direct thread through from that to Mezcal and the other two acts on this evening.
While Mezcal covered the Arctics at one point, it almost felt their music veered towards the heavy elements rather than the spiky. No criticism in that comment, it just gave a bit of a feel for where the band’s live heart was.
The sound mix for this set was sadly a bit poor (and I know the lads hadn’t been able to get a sound check together), but there was a good vocal (if a little lost in the mix) and the guys definitely brought the audience into the space and created that ‘around the camp fire’ connection we all need. Mezcal are a band I’ll hunt down again for sure.
Anyone who recalls Full Colour really need to refocus their horizons as Palace Approach are about as far away from Henry’s previous band as can be, beyond being a 5 piece.
I wouldn’t want to pigeon hole any band with a couple of lazy name checks, but with Palace Approach I did get a hint of the huge style of Van Morrison, a bit blues, a bit jazz, a massive guitar style, and top quality music from all five guys in the band. Then, I also got a feel for bands like Primal Scream in a song or two, that supreme confidence and a nod to those heady late 80’s/90’s days. This gig was truly all about fun and the enjoyment of performance.
The buzz in the room immediately after their set was all about how how amazing that funky guitar work of lead vocalist/guitarist Ted is – I can’t imagine ever being able to play like that, and then how tight the percussion and bass was behind it.
With 3 blistering guitars in the mix, there was truly a wall of sound with this band, and it was great also to see how relaxed and enjoying it the band were. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Henry smile on stage before haha.
The band kicked off with an early lead tune Dreaming, a track long mooted as the debut single – it set the tone well – a very nicely paced, confident, complex rocking performance, and it led into the rest of the set.
Henry is hoping Dreaming will be released soon, but the band are also really busy on their own projects, meaning Dreaming and the Palace Approach project has taken a back seat for the moment .
Palace Approach are Ted Lund (lead guitar/vocals), Joe Chatwood (guitar and vocals), (Charlie “kosmo” Korodi (guitar and vocals), Henry Strangeway (bass) and Oliver “Clarkey” Clarke (drums).
I know Palace Approach are hoping for more gigs (in Manchester) and while it’s early days, I really think this band will develop and mature into a real live draw. Word is they just might be in Huddersfield again before you can blink.
Speaking of serious development, we must turn to the main piece of the night TopHats. This is a bunch of lads who both take their music seriously and also have a great time. Haha after the gig, lead singer Alfie was asking me for constructive criticism. I had to explain that almost all of the bands I have really admired never really made it – so the band honestly would need to do the exact opposite of anything I could offer.
I think it’s fairly rare in a band, but TopHats do not shy away from the instrumental interlude, and it’s a really powerful tool for them. The band do a Spagetti Western cover to close their set; and for those of us who are (becoming) seasoned Top Hats gig attenders have a smile with the song being given its energetic paces while first timers perhaps look slightly bemused at the spectacle. I did suggest the band might want to shorten the piece as they increasingly get to play for more newcomers, but it was a bit of a mean suggestion – the song is a great memorable sign off, and a great example of that slightly off the wall style that Top Hats have. Not least, it’s proof Top Hats know they don’t have to sing to ensure we all have a great time.
The TopHats guys completely filled the space with a set packed with variety. The band have clearly been rehearsing hard and moving towards a slightly more relaxed, but still very punchy indie style. Alfie Bull, Charlie Shaw, Hugo Clear and drummer Max Broadhead have the firepower to keep us engaged throughout. There is a goodly amount of sardonic chat from the band in their set too.
All three bands tonight were totally engaging and determined for their audience to have a great time – that might sound obvious, but I want to make the distinction against some bands who perhaps more get the buzz from themselves, rather than to feed off the reaction others give them. TopHats are a joy to watch and I strongly suspect they feed off that pleasure in return.
Another track that really makes me smile is the Nun Song, where Charlie dons a nun’s habit and proceeds to channel his inner Joe Talbot a little bit. A little tale shared which gave me the image of Charlie performing the song in front of his aged relatives enhanced the chuckle.
The TopHats set included the singles released so far, Eyes on the Prize and Take A Trip. Alfie dropped by for a quick chat later, the debut EP is out this weekend (Feb 25th 2023) – yey! (and yes there is another review coming). The EP has been quite some time in the works, and they were keen to get it right before releasing it. I guess that’s the curse of a fast developing band, what you recorded 9 months ago could sound so much better now.
I hear word of another TopHats gig soon, so if you missed this one check out the band’s socials for an update.
* when the images are crappy you know they are mine. Yes one is from the band’s Small Seeds gig back in November.