Live Music + Gig Reviews

Withered Hand + Standard Fare @ Catch, London

9 February 2011

Tonight’s show is a bit of a coup for promoters Records Make Great Pets. The sweatbox of a room upstairs at Catch, in a rainy Shoreditch, can pack in 150 at a push – a capacity each of the bands playing tonight could easily exceed. However it’s a quiet start and local band Tiger Cats play to a small but enthusiastic crowd.

Comprised of former members of Esiotrot and Hexicon, and with EP tracks entitled Konny Huck and Stevie Nicks, there’s no cloak and dagger going on here. They’re a studied version of indiepop; the product of 30 years of jangly guitars and heartfelt post-punk. Slices of Orange Juice, Hefner and Violent Femmes blend to make a sound that, despite the band’s infancy, is considered, confident and utterly infectious. Single Easter Island is a twinkling highlight, as is a new song about an imaginary record shop staffed by ’80s one hit wonders. “Jona Lewie, Jilted John and The Only Ones,” the current staff list reads, though it may be subject to change after an audience member reminded them that Louie had two hits. “Erm…oh!” is the reply. If tonight’s set reflects their first album, there won’t be a filler in sight – one to watch out for.

Standard Fare‘s The Noyelle Beat was one of the best indiepop albums of 2010, and its highlights get a look in tonight, including Wow, Wrong Kind of Trouble and Dancing, Some new songs are thrown in too. While a little more obviously melodic and a bit harder sounding, it’s otherwise business as usual – with more of the same whimsical lo-fi that relies on singer Emma Kupa’s wonderfully unrefined, quivering voice to inject a sassy, knowing edge.

So the material’s all there but something’s not quite right tonight. For a start the sound lets them down; the speakers are at the front and while it might be a small room, it’s long and thin, meaning those at the back can’t hear. Their distracted chatter threatens to drown the band out at times and even the brilliant start-shuffle intro of Philadelphia feels muted.

As tonight’s headliner, Withered Hand manages to avoid the same fate. The Scottish troubadour’s heart-wrenching sing-alongs see the worlds of indie-pop and anti-folk collide, earning his a somewhat cult following.

Despite his backing band, Dan Wilson cuts a lone figure on stage, his long hair and wobbly voice betraying the man who makes comfortable banter with his audience between songs. The contrast makes his vulnerable, emotions-laid-bare approach almost uncomfortable and intrusive to listen to, but his fragility is balanced with an almost rustic sound. Wonderful Lie and I Am Nothing go down well but it’s Love In The Time Of Ecstasy that receives the best reception of the night. It oozes the rousing campfire charm of (sometime band member Neil Pennycook’s) Meursault.

It’s a great end to the night but, as Wilson and co leave the stage, the only thing that remains is the word ‘Tiger’, cut out of white paper and stuck next to the word ‘Catch’ on the stage backdrop, presumably by those pesky Tiger Cats. A reminder that, despite an impressive line-up, tonight belonged to them.

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