Gig Review: Sodastream, Kro Bar, 12th January 2007

The first gig of a new year always seems to be a low-key affair. Last year it was ¡Forward, Russia!’s in-store at Piccadilly Records and the year before we saw a little-known band called Editors play to 30 people at the Night & Day. Gig-going activities for 2007 were kicked off on Friday night at Kro Bar, opposite the University Union on Oxford Road, where Hey! Manchester and PopArt vs Industry had put together another excellent line-up to follow on from the Klondyke Club gigs of last November.

We arrived just as Julian Donkey-Boy was starting up. Looking a bit like a younger Graham Coxon with his geeky, thick-rimmed specs and Telecaster, the quiet, unassuming young man from Moston treated us to six or so songs brimming with melody and melancholy. There is certainly an leaning to his work and I noticed the occasional Bill Callaghan affectation in his voice while also being reminded of Pavement and even Grandaddy on a couple of songs. Apparently he sometimes plays with a full band and that is something I’d certainly like to hear.

Newport’s Gethin Pearson And The Scenery were up next and were far more upbeat and played a confident set of melodic folk pop that perhaps deserved a better reaction from the crowd but in the intimate confines of a small room above a bar, and with a subdued crowd, many of whom won’t be seeing their twenties again, there was never going to be any huge display of affection or band/audience interaction, which didn’t seem to please Gethin Pearson too much. They were very good, however, sounding very much like Bright Eyes with Pearson, who reminded me a bit of a young Damon Albarn, funnily enough, the focal point of the five piece. They played a particularly good country number with violin and slide guitar working brilliantly together but throughout the performance the harsh, trebly sound of the bass seemed at odds with the elegant swagger of the other instruments and was a detriment to their overall sound. A promising band, nonetheless.

Airport Girl were the least impressive band of the night. They played a quite stately yet downbeat indie pop but there was little variation in the songs and I spent much of the gig wondering how a band with six members, including a cellist and an underused keyboard player, could sound so small and hemmed in. Maybe it was just the venue.

I vaguely remember Sodastream getting into Peel’s Festive Fifty in the late ’90s but until this gig was announced I didn’t realise they were still going. They are an acoustic duo from Australia made up of a singer/guitarist and a double bass player who sings backing vocals; an odd combination, maybe, but it works brilliantly and they put in an excellent set that was ecstatically received by the crowd. The songs were low-key, gentle and tuneful and, though the band have been compared to Belle And Sebastian in the past, I thought they sounded more like The Go-Betweens, particularly the late, great Grant McLennan’s output, and of the whimsical pop of many of the Flying Nun bands from the late ’80s.

There was no doubting that the musicianship and songcraft on display easily surpassed anything else we’d heard that evening; Karl Smith’s sweet vocals and delicate guitar picking and Pete Cohen’s mastery of the double bass, whether plucking or sawing away with a bow, or, indeed, his abilities on the musical saw which he took to for one song, all served to add a lush beauty to the songs that the previous bands could rarely muster. The country lilt of “Keith And Tina” was the hightlight of the main set but the three encores they played at the behest of an increasingly verbal audience were sublime and capped a great start to 2007.

Sodastream – Keith And Tina

Sodastream – Charity Board

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