It’s a strange and fractured crowd that inhabits Sheffield’s Leadmill tonight for San Diego’s sleaziest of sleaze-rockers Louis XIV. It’s their first headline gig in the UK, hot on the heels of a warm-up slot on The Rakes NME Club tour. However with their debut album still a week from its official UK release they’re relying on the buzz from back home, some positive press and the curiosity of freshers to pack out the Leadmill. The venue clearly didn’t think this was enough, and so enticed another four local acts onto the bill, bringing their own visibly healthy fanbase with them.
Add to that the new intake of Sheffield students who came along for the hell of it, or for the club night afterwards, and you get a strangely directionless night. There’s no sense of build-up to the headline act, as everyone’s come to see someone different. In fact it’s the venues virtuoso display of stage management that really impresses, alternating the bands in two different rooms in order to fit them all in, and being willing to kick them off stage when they’re out of time.
On to the show itself, and there are five bands to get through – some do impress, and some show potential. First up are three-piece The Fontanelles playing tight, competent and standard indie-rock. Their performance is mainly notable for having a drummer who absolutely beats the shit out of his kit. This is surely a man (if ever there was one) who has been molested by a snare drum in a previous existence and made it his one true mission to take revenge on his tormentor for evermore.
Luckily for the snare, which is visibly teetering in pain by the end, it’s a short set, to be followed by Derbyshire EMO crew LostAlone. LostAlone have definitely got potential. Their single Blood Is Sharp is a spiky highlight combining bucket-loads of energetic EMO angst with the Daley Thompson bit out of Iron Maiden‘s Phantom of the Opera to great effect, and without ever sounding whiny. They’re also determined to squeeze as many tracks into their slot as possible, frantically swapping guitars and blasting out the most confident set of the evening.
Funksters Cellarhigh are next up, with a not too great display of dated Red Hot Chili Peppers meets Jamiroquai fodder. They’ve brought plenty of fans with them though, and their stage presence is aided no end by the guitarists entertaining hair, which makes him look like he’s got his head stuck up a traffic cone. The tunes sound OK, to be fair, but it’s all a bit sloppy.
They certainly ain’t dull, unlike next band up The Field. Despite having brought along a band of followers to chant “The Field, The Field” like a mass of zombified Colonel Kurtzs, their brand of mod-stylee dour Northern Britpop emphasises everything that’s ever been depressing about British music. You also have to wonder at the wisdom of their name, as it’s virtually Google-proof (just try finding them on the Internet and you’ll see).
Anyhow, methinks I digress. Louis XIV finally hit the stage with a lot to prove, and a lot of sleazy rock’n'roll to deliver. As they blast through Paper Doll and Illegal Tender, with the Kurtzs still shouting about The Field, you’ve got to feel a bit sorry for them. Jason Hill’s brand of out-and-out porn rock requires a worked-up crowd and a bit of atmosphere, and despite a competent show it’s just not kicking off too well. None of this is helped by Hill’s remarkable resemblance to Harry Enfield, which ups the Spinal Tap factor even further. The shonky lo-fi sound they’ve cultivated on record seems lost on stage, and some of their edge unfortunately goes with it.
That said, as they hit the spikier rhythms of Pledge of Allegiance and God Killed The Queen, Louis XIV start to take control. Whilst they’re never great, they’re certainly good fun, and with the right atmosphere they would have left a much stronger impression. As the students pour in for the post-gig club-night, the encore fizzles out and the evening dissolves away with a whimper. Despite a good set overall, Louis XIV must be well aware that next time they need to climax with a bang, it’s what their future will depend on.