Sometimes, there are just those kinds of nights. With all due care and consideration, this was one of them.

The Thrills

Not so much a gradual ascent as meteoric rise, The Thrills' crowning as the new band of the year hasn't been without warranted effort. Japan, the States, Europe and the UK - all in the past twelve months provided their preliminary dose of the Irish quintet's glowing alt-pop: resounding sell-out shows, media-furores and - already - beyond 100,000 record-sales being of the natural result.

This evening, however, sees them face their smallest British show to date - 150 people at The Basement Club: a secret warm-up for fans, prior to the band's appearances at the Carling Weekend: Reading & Leeds Festivals 2003. Autographs are signed, photos taken and an intimacy shared between loyal-devotees and onstage-performers seldom provided.

The StillsFirst up, though, are Montreal's The Stills, similarly bracing for a set at the ensuing outdoor-event, and potential headliners of this evening in themselves. They corrupt The Cure by marrying dirty 80s hooks and avant-garde gusto-disco with sexy sleekness and dark tones ('Still In Love Song'), whilst sonically romance without getting too heavy on our asses ('Killer Bees'). The response is righteous, even amidst feedback-howls. Dreary, morbid, but gloomily pop in the process - it's as challenging as it is radio-friendly: a feat that serves thirty-five minutes as an utmost contentment.

The Thrills' Set-listThen the headliners. Yells echo, and the band grin. The stage can barely fit their prowess, but the quintet launch into the garage-rock cum Beach Boys chug of 'Tell Me Something...' before vocalist Conor Deasy grabs a nearby guitar and strums to a note-perfect 'Your Love Is Like Las Vegas'.

Zane Lowe On The DecksFor some, it's too much - indicative in the dazed stares of those at the front, eyeing their idols with a transfixed disbelief. But the plunder of motion helps allow the jangling Bacharach-bash of 'Old Friends, New Lovers' to be greeted with elevated levels of emotive commotion, whilst 'One Horse Town' hammers and gyrates to all the right degrees. Come the formidable glaze and romance of 'Whatever Happened To Corey Haim', or a timeless 'Don't Steal Our Sun' (following which - a moving 'happy birthday' sing-song to drummer Ben Carrigan by all present), we're already lost in a flurry of applause-rousing wonder. A closing 'Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)' defines proceedings - arms aloft and eyes welling in the devoted.

Muse and The ThrillsIt's an achievement satisfied by a two-hour after-show celebration - one led by Radio One and MTV's Zane Lowe. In a rare DJ-stint, he spins discs to a pedigree-standard, seldom holding up the pace between his righteous celebration of UK-rock (Winnebago Deal, prior Basement Clubbers Kill Kenada and Jetplane Landing) and the classics (The Verve, RATM), prior to a slouch-a-long ending inclusive of the ever-eerie Portishead: an addition that proves even too much for Muse (pictured with bassist of The Thrills, Padraic) to stomach.

A gallivant of timely joy and rare, informal grandeur, though this may have been the last of its kind for Ireland's most presently pioneering, melodious indie-sters, the celebratory, privileged one-offness of its nature is exactly what will live longest for most in each attendee's hearts. Precisely the desired effect for the evening as a whole.

Pre-Festival Frolics

21 Aug 2003


Buffalo Bar


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