Some months away, and we feel a compulsion to justify a return. And to make up for lost time.
Four acts, one bill. That'll do it. But, who? And how do we enable the taste and quality quota to not go unfulfilled?
Easy. Just book the four best bands you've seen in the last twelve months, even if they're not the most obvious, nor musically corresponding bets; we're not in the business of safe-play genrelising - good music is, well, good music. A genre in itself.
Bird Blobs, we first saw at All Tomorrow's Parties last December, prancing the stage with their wiry, lairy frames and free-flowing locks, mustering a combustible noise best defined as gnarl-strop-blues-stoner-metal. Redjetson, meanwhile, stole the show in the small tent at stoner-meets-E'd-up-paradise, the Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire earlier this summer. The Rumble Strips were the finest band with horns and falsetto vocals / harmonies we'd heard possibly ever - assailant, lofty ditties with tunes and romance. And Jamie T, from Wimbledon, was a fresh-faced ska-reggae 19-year-old who warmed the cockles and challenged the onlookers with tales both bordering between hard-arse reality and sprightly urban warmth.
And of T, his is genre-bastardisation of the finest calibre - with just a four-string acoustic bass-guitar and a warbling, controlled throat we hear songs stripped back that feel as if they were always intended that way - 'So Lonely Was The Ballad', a debut single, cuts as finely through the air as a meat-cleaver to a wedding cake, arresting and simple, like The Streets doing Dylan. Humble, assured and with watching arms raised, he shuffles off into the night, accidentally leaving his baseball cap behind. Jamie; give us a call and we'll return it. Otherwise, we'll eBay it when you're huge.
The Rumble Strips are a bastion of good will and ebullient aplomb; like a bathing in melted chocolate whilst pissed on champagne. That warming. An every-man zeal is in their braces-sported trousers, worker's caf white T-shirts, bad haircuts and facial stubble; yet beyond the ordinary exterior lies a whole cacophony and wedge of defiant, huge and massive songs. Southern soul, we're coining it. Agonisingly wide-eyed frontman Charlie bellows and yells like a man hollering for his life. And that's just the opener. Then 'My Oh My', 'Oh Creole', 'Motorcycle' and 'No Soul' follow - the biggest, must-be pop anthems we've heard played by an awesome foursome for fifteen years. Replete with trumpet and sax, this is classy, non-scene, and distinctly, inversely cool for being, essentially, uncool.
Redjetson follow and, in advance of their cavernous Bloc Party support-dates, decide to keep things big-minded. UP go the amps. CRASH go the drums and occasional, additional percussion. And DOWN goes Clive Kentish, as he sinks to the ground in the drama of it all. Songs aren't so much huge and languishing, as they are devastating and pain-staking - like watching a prog musical reworking of the Sistine Chapel unfurling before your very eyes, with all the ardent, aching bleeding that goes into it left completely exposed (this time showcased by a three-strong guitar arsenal). Their compositions breathe and wallow and sag and gape, and yet seem totally controlled by the players, despite the ordeal of the weight and heaving, intricate soundscape of it all. That's the 'Jetson; firing on all cylinders, yet not forgoing the overriding importance of heart and occasional restraint.
Then, for something a little bit different. Or should that read, f**king strange. Bird Blobs aren't your average band. For one, just look at that name. Secondly, they're all about eight foot tall. Thirdly, they make a noise which scares off half of our audience tonight. Those brave enough to wade through this barrage of barren, beaten riffs and sinister, dirge grumbles, however, come out rewardingly beleaguered and thrilled. Listening to the Blobs is not unlike a climb in the Himalayas - altogether immediately regrettable and knackering at the time, but something you defiantly brag about afterwards. Enough Beefheart rhythmic splutters and Birthday Party jagged soul to rip a beating organ from your very chest, there's no doubting that this is artcore.