First up, Champagne On The Rocks. I really didn’t know what to expect here but their Twitter bio sums them up perfectly: ‘little bit indie, little bit country’.
The local lads of Robin Cooper and Tom Wood clearly have a strong core following; the crowd well behind them from the first note. A single, somewhat gravelly, voice with no harmonies backed up by an acoustic guitar and pushed along by the bass.
Their songs seemed to tell stories apart from the country edge, there are clearly many other influences at play here – folk, blues and even a ska type rhythmical lift at one point. Their revisit to the place where they played their first gig was clearly a successful one.
Next to the stage were The Feens. Fresh from a cameo appearance on Football Focus the band took us through a varied set, commencing with the familiar favourite ‘Sunset’ and visiting recent releases ‘Eyes Open’ and ‘Step Outside’ before introducing us to some of their newer material. We were treated to a rendition of their latest single ‘Eternal Sunshine’ before a trip down memory Lane with ‘Slip Away’.
The North Yorkshire four piece have installed a new drummer since I last saw them but their style and energy remains the same. Freddie Schmuck and Adam Lodge continue to share vocal responsibilities whilst underpinning each track with guitar and bass respectively. Sam Dowling gives highlights on lead guitar and the set moves along effortlessly before finishing with ‘All Worked Out’, almost a year since its release.
I saw Rosellas for the first time last year at Brudenell Social Club as part of the Rewired one dayer. I really enjoyed their set then so was anxious to find out if they were as good as I remembered. I needn’t have worried. From the off they were a class above.
The intimacy of the performance room in Oporto was loudly interrupted by a bouncing, sweaty mass of bodies as song after song reverberated through every material inch of the bar. There’s clearly a Manchester DNA within this band and their music.
The swirling guitar of Euan Mail and droning keys of Luis Sullivan stretch every note to it’s limits whilst the bass of Ollie Appleby creates the pulse and life blood upon which everything else thrives. Mark Zanker’s tight percussion work gives the tracks the raw power that drives them along and allows for Drew Selby’s vocals to bring everything to life. And alive it is. There’s real musicality here, combined with a passion for entertainment and interaction with the audience. Their sound on the evening really was at a different level. It was loud, it was tuneful and it was energetic.
This was the penultimate date of their headline tour but they showed no signs of fatigue. In fact it was quite the opposite. As the set progressed the energy and intensity increased…and so did the appreciation and response from the crowd. There’s a real confidence from the band once they’re on stage, embodied most by Selby with his drive and musical precision. That said, off stage they are all humble and down to earth, happy to chat at length and appreciative of the warm feedback from their fans and followers.
What of their set list? They kicked things off with ‘Hideaway’, a measured tune with a steady tempo that allows each facet of their own musical style to come to the fore. In the mix too were established songs such as ‘Before The Storm’, ‘Over’, ‘Damaged’ and ‘Born Under A Cloud’ as well as a smattering of new material to tease us. They also had the assured presence to treat us to a few bars of Joy Division before rounding off the night with The Charlatan’s classic ‘The Only One I Know’ and ‘Sometimes Always’.
This is a band who love their music and this is reflected in the way that they interact with the crowd and in the way that their gigs grow and grow, song by song. Was I right to go and see them a second time
Words – Duncan Grant