THOSE DAMN CROWS , with support from LUCILLE AND SPOKE TO SOON, at IRONWORKS, INVERNESS FOR THE MONSTERFEST FRINGE
741 days since my last live gig. 741 days since I walked towards the glow of the main entrance of a live venue, the bass rumble of the support band drifting out to the roadside giving me that wee gut punch that we’ve come to miss so much. The usual gaggle of punters milling about outside, smoking, catching up with mates, wrangling e-tickets from their phones and… carrying out last minute lateral flow tests. So far, so ‘new’ normal.
It’s been far too long, and tonight was, for me at least, a fitting return to live music. That last gig I attended was Glenn Hughes at the Ironworks nearly two years ago, so it felt right to bookend the pandemic with a dose of rock music. It’s worth pausing to consider that the bands we’re seeing tonight don’t have a lot of live performances under their belt for all the obvious bloody reasons and we do need to be slightly more forgiving of dropped notes, faltering starts and stage nerves. Mind you none of the bands on show this evening really bothered to show any sign of all that, and were keen to get on with the business of entertaining a healthy (both figuratively and literally I hope) crowd at the Ironworks.
Lucille are new to me and what I heard, I liked. Rather encouragingly, a decent amount of people had already arrived and the band had an enthusiastic response to spur them on. They mention that they were a little nervous about how well playing on a Wednesday night in the middle of November would go down, but they needn’t have worried.
I’ve always said it’s so important to come early to catch those live acts and I’m glad that spirit was there in abundance this evening. They claimed they’re not quite as noisy as Spoke to Soon and headliners, Those Damn Crows, but they pack enough of a punch and would certainly go down well with anyone who likes a bit of Biffy Clyro and even the likes of Pavement and Sonic Youth in their diet. They’re big fans of the headliners and told me later that they’ve had the albums on repeat non-stop since they got home from the gig.
Spoke to Soon have come on in leaps and bounds since I last saw them play live and I was impressed with the energy and dynamism on stage. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a huge fan of pop-punk but there’s a harder edge to these guys now and when they get going they can certainly let rip. They own their short set with assurance, constantly bubbling with energy and cajoling the crowd to dance, jump and sing along. They try and convince us that, ‘it’s not Wednesday, it’s Friday!’ and why the hell not? It’s another fun and energetic performance and Monsterfest is off to a roaring start.
Nicely warmed up by the support acts, there’s almost a sense of relief that this delayed festival has finally been given the chance to get going again. Those Damn Crows have been playing to good-size crowds on the tour so far and have built up a reputation of being solid live performers on the back of two fantastic albums. Opening with ‘Who Did It’ the band sound huge, fronted by vocalist Shane Greenhall whose vocal pipes are surely one of the best in the business at the moment. He’s not one for staying still for long and the set is peppered with the occasional foray into the crowd, a quick chat with the steward on the stairs up on to the balcony followed by a precarious perch overlooking the punters and a nervous sound-desk who may have to catch him if he slips.
The opening salvo of ‘Who Did it’, ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Long Time Dead’ is breathless and quickly shows why the band’s star is rising. In fact it’s not for a good 40 minutes before things slow down a little when Shane straps on an acoustic guitar for ‘Be You’. For the most part the set is crunching power chords, anthemic choruses… the usual arms aloft stuff that every self-respecting rock fan can appreciate. They’re not a band that really bothers with guitar solos and we’re spared any fretboard widdling or (God forbid) drum solos. The songs do the work without any additional flannel.
Speaking of flannel… there’s a brief pause while we consider the merits of towels in venues across the UK. Apparently, Derby’s towels are incredibly soft while the Ironwork’s towels are the best smelling on the tour so far. We’re waiting for updates on the rest of the tour, we’ll let you know as soon we can.
There’s a brief slow down, once we dispense with towel chatter, during a beautiful version of ‘Never Win. This is one of the highlights of the set and is powerfully delivered with Shane on the piano accompanied by a subtle and soulful backing guitar with just a few plaintive notes floating over the top of the piano and vocal. It’s a genuine goosebump moment and again, just another reminder why we’ve missed live music so much. As the band says, this is often the only chance we get to escape the realities of the outside world and it’s needed now more than ever.
‘Someone Someday’ morphs into Pinball Wizard, and Purple Haze even briefly sneaks into the set at one point which is about as fussy as they get when it comes to guitar tricks. It is in all honesty a superb way to kick of Monsterfest and the organisers can rest easy knowing that they’ve kicked the festival off in about as triumphant a fashion as possible. The rest of the acts this week have a tough act to follow, but I suspect they’re probably up to it and up for it.
I’m going to leave the last words here to the chaps from Lucille, they’ve summed up why these things are so important to the punters and to the acts that grace the stage.
“We are grateful to Monsterfest for considering us, and sticking with us after all the rescheduling, big thanks to all the acts and staff and a huge thanks to that wild audience, the response on social media overnight has been so heartfelt and makes us love doing what we are doing.”