Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man, Grammatics, Napoleon IIIrd, Daybreakers, The ABC Club

Simon Jay Catling 31/05/2008

The Hop (Part of Bradford Music Week)

The acts on the bill merely had to turn up today, because the overall winner of Bradford's Hop is the city itself. It's a simple idea: round up the best of the areas best up and coming bands (plus a few from Leeds), cram them into two of the city centre's best loved venues (The Love Apple and Delius), and charge an eye-poppingly cheap 5 for the whole day. This reviewer missed the likes of Sons and Daughters, Johnny Foreigner, This Et Al and more, yet is about to write paragraphs waxing lyrical on the quality of the acts that he did see; as good an indication as any as to the quality of this event.

First into the fray at the darkened, intimate surroundings of the Love Apple are Bradford six piece 'Daybreakers'; their set brings to mind the potential result of Mark Ronson deciding to remix all of Led Zeppelin IV. Put bluntly there's brass sections and guitar solos fucking everywhere; a shrewd choice by the organisers to open up with an energetic and full blooded act, but as the vocalist and lead guitarist fret-wanks his way through yet another piece of 70's hair rock it seems he's a little oblivious to the pretty much universally accepted formula that brass band + Jimmy Page = a little bit jarring. Nevertheless one has to commend his energy as he growls, thrusts and noodle's his way through half an hour of thirty year old rock n'roll roll champagne. It's a mere shimmy through the bar to get to room 2 in the Love Apple although at first it appears that a couple of young scallywags have broken into the venue and are about to nick off with the upcoming performer's instruments; stop thief! Oh wait, sorry its only room two's opening act 'Alt Track'. The duo surprise on two counts; firstly, telling them to act their age and not their shoe size would probably see little difference in behaviour; secondly, their on stage confidence and performance is that o two performers way and above their age. Drowning out the inevitable ageist gags with a sweeping, IDM backed, atmospheric opening track, it's clear that Alt Track are a band with bags of potential; seeing the route lead by the likes of 65 Days Of Static, Errors et al and thinking “yeah we'll have a slice of that”. One ill-advised rap aside from the younger looking of the two, this is a set high on ambition even if at times they fail to quite reach the heights they've set themselves. Even so there's plenty of time for the duo to grow and develop and exciting times are set to be ahead for them.

A change of scenery's needed in the form of the gruelling ascent up the road to Delius; in reality its just a couple of minutes stroll up the hill but in this fat reviewer living inside a thin reviewer's body it's not long before the sweat comes cascading down my forehead like the Niagara Falls. However, once I get to Delius, essentially a large and friendly (and cheap!) pub, I don't look too foolish as Tom Nova, the lead singer from 'Redwire', is positively doing front crawl in his own perspiration. Let's not take too much away from him though as he leads his four piece through a frantic and energetic set. On record one suspects that Redwire follow the British rock linearity that threads through the Sex Pistols, Oasis and the Arctic Monkeys, yet live they not only play twice the speed (in fact looking at it, guitarist Joe Parkinson could pass out at any moment), lead singer Nova is absolutely everywhere: bashing synths, in the crowd, on the floor. It's an inspired performance from the locals and easily draws the best reception of the day. Captivating in an entirely different way is 'The ABC Club's' lead vocalist Zandra Klievens; slenderly put together and holding herself awkwardly in a cardigan and jeans, the singer stares vacuously out at the crowd through two gorgeous large eyes, causing at least 50% of said crowd to fall in love that instant. It helps that in the four other members behind her she has a band who touch on shoegaze whilst retaining a very pop-like charm; Jordan Radcliffe and Sam Marns compliment each other instead of going to war in trying to build up soaring yet familiar sounds. Highlight of the set is the song '43', Klievens mournful vocals sweep across the venue with a power that belies her stature. It's quite simply a performance of absolute brilliance.

The bar's been set for 'Grammatics' then; a band very much making waves of their own. In Owen Brindley they too possess a lead singer of the gorgeously captivating variety; a man straight out of the Brett Anderson school of front man attitude. Today though slight problems with the percussion (problems it has to be said that seem monitor related) mean the band struggle to truly show their undoubted class. 'Shadow Committee' and 'Polar Swelling' seem to fill the entire room with their avant-garde (am I allowed to say math rock?) slants, but frustratingly 'D.I.L.E.M.M.A', the bands new single and arguably strongest pop song, malfunctions as the off-kilter percussion drifts in and out of time. Cue grim faces all around at the end of the set; nevertheless this too is another band with huge potential, and potential which will most likely be realised. At the very least they've made yours truly question his own sexuality, not bad for half an hour surely guys? Back in the Love Apple, 'Napoleon IIIrd' has invited all of his mates into room 2 for his performance; that's how it feels anyway as a warm and familiar crowd sing along and smile to tracks from Napoleon's album 'In Debt To'. It's a relaxed and assured performance from a singer who looks set to become an unlikely hero over the summer. Thunderous noises from next door cause me to abandon an interval pint just to see what all the fuss is about; when I get there it's to see that four piece 'Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man' are whipping up an epic, smouldering concoction of all things dark and beautiful. Despite clearly misjudging the spirit of your average Yorkshire crowd (“We really love Bradford, it's a wonderful place” is greeted by a large amount of laughter from those in attendance, ) OELM are yet another standout performance in a long line of them today; singer Frederick Blood-Royale's voice staccatos and booms its way through the venue with songs about fatherhood and Adam & Eve, whilst drummer 'Edward Quarmby' thunders on behind in a way that can't fail to force the guitarist and bassist to fight back in a rampaging cacophony of deep, dark noise.

The final name on the bill I see today couldn't possibly be more of a contrast. 'Paul Marshall' sits contentedly holding his acoustic guitar with only an electric cellist for company. Whilst I stand thinking about how excellent but unlikely it would be to describe myself as such one day, the recently signed Rough Trade artist starts strumming and the room melts away. Adding to the Love Apple's already established cosy atmosphere is the fact that during the set almost everyone is sat on the floor, staring up engrossed in the singer's performance. Comparisons with 'Nick Drake' are as obvious as they are unavoidable but Marshall, through his performance, allows his songs to reach through to a crowd a touch more than I could ever envisage Drake's doing. In a journalist, talking-out-of-my-arse roundabout way I guess I'm trying to say that Marshall's songs have a very mainstream accessibility; but that's nothing to be sneered at because if you go to the heart of them all they share the same beat as their creator. Don't be fooled by these songs either, for underneath the gentle strumming and hushed vocals lie lyrics of relationship breakdowns, lost loves and murder.

Indeed, if ever there was any evidence that the white rose of Yorkshire is currently handing out a sound musical drubbing to the red rose across the Pennines then The Hop is surely it. Whilst Manchester rumbles incessantly on, searching for the next flash in the pan success stories and ignoring its genuinely talented artists, the east is currently host to a huge number of acts that may not be hitting the mainstream subconscious quite yet, but who are nevertheless going to be remembered for a long time after the likes of 'The Courteneers' and 'The Ting Tings' have started picking up their benefit cheques.