Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 12th May 2023
You’d have been forgiven for thinking that there was no music in the world this week other than that performed by various artists in a multitude of languages and outlandish costumes over the Pennines in Liverpool. After all, it’s been hard to escape it as a result of the overloaded media coverage. Happily though there’s still plenty to find if you know where to look and want to get back to place of reality where it’s not all about scoring points.
With this in mind a last minute jaunt over to Leeds was the order of the day thanks to a tip off from a wise old owl, or should that be a wheezy old owl?
The place was heaving. Something to do with a band that has been in residency all week I think. Not exactly sure but there was some strange ale on offer:
Whilst the masses were crammed into the main room, being in the community room felt like some kind of guilty secret. It shouldn’t have. On any other day of any other week the three hours spent there would have been bigger news…
There’s something afoot in the Aire Valley. The Sheratons have been making noises recently and I was lucky enough to see Cressa in the last few weeks too. Tonight it was the turn of The Veese to open. A four piece guitar band from Bingley, they are certainly setting their sights high with their bios referring to them by first names only. Very Beatlesque. Live they are very much in the indie guitar bracket but have their own style and flair within it. For their first time at The Brudenell they certainly commanded the stage well. They had brought their own bucket hat army with them who clearly adore them, and with good reason. There’s variation in pace across their repertoire as well as using an acoustic guitar for a softer effect when needed. There is a K’s like core to their sound but the heavy lead guitar is used ridiculously well to stamp their own brand on their tunes. Whilst Oli leads the vocals, showing that he can use depth and a ‘rasp’ when needed, Harrison chips in with harmonies from the drum kit and George (lead) and Dylan (bass) also help out. Songs such as Up The Social and Facetious underpin their set whilst their newest release England was received well by an audience who were clearly won over.
First part of the secret ticked off.
Astoria hail from South Leeds but this was their first time on this stage too. From the first note they were determined to raise the volume, and that they did. This is a five piece band that don’t use their extra guitar in a tokenistic way; far from it. There’s songs where it is used to give a wall of sound feel, songs where it is not needed, songs where it gives raw power and songs where it adds the top notes. Sometimes it’s acoustic, sometimes a Telecaster and sometimes a gorgeous Gretsch. All this is led by Vinnie Smith’s vocals and steered through by the bass of Alex Mawson. Regular rhythm guitar work comes from brothers Ben and Luke Etchells with George Grady on the sticks.
As their set progressed from How Does It Feel? through Where The Light Lives and onto The Snow the tempo grew and so did their confidence and power. There’s a range of influences and genres going on in their sound. Undoubtedly indie but with soul and folk thrown in. Accessible, more mainstream Springsteen style work is countered by pure rock at times. For some songs I initially thought that all that was missing was a harmonica to complete the sound, but then I realised that the lead guitar was actually playing this role, and doing it well.
The set finished with The Half Of It, their most popular tune and something of an anthem. They clearly loved their time on stage and went well over their allotted time…but no one complained!
The secret unfolds…
The Utopiates were the reason that I came. There’s been lots of current social media noise about them currently following the recentrelease of their debut album The Sun Also Rises and my tip off from an unnamed, somewhat breathless source.
From the first note I was hooked. This is a band with many styles and genres in their songs. So much so that it becomes a fascinating mix of intrigue and frustration watching them and trying to liken them to someone else for the reader. I gave up trying, and I’m glad I did. Ultimately it’s so refreshing when you come across a band making completely their own music and forging their own style. True, there’s a Foals like edge to a couple of songs. Illuminise is a case in point; a mesmerising immersion into harmonics and falsetto backing that envelop a rhythmic jazz funk timbre. But that doesn’t define their work, however. They themselves describe their sound as ‘Groove filled rock’n’roll’. Who am I to argue?
If Dan Popplewell’s voice is the polish to the product then Ed Godshaw’s keyboard work is the glue that holds it all together. Sometimes providing the melody, sometimes providing the electronic effects and sometimes adding to the reverb that runs through the set that is an integral part of the band’s sound. Luke Nottingham’s bass work underpins everything, adding the hypnotic beat and rhythm with Joe Jeffreys’ drumming. Josh Redding with his backing vocal range and funk, swirling guitar work adds the final touch. It’s all an intoxicating heady mix of alternative techno groove indie guitar rock, if that’s a thing. The band hail from London, well, all apart from Popplewell who took great pride in letting us know that he was born and bred in Leeds. There’s a pride here that extends to their most recent release and anthemic track Ups And Downs which was performed with gusto and with a nod to the die hard fans of the city’s football club which currently finds itself in something of a predicament.
Best and Worst Days showcased a different side to the band’s repertoire. Again, somewhat anthemic but with an accessible, acoustic feel that allows Popplewell to do his thing. It’s a tight, melodic song that flows along smoothly thanks to the core bass work from Nottingham and which allows for Redding to harmonise in soaring fashion alongside the keys. Given that the band have only a couple of years under their belts they have amassed an impressive array of songs which they dipped in and out of but also found space to throw in a few new numbers. Only Human and Making History maintained the immersive vibe of their music in fine fashion, the latter showing off their ‘big groove guitar’ feel identified by Steve Lamacq and allowing the wah-wah pedal to be used to its maximum effect. The album title track, The Sun Also Rises, allows for something of a droning effect with its notes drawn out and an a swirling undertone running through that gives a feel of those songs coming out of Manchester in the late 90s.
The band rounded things off with Love Salvation, an elongated insight into just about every facet of their strengths. Every note, beat and change was performed with perfect synchronisation, showing just how together they are as a unit. Again, more swirl, more reverb, more wah-wah and more harmony but in such a way that it was woven together like a blanket of musicality.
So that was it, the guilty secret – but not so guilty any more. It really shouldn’t be a secret either and the way that they are going it certainly won’t be. It’s no surprise that they are already signed to V2 and that This Feeling have been lauding them. If you are lucky enough to be going to Truck Festival in July then you’re in for a treat.
Before that thought they will be gracing the stage of the legendary 100 Club in June. Get yourself along. Don’t feel guilty, and don’t keep it a secret.
Words and pictures by Duncan Grant.