Arriving to review Otherkin, I’m embarrassed to admit that I miss a substantial portion of the set by openers Fox Chapel due to forgetting where the venue is and having Google maps confuse the heck out of me. Hey, it happens you might say, but the embarrassing thing is that maybe sixteen or seventeen years ago I used to put gigs on at the Flapper. Look, it’s a long time ago and I haven’t been back more than once in that time so cut me some slack. As long gone Midlands pop-punksters Raggity Anne once said, “I’m easily confused, I can get lost in my own room”.
So, Fox Chapel. They have a style and sound that mixes grunge with a heavy dose of The Cure. The bassist looks every bit the part of a Indie version of a Tom Tom Club or Cramps member and has the hair to boot, whilst the singer hunches and sings, head tilted down, with shaggy hair and street urchin dress sense that gives the band an Indie 80’s look that works remarkably well. They have a sound that works well but my only doubt is the singers voice. His hunched-over-the-mic look rubs off on his voice and gives it a down beaten, flat sound. They seem to me to be a workman like support band, good but lacking that verve, and just need that little push towards what could undoubtedly become a more distinctive sound. Definite promise there and should not be over looked.
A short break sees The Regulars (UK) take to the stage all full of vim and swagger. I don’t know anything about these, including where they are from, but if they are local then I’d take a guess that the guitarist may well have taken lessons from Brummage guitar legend Melvin Hancox. If you know who I mean then you’ll know what I mean. He steals the show for me with blistering rock’n’roll’n’punky blues solos and licks.
The band swagger and reel through a Strokes meets Blues Rock type set with just a hint of pop-punk in places. For example a song called “Oliver” starts A Cappella before bursting alive like a mix of Doughboys and Senseless Things. Three to four minute songs that strut full of confidence without arrogance. Some of the shapes and posturing of the singer/rhythm guitarist could potentially look contrived yet never do.
“The Cavern” has big backing vocals in the chorus and falls headlong to the coda where the drummer appears to make a mistake that drags the band laughing into another chorus like the pros they obviously are. A cracking support act.
Tonight’s main act, Otherkin from Dublin, describing themselves as Grunge-Pop with a love of QOTSA, Blur, Ramones and Clash means I should either love or hate ‘em. I go into it with an open mind. They take to the stage to the sound of air-raid sirens which given the size of the crowd, somewhat depleted after the support band’s friends have left, seems a little lofty and pompous. That said, every good band makes a good entrance so let’s see if these boys can carry their lofty advance.
Holy Moley!! They only come straight in like a buzzbomb!
Declaring their previous nights appearance on Radio 1 they promise much and deliver from the off. I can’t hear the grunge but halfway through song two I hear the Clash and power-pop-punk. Luke Reilly on vocals and guitar has all the swagger of a Joe Strummer and the humbleness to match that allows him to put his all into the show regardless of audience size. In fact I have the feeling that if they did a personal show for any one of us there tonight in our front rooms then he’d give it the same full beans!
By the fourth track “Feel It” the band are fully warmed up though given the speed they hit the ground running at it’s hard to notice much of a difference. “Feel It” literally screams teenage rock’n’roll pent up emotions and pumps and bounces bass around the venue as pounding drums push onwards.
It’s like Birdland, The Clash, or very early Manics and by the time they hit “She’s A Boy” a metamorphism begins. The lead guitar of Conor Andrew Wynne feeds back as he goes to his knees and as Luke drops his guitar and comes into the crowd with mic, he begins to morph into a young Iggy Pop. He almost forces the crowd to sing long the “whoa ahhh” harmonies and nobody baulks at doing his bidding. It’s not so much an aggressive forcing of crowd participation but more of an affirmation that it’s okay to let yourself go. Nobody cares here, because we are here and we’re all part of this.
There is a point at which a mix of Novoselic/Grohl bass and drums gives a slight nod to grunge as it counterpoints with a weird Frank Black meets Iggy circa “The Idiot” vocals. Tunes like “Bad Advice” and “Yeah, I Know” make the most static watcher bounce on their soles. But where are the weak links in the set? Arguably the last song which is too poppy.
The metamorphism was complete as he actually took the look of a young Stooge as well as the energy, and at times, a subtle Poplike vocal delivery. It’s not plagiarism…. I’m not even sure he knows it’s happening. If it’s as natural as it feels then it’s all good and who can argue with it.
This is a good looking band who can play their instruments like only rockers can and they’re going to make crowds put away their phones and pay attention. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have witnessed this poorly attended gig. These guys are nothing new. My generation have seen it all before. They’re not ground breakers. For a younger generation though….these guys are nothing more than the potential future of guitar driven music and that ain’t a bad place to start.
Reviewer: Mark Veitch
Photographer: Chris Bowley