Good Shoes / Wild Palms / This Beautiful Thief
Hare and Hounds
When ‘big’ bands come down to play The Hare in Kings Heath, the contrast of people appearing in the pub is often very funny due to the venues somewhat out of the way location. The bemused regulars cautiously peek over the top of their bitter and grumble about the wave of checked shirt wearing ‘trendy types’ as they pile in and head straight to the bar.
Due to the usual entrance to the main room upstairs not being used for some reason, an exceedingly long line of ironically bespectacled and tight jeaned wearing gig-goers have to tramp through the bar, into the courtyard and eventually upstairs into the main room which is already buzzing with indie anthems courtesy of the lads from Tantrums.
Kicking off tonight’s musical exploits are locals This Beautiful Thief. While pretty much every song is preceded by an intro stating its recent release, the music is sadly nothing special. On a positive note, the rhythm section of the band exhibits a particularly strong and interesting drummer and a steadfast and reliable, if somewhat unimaginative bassist. Lead singer Ollie is bursting with irresistible Geordie charm engaging in enjoyable banter which gives the band a likeable edge at the very least.
The weak link in the chain is without a doubt the lead guitarist who appears to have no concept of tone despite appearing to be very competent technically; this is a great shame as the three others in the band are clearly in no position to noodle around with their parts so the songs really miss that winning sparkle that only a decent lead guitarist can bring. Some delay, or distortion, or even some tone would be nice – just not what sounds like the factory presets already on the amplifier.
Lou Hill from Wild Palms warns the crowd during the changeover that their set is going to be something very different. As an electronic drumkit is loaded on and attached onto the beefy keyboard at the front of the stage, spirits are lifted as the crowd seem to warm to the idea of something a little more interesting. With no messing about, drummer James Parish launching into a frenzy that instantly makes everyone in the room slip out of their previous comatose.
The tone and feel of Wild Palm’s sound is great to listen to as it cherry picks all the best bits of the alternative spectrum – droning and atmospheric soundscapes from an artful guitarist, a bassist that looks and sounds almost as cool as Peter Hook and a frontman who is bouncing off the walls with much needed theatrical energy. Lou Hill’s instrumental input is however questionable considering the heavy duty set up he has in front of him: he rarely uses the huge keyboard and the electric drumkit next to it appears to be a tactless attempt to jump on the Friendly Fires / tropical bandwagon which in a way patronises the fantastic drummer they already had. As Lou bashes away on the kit he’s very often mimicking bits that Parish is already playing himself, which is completely unnecessary. Single ‘Overtime’ gets the crowd moving with a sexily scuzzy and intensely danceable indie anthem that should be up there with the best of them.
Before Good Shoes appear, the lights ceremoniously go out in the room and they shuffle on in what turns out to be a quite ridiculous anticlimax. This is however instantly forgotten as the London four piece launch into a frenetic set that converts the neutrals and satisfies the regulars. They bash out quality tune after quality tune and keep things interesting without lowering themselves into shouty and pouty indie stereotypes. Amongst the sea of checked shirts, a middle aged couple have it large and know a lot more words than the most hardcore fashionistas up at the front.
The standard of new material is very high and mixes things up without looking like a desperate change of genre – Steve Leach on lead guitar soars through extraordinary riffs with such a cool and casual attitude you might mistake him for a highly trained assassin taking care of business without so much as batting an eyelid. Rhys Hill also gets up to his usual antics and makes regular leaps into the audience who embrace him like an old mate as their roadie puts on his best ‘concerned mother’ look and cautiously holds onto the microphone lead, reeling it in and wrapping it back up as Rhys returns to the stage. Fantastically entertaining and instantly listenable, Good Shoes certainly deserve the hype that surrounds them tonight.