There’s a palpable spark in the air as the Welly club prepares to host not one but three of Hull’s brightest bands together on one bill. There’s a decent crowd, too, though this is a fair-sized venue which means, pleasingly, you can still get to the bar and/or the bog without being forcibly coated in other people’s lager-infused sweat in the process.
But anyway – Breeze are first up and they’re straight into their rock ‘n’ roll groove with opener “Hotel Room”. 2014 single “Post Youth” is next and they’re clearly up for it and sounding as tight as you like – the only problem being that the vocals have been completely submerged in the mix (not the band’s fault, of course) and it’s a struggle to hear a word frontman Aron Gilbey is actually singing (or saying). That said – and the mix did improve as the soundman appeared to get a grip of the situation mid-set – Breeze proceed to set a high bar as the first act of the night. They’re no one-trick-ponies, either – one minute they’re channelling Orange Juice, the next they’ve gone all Jesus And Mary Chain (and they look the part for that one, too). It’s a great set from a band in justifiably confident mood.
There’s an interminable delay to the start of Fire’s set when it becomes apparent the drum kit mics aren’t all working so instead we’re treated to the sight of a confused soundman scurrying back and forth twixt stage and desk until, after what seems like hours, someone finally manages to press the right buttons and we have lift-off.
Fire (The Unstoppable Force) take the stage to a backing tape splicing Queen, Arthur Brown and the Psycho soundtrack – a fitting intro for their theatrical brand of energetic garage rock. Quite simply, Fire are brilliant. Clad as always in their customary red/black uniform (except drummer and ex-Paddington Grant Dobbs, who’s appeared bare-chested, slightly disturbing though that is) they launch straight into “Twilight”. As with the opening band, the vocals are a tad lost in the mix but singer Alfie Steel more than makes up for it with a consummate display of showmanship. He prowls the stage, stands tall atop the monitors and generally owns the place. He’s a star, and in band mates Micky Fegz, Leon Johnson and Dobbs (surely one of the best Hull drummers for many a year) he’s got the perfect foils. They finish with a frantic run through audience favourite “Psycho Killer” (no, not that one) as an incendiary set comes to a glorious close.
As good as the two support acts are (very good indeed), it’s clear that the majority of the audience are here to see Audio Subscene, a fact confirmed by the sea of mobile phones that are thrust aloft en masse as the band stride onto the Welly stage. By now the venue is pretty full – they’ve clearly got a loyal fanbase and it’s not hard to see why. They kick off with the rock ‘n’ roll swagger of “Why Would You Want To Leave Me?”, which backs the new single. The single itself, “High And Dry”, makes an appearance just three songs in – it’s an anthemic singalong with a killer chorus that deserves every minute of airplay it’s going to get (if there’s any justice). They’re knocking the CD out for £2 tonight as well – bargain. Subscene still have to cope with the same sound problems as the other two bands (which is a real shame, as aside from the drowned vocal, the mix is otherwise spot on) but it doesn’t seem to bother the audience in the slightest and by the end of the headliners’ set, there’s an impressive crowd of bouncing bodies occupying the dance floor. They’re lapping it up – this is a band in fine form. The set closes with a breakneck cover of Status Quo’s “Paper Plane”, which is inspired – and even has this reviewer jumping around like a mad ‘un. Top notch stuff from a hugely talented band – go see ‘em.
Words: Nick Boldock
Images: Paul Newbon