Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Bees @ Keele University, Stoke-On-Trent

30 September 2004

It’s no exaggeration to say Sir Ranulph Fiennes would curse the journey to the sprawling yet isolated Keele campus. The walk isn’t suicidal, but pretty bloody ridiculous. They even call Wednesday nights K-2. Thank the maker for over-priced Hackney cabs and unreliable buses ensuring, young and swinging Stoke make the journey week after week up these vertigo-inducing hills (unless you’re in halls of course).

Razorlight‘s appearance a couple of days ago was accompanied by some acne ravaged fresher setting off the fire alarm sparking hysteria and much lager spillage (or was it Johnny Borrell?). It’s no surprise to see security eyeing me suspiciously as I stand in the corner innocently by one.

Little Barrie have come and gone, and the excited merchandise men cajole me into signing away my details to have annoying emails sent to me. “Indie rock mate. Wicked. Bit like Jamiroquai.” I drop a steel smile and nod politely before moving on.

Much like tonight’s headliners, Aspects shouldn’t sound how they look. One student, one geek, one really ugly bloke and a football hooligan. Swilled up in the most inconceivable of cocktails, they crank out a pretty enticing set. Beat-boxing, scratching – its all over the shop. There’s even folk-rock rap and a stonking beat-box cover of Seven Nation Army. Definitely one to look out for.

It’s amazing to think that in two zippy years, The Bees have released two awesome records, yet only now are starting to gain the commercial dues the critics have long heaped upon them. Looking both shy and relaxed, they ease into day five of their month long UK tour with a mutely received Punchbag. Clearly few Sunshine Hit Me owners are in tow. But it doesn’t matter. Wisely, the capital gains from Free The Bees have been noted and the Isle of Wight crew duly oblige. In fact they play it all.

These days you’d be hard pressed to find a set like that, and indeed a venue that doesn’t sound like a pirate broadcast in a public lav. Keele’s acoustics are tip-top tonight, meaning the band’s co-founder Paul Butler and co sound as marvellous as they do on CD. Amid worrying shrieks from the more animated punters, dreamy delights I Love You and Hourglass went some way to dispelling the rank humidity.

Equally, the likes of A Menina Meninha, No Atmosphere and The Russian ensured much dancing and allowed guitarist Chris Birkin to axe murder almost as hilariously as Ted Nugent. By the end, much of the 18-21 floor were captivated by the band’s simple musical genius, lapping it up like The Bees were on a farewell tour.

Judging from their glee however, the very notion would seem a long way away. With The Bees on brilliant form following on from their summer festival merry-go-round, here’s word of advice: Get your tickets while you still can.

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The Bees @ Bush Hall, London
The Bees – Octopus
The Bees @ Astoria, London
The Bees @ Keele University, Stoke-On-Trent