Review by Ian Savage, Photos by Ila Desai
Local four-piece Produkty have the enviable task of warming up the crowd at the Firebug this evening, and they provide a straightforward but fairly engaging alt-rock performance. The term ‘endearingly amateurish’ entered this reviewer’s mind more than once during their set; rather than a criticism, it reflects the band’s simplistic four-on-the-floor drum approach and angular, occasionally atonal guitar and vocal style.
As the outfit hit their stride in the latter half of their set with ‘Ask The Expert’ and ‘You’re Off The Team’ an overall sound emerges which could be described as an unpolished Queens of the Stone Age had they recruited Meg White rather than Dave Grohl – they’re utterly unafraid of the ‘single-note-through-a-fuzz-
Tropical Contact are an outfit who rarely fail to raise the musical bar on any bill of which they’re a part. With frontman Ben’s larger-than-life stage persona shining through from the off, they hammer through an as yet untitled new tune into familiar favourites ‘Dain Bramage’ and ‘Everybody In The World Is On TV’ with barely a breath in between, comparatively new boy Ed on second guitar appearing fully comfortable in his space and the band trading grins across the stage.
The joy of a TC show is that when there is space between songs it’s often just as riveting as their euphoric pop/rock musical output; tonight we’re treated to Ben’s views on how weird the normal crowd response to a “how you doing *insert town name here*?!?” call is (and encouraged to reply with a Quaqmire-esque “Alll-riiiight!” instead) and the headliners are presented with the prestigious ‘Nicest Band In The World To Tropical Contact’ award (read: a puppy-dog greeting card with a cock-and-balls drawn inside in marker pen). And when the guitars kick back in for another couple of newer tunes (‘Hero Brigade’ / ‘Reasons’) as the band gun the engine towards the end of the set the crowd respond in kind, with an overwhelming Saturday night party feel descending over the Firebug – you simply MUST see this unit live.
The same goes for Eureka Machines. Cranking the ‘polished-pop-rock’ handle still further they’ve powered through a handful of tunes from new album Brain Waves alongside a couple of more established numbers before even introducing themselves, with the by-now-capacity crowd giving as good as they get. A few tuning problems singularly fail to throw the band off course, and the sampled 8-bit intro to ‘Affluenza’ is a lighter to the Firebug’s open petrol can.
From there the mix of new material to older tunes is kept up, most present obviously having happily been part of EM’s Pledge campaign and exhilarated to finally hear the fresh tunes live. The crowd pressure at the front doesn’t let up (despite frontman Chris’s unnerving earplug-licking habit) as EM smash through ‘Neuro Borelo’, ‘Pop Star’ and ‘These Are The People Who Live In My House’ before dedicating the new album’s title track to “all of you lot” to a pre-arranged low-key audience reception (trust me, just as weird as it sounds).
That’s the key to the Leeds crew’s success: their fans largely feel almost as much part of the band as the guys onstage and are happy just to be along for the ride. The arena-rock ‘this side sing…now this side sing’ (in what Chris reckons to be “the narrowest room I’ve ever played”) schtick in ‘Wasting My Time’, the slowed-down, emotional ‘The One Who Wouldn’t Change You’, the co-ordinated ‘whoa-oh’ chorus of newbie ‘We’re Going To The Future’ – it’s a set crammed with modern rock gold from a band still just on the right side of mainstream for everyone to feel included.
With curfew looming, the reminder to the soundman to “turn the bass up on the sampler” is a pretty good clue to how Eureka Machines plan to round off the evening – the nuclear-blast bass drops of ‘Zero Hero’ kick in, the riffage is cranked up to 11 and a couple of hundred people set about seeing exactly how much abuse their ankles and vocal cords can take. The outro is slowed down for a genuinely sincere thank you to all present; four sweaty, happy men exit stage right; the Leicester Firebug sets to drinking and discussing just how amazing EM actually are. This is exactly how good independent rock music can be.