20 September 2004, Manchester Bar 38
This is why, even though you look out the front door, you see the weather's foul, you're aggravated about stuff, it's an hour's journey, you've already seen the band once, it's a free gig, and you ask yourself, why bother? you should still ask yourself, what else were you going to do tonight? And if the answer's watch the telly, then shift yourself and get down there. To Manchester, for the Finnish Showcase event in Bar 38, one small part of the big annual In The City music industry bean feast. I was late for the scheduled start, rushing downstairs out of the downpour, but so was the action. I had time to buy a beer, a Becks, for 2.90. 2.90!!! Yes, it was that sort of bar.
First up was Tigerbombs. As openers they had to put up with some sound sytem vagaries, and in one break they explained that they'd been up since 6 am thanks to a malfunctioning fire alarm and somehow it was all the Swedes' fault. They were okay, cheerful and energetic. Musically, they were handy, tight and doing some intricate stuff at times. Sort of pop punky but without the desire to inflict harm. Which I always think is a good thing. I don't know that I'd have gone out just for them, but if you find yourself in front of them in some future line up, they'll hold your attention in an entertaining way. Good enough to motivate me to buy their Loves You album at the desk at the back. There were never many people at that desk, I was milling about it on my own. In The City is an industry fest, remember, and Bar 38 was populated mainly by characters with plastic cards hanging round their necks, execs, A & R men, friends and liggers. Not really full, so I don't know how far the message about Finland will have spread. Of course there were competing events at other venues, and Man United-Liverpool was on the same night as well. They were even supposed to be showing that on a screen in Bar 38 after Bitch Alert and before the last two acts later on, dance acts Giant Robot and Rinneradio. But I just wanted to see the rock acts. I checked my bank balance and bought another Becks.
This (right) is Boomhauer. As a fan of King of the Hill I have to say that is a top name for a band. I found myself chatting to someone from Stupido Records who look after them. I'm ashamed to say this was because I wanted to drink his beer - I'd spotted this Lapin Kulta which they were all drinking but when I went up for a bottle to try it out, they wouldn't sell me one because I didn't have one of those plastic cards. And wasn't Finnish. Or indeed, Lappish; Lapland is where they brew it. Nice guy, surprisingly he let me take a swig, it was pleasant. Given the choice, I'd certainly have been drinking that than bloody Becks. Anyway, what about Boomhauer? The blurb gave a misleading impression, talking about 'redneck country punk'. Well there was the barest touch of Redeye Joe or whatever it was called (weren't they Swedish?), this was a completely different kettle of fish. The singer is a real original, singing (and commentating) in a non stop snappy hickish way. And gozzing on the floor at regular intervals, there was a little patch to the left of where he was standing - I don't think he was venting spleen or anything! The band are highly proficient, the drummer also being a larger than life personality, really belting it out. It seemed like a long set, but that was because they were rattling it out, packing in the numbers all short and quickfire with plenty of humour. More for punk and garage rock fans than country, I think. I went back to the lonely merchandise desk and got Boomhauer's Wild Human Condition cd.
Bitch Alert kicked off as ever with Sunsets You Know. The difference from last time was instantly obvious, there was far more bite and purpose. And the second song - was that Heroine? - she said it was a song "about me" :) - I could have sworn she sang it in Finnish, but I was on my third bottle of beer. If it was Finnish, that was very cool. We were treated to one cockup, for Monday, which suffered two false starts before they agreed on a delayed entry for the drums. But overall the set was well handled and slick, as it should be, they know this material - all from the ..rriot album - inside out. But not 'well worn', it wasn't tired at all, this was fresh and forceful. Here's proof of that, the sheer wattage of the sound system was low, this not being a proper rock venue, but nevertheless Bitch Alert were blistering.
Not everything clicked perfectly eg. Rockets lacked something. But it's still a great song, from an album jam packed full of goodies. Tonight, every one a winner, especially a couple of my personal favourites Big Brother's Secret and I Love You. Look at that song, see how good this band are: it isn't complicated, but there's simple genius in the way the relentless sardonic/ironic vocal line works in tandem with the churning bass laden guitar.
They were in the right mood this evening. Was it only that lots of their Finnish mates were in? Dunno, but Heinie was outstanding. She fixed on us and pinned us down with a no messing glare. In full voice she's fierce and relentless, and yet she can pitch it lyrically light as she wants. They were all relaxed here, you could see that when she put her guitar down at the end for Loveson. She looked a bit awkward when she did that last time, but not a bit of that now. Not just in command, this was ferocious. I hadn't really 'got' Loveson before, but tonight it was monumental, built up into something primal, which is how it ended, not with words, purely Heinie's gut rising scream. They walked off, leaving us to offhand feedback. There were some spontaneous calls for more - that's how good their set was, coming from a seen-it-all-before audience like this one.
So. I did go out into the wild night, to get screamed at by a scary woman, and I couldn't have been happier.
The band's current site. I did have a link here to Bitch Alert's home pages for the English market. It was annoying, the separation between Finland and England. Because here we were, celebrating ..rriot, while third album Kill Your Darlings had just appeared at home. But there was nothing about that on the English pages. I didn't give a link to the In The City site simply because as you read this it was mostly over.