Gig Review: K Squared Presents… @ The Head Of Steam

K Squared

Nowadays, gig promotion companies are like arseholes, too many people remember mine.

But that shouldn’t stop us straightening our posture and paying attention whenever a new one pops up, especially when they might be built around the loving warm core of a good idea.

K Squared (they actually use the little number 2 symbol but I couldn’t work out how to type it) had gathered together 5 local acts for a night of tuneful regalement at old favourite The Head of Steam. Speaking to its founders Kirsty- Louise Attwood and Kayleigh Richardson before the gig, they worded what they were up to thusly…

“A lot of bands tend to stay within their little cliques, so we like to marry bands together who wouldn’t normally have met and mix things up slightly. This is our third gig and we’ve had ten different bands on in that time, we’ve got one a month between now and Christmas and it’s all different bands with them as well. It also gives people a chance to see bands they might otherwise never have heard of.”

It might sound a little bit like a cross between an after school club and an exercise in networking, but one look at how well inter-connected the boys and birds at the top of the region’s musical tree are shows how valuable expanding your contacts could be to those slightly nearer the bottom. Not bogged down with the clichés of championing a cause or painting somebody else’s bandwagon, they might actually be onto something here.

So, what about the bands themselves then? Well first off we had Nick Gladdish. Ever since the likes of James Blunt seemingly took a shit on the rug and died, well-meaning singer songwriters seem to have all but vanished from the popular conscience. Now you’re not allowed to take the stage all on your lonesome unless you’re either “about the message, man” or intend on using a loop pedal to make grown men cry.

Wor Gladdish is neither. Performing his own keyboard accompaniment to songs that are both well-rounded, well-polished and stylistically echoing very, very early Elton John, he just about manages to fill the stage on his own collapsing in under the weight of his own rhythm. A delightful little listen.

Next up were Unstable Tables, a band who wear their history on their sleeve almost as unashamedly as they wear their influences. Initially riding the crest of a wave that the juxtaposition their proceeding a solo performer inevitably causes, they essentially came across as an experiment in whether or not catchy tunes can ever disguise bad poetry. Which it can’t.

Comprised of four blokes, three of who still worship at the altar of Clash-esque first-wave punk, and refuse condemn the Jackson Pollock look to an autumn car-boot sale, their inclusion of a much younger Fugazi fan on lead guitar gives them simultaneously both a much needed contemporary edge and a glaring identity crisis. It’s musically confused at times, but not quite enough for it to sound deliberate.

The term “dad-band” was also getting thrown around but I think this does them a slight disservice. They’re much too tight as a unit to induce any cringing, it’s just that the hard work of the instruments is profoundly undermined by the lyrics.

Then of course there was Charles’ Hat, unarguably the band of the night. Lavishing us with the sort of raging finesse normally only in the possession of a Deftones in full stride, they reverberated around the venue and very nearly stripped the Head of Steam’s bizarre new paint job from the walls.

Despite my initial impressions being that they were going to lash out half arsed post-hardcore for people with Topshop loyalty cards, they ended up providing the sort of set that fills both stage, mind and probably a few people’s pockets in years to come. The only complaint I could possibly have, and it’s technically more of a pondering than a complaint, was how, on a Bank Holiday Monday, these lads could play a gig in the early evening and not bring a big crowd with them.

Following that was never going to be an easy task and it was one that more or less sank Kamikaze Greenflies before they’d even had the champagne smashed off their hull and turned the engines on. Four lads who look and sound like they’re straight out of next door’s garage made every effort to continue the momentum but, packing an arsenal of power chords and borrowed riffs, found the bar had been raised beyond their current reach.

On their own merits though, which is ultimately where they should be judged, there’s a perverse pleasure to be derived from their set. In a “scene” where every single band appears to be having some form of originality bun-fight, to hear group of lads who clearly all share a common musical grounding just go out and pay a naked and unabashed homage to their contemporaries is actually quite refreshing. There were no covers, but Little Man Tate, Nirvana, Weezer, Arctic Monkeys and some antiquated Foo Fighters all make an appearance in one form or another.

They were also the only band who managed to get anybody up to dance, so they’re already streets ahead of most indie DJs.

Finally, we had My Other Life, a band that I have to say are a bit of a musical conundrum. They sound like they should be terrible, as you listen to them you can already hear somebody from a relatively major label going down their Scouting For Girls checklist and ticking every single godforsaken box along the way. It’s the sort of music you’ve probably spent most of your adult life complaining about, changed the channel for and dived headfirst across a crowded room when you realised it was your iPod that had shuffled embarrassingly.

You get all set to slate them and then you realise that your foot is tapping and there’s a smile creeping into both corners of your mouth. True musical power through the medium of well honed and unashamed pop that even this, a relatively restrained crowd, couldn’t help but clap long to. Enthusiasm on the floor begat delight on the stage and the whole process repeats itself.

If My Other Life ever release an album, I guarantee you’ll buy it as a Mother’s Day gift and then “borrow” it when she’s not looking.

So all in all, a good night for music. 5 aspiring bands of wildly differing style and quality got to play in front of audiences who had probably never heard of them before tonight. Whilst this may all seem like small potatoes, in an age when The Kooks reckon you’ll pay £22.50 (plus booking fee) to see them live, getting all this music for fractionally more than the cost of a pint is something that’s to be roundly applauded.

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