With Sheffield having seemingly twigged that December has arrived and not so much adjusted its climatic thermostat accordingly as ripped it clean off the wall instead, the Steel City populous would be forgiven for snuggling up at home with a mulled beverage instead of venturing to an album launch. The fact that so many attended the launch party of Standard Fare‘s forthcoming second album (Out Of Sight, Out Of Town) is as testament to the band’s rising stature in the city as it is surprising to the band themselves.
Openers Judy Beat & The Becketts , with their concept songs about Quantum Leap episodes, on paper smack soundly of novelty act. The fact that they can take such a niche conceptual theme and turn them into strikingly simple yet effective pop songs is another surprise of the evening. Alternating between a haunting simplicity of a two piece, and a full band for the more upbeat, up-tempo songs, there was a genuine depth of songwriting which based purely on the band biography would’ve been missed. One of the year’s ultimate ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ discoveries, for sure.
Fresh from playing Club Primavera in Barcelona, Tigercats were a band on many lips throughout the evening. Sadly, severe hold ups prevented them from appearing, leaving acclaimed Scottish four-piece Kid Canaveral to unexpectedly play an extended set – “We thought we’d have a bit longer to digest our dinners, so if you don’t mind the chance of being vomited on, come down the front”, as they put it. In many places their compositions came across like slightly more jangly Frightened Rabbit numbers (frontman David MacGregor even looks like a member on a busman’s holiday), instrumental melodies fighting for attention with polished multi-layered vocal harmonies – most notably on You Only Went Out To Get Drunk Last Night.
With such a strong line-up already, Standard Fare are in the rather unusual situation of – whisper it – potentially being upstaged by their support. Or so you’d be forgiven for thinking. Bedecked in formalwear and bow ties (save bassist/frontperson Emma Kupa, who goes for a more casual checked shirt and jeans combo), the band proceed to tear through what feels less like a showcase of new material and more like a greatest hits set in waiting. Old favourites from first album The Noyelle Beat like Philadelphia and Dancing sit effortlessly amongst new material such as the driving, joyous 051107, the reflective Darth Vader and the rollicking Suitcase. Even Half Sister, verging on cod-reggae, becomes a rhythmic, shimmering pop gem. Throughout a 40-minute set Kupa’s vocals soar effortlessly and unfalteringly while her basslines twang, with Danny How and Andy Beswick providing a tight and unrelenting musical backline that belies the band’s relative youth.
There’s a near-tangible sense of genuine excitement amongst the band at showing off their new material to a home crowd, and they seem unable to hide their comparative disappointment that the album’s official launch date being moved from December to January meant they had no copies to sell afterwards. With such human sentiments on display, it’s perhaps fitting that the band clamber offstage to a volley of celebratory hugs from all and sundry. Cold it may be in that there city, but there’s a wonderfully warm atmosphere in the venue all evening. Could Standard Fare be Sheffield’s next breakthrough act? Based on the new album and tonight’s performance, it’d be foolish to think otherwise.