Cargo is one of those trendy nightclubs housed in a Victorian, red brick, railway arch, in the now gentrified East End of London. In years gone by, it would have housed broken down trains, but now it boasts a stuffed lioness above the bar. Tonight, it welcomed a four-band showcase as part of the regular Upsurge event.
The evening opened with Nadia Sheikh. Nadia is a diminutive singer/songwriter who plays what looks like an over-sized Fender Telecaster. She comes with a live band – three hipster lads who competently provide the standard guitar, bass, and drums.
Half-Spanish and half-British, Nadia is hypnotic on stage – although maybe she needed a bigger crowd to lift her.
The short set featured five carefully crafted and catchy songs. The highlights were “Flip the Coin” and “No 24”. Her sound is rocky, poppy, jazzy, bluesy, indie – something that should work well on mainstream radio – so I’m surprised that she’s not bigger than she is. One for today and to watch out for in future. Now that she’s finished her degree, the world will soon be at her feet.
Next up were Centre Excuse. Now, when a band is setting up their kit and seem to spend more time taping flags to things than plugging in instruments, I start to worry.
But I didn’t need to. Imagine what would happen if Julian Cope’s voice was put into a front-man who was channeling moves and poses from Simon Le Bon – you’d have singer Teddy Lewis. Either side of him was a very enthusiastic band that sounded like the results of putting the more upbeat songs from Talk Talk, OMD, and Ultravox along with a big dose of Depeche Mode, into a food mixer. Standout tracks – the edgy “Precious”, sophisticated “Moon, Sky and Stars”, and “Worthless”, which reminded me of Teardrop Explodes.
No drummer any more, they’ve evolved from being an indie band into something that’s hard to pigeon hole (Newer Romantic?). Check them out if you get the chance. I suspect they’ll be playing much larger venues very soon.
Five Grand Stereo
By way of contrast we were then treated from a set of slick tunes from Five Grand Stereo, who give the impression that they have played together for a long time. In fact they sound as if they were probably in the studio before they were born. Their sound comes from that prehistoric era, when colour photos were all just a bit orange and summers were made for watching Dallas and wearing polyester flares, with the Doobies, Little Feat and Steely Dan playing on the music centre.
It’s ’70s intelligent rock/blues brought up to date and led by Chris Singleton, who looks like a cross between a geography teacher and an Edwardian explorer. So it’s not surprising to hear that the rest of the band has come together from Ireland, Bulgaria, Wales and Cyprus.
From behind his keyboards, Chris takes turns to sing with the suitably dressed, flame-haired, Jane Fraser. I did wonder if I was watching an extremely competent pub band, but when you listen to the lyrics, you’ll realise that maybe they are too clever to be just that.
The Wild Things
Finally we got back to easy-to-pigeon-hole West London indie/rock band The Wild Things, who comprise guitar, bass, drums and singer/guitarist.
As they were coming out to play what turned out to be a shortened set thanks to the curfew, I thought, “Looks like I’m going to need my earplugs.” So it came as no surprise that Syd White’s opening line was “We’re the Wild Things, and we’re fucking loud”.
They churned through their guitar-riffed set with Syd’s clean vocals cutting across the pulsating volume. The Wild Things would be as home in the 90s as they are today. It would be lazy reporting to say their sound resembled The Breeders‘ Cannonball, or The Cranberries‘ Zombie – with the Irish lilt replaced by a kilt.
It was just a pity that they were playing to a handful of people and had to stop before they got started. See you at the next one.
Full sets of photographs can be found at www.jampondphotography.com/gigs
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