The sun’s out, the temperature is pushing 90 but you’re going to spend all evening in a tiny venue underneath Oxford Street watching bands you’ve barely heard of? That must mean it’s time for another round of Xfm’s In the City Showcase – the new bands event that’s previously bought us Art Brut and Razorlight, among others. And Thursday night is indie night. Hooray!
The evening kicks off with female-fronted Drink Me belting out something about glorious underachievers in a new wave stylee amid tight drumming and Wire delivery, a bit like a new new wave of nu wave Elastica. Full marks definitely go to their stand-in guitarist, who’s apparently had precisely one rehearsal.
They’ve barely been off-stage long enough for Xfm’s John Kennedy to remind the listeners what’s going on before it’s time for Bristol’s New Rhodes, who are surely big enough (and well enough known) by now not to be playing to a crowd of 200 in a place like this. They sound incongruously slick in the uber-indie surroundings, like Snow Patrol in a cheesy video, reminding themselves of where they came from and us of the Waterboys-cum-The Las with their sometimes folksy strings.
James Williams’ mad hair and waistcoat give them style as well as substance. An energetic run through of You Have Given Me Something That I Can’t Give Back suits the tiny stage better than you’d expect and despite the fact there isn’t room to swing a cat in the entire bloody venue, they still manage to find room to accommodate two stage invaders, who Bez away with them for the last couple of numbers.
Then we’re on to Make Good Your Escape, a Suede-do-Emo Chichester combo whose lead singer seems intent on spending most of the evening jumping on the drumkit while the guitarist pretends he’s in a remake of the Smells Like Teen Spirit video. I’ll have to come back to you on whether or not that’s a good thing, but it’s not entirely bad and they’ve obviously made enough of an impression previously that I not only vaguely recognise, but am able to put a name to, New Day.
And finally (as we’re informed by Jules from Lopez; Kennedy has had to dash off to do his radio show) it’s Captain, lush and glorious in the dark surrounds, like a ray of synthesised electropop sunshine. It’s good to see that they can pull if off live, without Trevor Horn’s production backing them up. They do so superbly, sounding a little funkier, a little more bassy, with great chemistry between frontman Rik and keyboardist Clare despite the good foot difference in height between them.
They open with recent near-hit single Broke, rollick through ‘old’ songs such as Frontline and present new material that’s just as good. They wish guitarist Steve a happy birthday and finish by promising paisley hotpants if you come and see them live over the summer. Do they really think we need any excuse?