The Fayre - Tiger Tiger - 19.6.08

Ska is back, in the form of plastic hoodies and baggy pants. The image that once was the nadir of culture and style has stood up to the test and shown the world that yes, you don’t have to all wear suits complete with trilbies to the old charm of years past of the bouncing tracks of this thankfully revived genre.

The polished floors of Manchester’s Tiger Tiger were set for a right grubbing-up by many an Oldham local on Thursday 19th June, as part of the much anticipated ‘Plugged’ band night. The circular stage proved ideal for communicating the band’s diverse sounds to an eager audience. All four bands performing on the night knew each other, as they all hailed from Oldham, and from the sounds of them, they’ve got a fair few gigs each under their belts.

First up was four-piece band The Ronnies, giving the crowd the cheery start to the evening with songs like ‘Rattle’ and ‘Piccadilly’, prompting wanna-be Bez’s shaking their invisible maracas in one hand, and slightly over-priced booze in the other. The former organist from The Children gave the band’s fast-paced songs lots of depth with his furious finger-picking, steadily raising the group to contests for Manchester’s answer to The Futureheads.

Downtown Rag were next to take the spacious stage, as they brought back the spirit of the 60s initially, before the band’s lead singer, an uncannily Oldham version of Mick Jagger in sound and appearance put down his acoustic guitar and accompanied their hard ska licks with a rasping tongue. His performance would have been perfect had it not been for his lack of stage presence in the intervals between his vocals, which saw him stand cross-armed waiting to unleash his sharp lyrics onto the eager audience below. “This next song is called ‘Penetrating Gaze’, that’s G-A-Z-E” lead the band into playing a dirty-riff-ridden jazz/country fusion which quickly escalated triumphantly into ska. The proclamations “Sweedon snapped a string” and “Is there anyone here from Oldham?” proved the personal connection there between the band and their following, which made up the biggest crowd of the night. Definitely a band to watch for the future. Downtown Rag will be performing at Club Academy on Saturday 26th July.

Next up was fresh-faced four-piece Swings and Roundabouts, which immediately prompted the thought in this journalist’s mind that they would take up the ‘merry-go-round’ style that Austin of The Fayre had promised of his band. Feel-good music filled the air, minus the clichés usually associated with it. The lead guitarist was sporting a red anorak whilst playing, either trying to create an outdoor image, or casually slipping into senility. The band were lead by former member of The Children, Ben, for their final song, which Ben commented on at the end of never actually saying a real word in it. No-one noticed; they were already taken.

Crowds are an odd thing. The starring of Nickelback at the M.E.N. in September, along with the inexplicable gradual dwindling of the crowd between Downtown Rag and The Fayre just go to show that you cannot always trust the mass’ judgement when it comes to quality music.

‘Television sharing a cab with Gogol Bordello whilst speeding down Deansgate’ would be the best way I could describe The Fayre’s annexation of the stage for the fourth and final performance of the night. Amazing renditions of the fans’ favourites of ‘Linda Boom’, ‘Rose Queen’, and the piercing rhythm of ‘Dog Fight’ left the crowd screaming for more. The final song Greenhous resorted one fan to get on his friend’s shoulders, much to the behest of the bouncers, whom The Fayre tributed a song to. This sarcastic tribute to the authorities suggested that the band are against the already-accepted, against convention, in music and in heart. Which explains their hatred of cover bands and carbon copies of the Arctic Monkeys. The contrasting guitars of Austin and Stocky sent your ears in two different directions, then guiding them back again to meet each other. The main area of focus of the audience was at Austin’s voice, which is a very rare find amongst unsigned bands. As was promised, the music was fast, fun, and had a unique tinge to it, which certainly delighted this writer. Although every member of the band left the crowd in awe and in ‘Bez formation’ upon bended knees, the one who stood out most was Austin. In him is a rare and progressing talent indeed. When asked of his second name, he refused to say: “Just call me Austin”. All great bands have a tendency to have a great eccentric as a frontman. Watch out for this four-piece at Glastonbury this year. Where they will no doubt raise the roofs off everyone’s tents.

Tom Southworth

Click here to leave your comments on the Message Board
(NB: The message board opens in a new window so please disable your pop-up blocker to view)