My Great Affliction + Audio Disease + Toadstool + Dirty Pool @ Scruffy Murphys, Birmingham – Saturday 3rd August 2013

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Review by Ian Savage

In a sparsely-populated live room at Scruffy Murphys, the blues-infused Dirty Pool kick off a humid Saturday night out in Birmingham. Assumedly appropriating their name from a Stevie Ray Vaughan song, the three-piece fall somewhere between a more succinct Black Crowes and a raspier Lenny Kravitz. Whilst an undoubtedly talented bunch they come across as slightly unengaging this evening, caught checking wristwatches more than once and stretching out one or two solos beyond their welcome. With some judicious set editing and a more appreciative setting this band could be twice as good.

AudioDiseaseToadstool unfortunately lower the bar somewhat, and not entirely of their own volition; a fairly solid if generic rock power trio, their sound is made practically unlistenable by a low-frequency resonance in the mix, seemingly unnoticed by the sound man who spends a chunk of their set surfing the internet oblivious. By closing tune ‘Pigzilla’ the sound has pulled itself together somewhat, but it’s too little too late – the damage is done, and it would be totally unfair to attempt to critique Toadstool further based on tonight.

Still battling issues with the mix (somehow now practically bereft of guitar), the fresh-faced Audio Disease provide a listenable alt-rock/emo-esque set without ever reaching out with a real hookline. Their youth is apparent in their lack of full onstage authority and stylistic eclecticism as much as their look, the highlight of their show tellingly being a Michael Jackson cover; given a few more shows and songwriting sessions to fully realise their own direction the band could be a force to be reckoned with. Just not yet.

MGAWay more professional from the outset, My Great Affliction are a stomping three-piece with a far fuller sound than their lineup gives them any right to be. Their move last year from quintet to trio has somehow left them more powerful rather than less; despite the balance still emptying slightly during guitar solos they put on a strident, confident show with some refreshing twists on the classic rock genre. ‘There To Be Shot At”s cowbell intro leads into some punchy riffage, which follows through the rest of the set right to their closing cover of Led Zep’s ‘Rock and Roll’ (a song covered to death by now, but MGA still pull it off nicely). A slightly ramshackle encore tune to a room which has by now all but emptied feels like a slight anticlimax, but overall this feels like a band pulling in the right direction with the songs to take them there. Well saved.