This Town Needs Guns, Kartta

Mark Shields 14/02/2009

In the past most of us not had heard support bands before turning up to the gig and hearing the first stumbled chords and unsteady vocals. These days, a quick glance at any gig line up, and a few clicks from Google to Myspace and you can listen to the band before seeing them live. This can be a blessing or a curse.

In Kartta's case, my ignorance to their music was perfect. Regulars on the north east's gig circuit, Kartta have picked up quite a dedicated following, in evidence tonight as a number of the crowd were plainly here just to see their support slot rather than headliners This Town Needs Guns. I, on the other hand, seemed to be one of the few that had not heard them before. The band are loud, with the bass on the drums and bass guitar shattering around so much that it felt like it was throbbing in my chest. The mature rock that they performed was impressive and they were quite obviously comfortable on stage. Kartta had an air about them of a band on the cusp of being noticed by someone who actually fancies giving these guys their chance. The sweeping walls of guitar and the slight interplay between the two vocalists is pitched well against charming melodies and licks of high end fret guitar work. The drumming was occasionally driving the songs forward and other times taking a backseat to the vocals and guitar. The stand out track was towards the end of the set when the band slowed down into an almost shoe gaze-esque My Bloody Valentine track that had me captivated - the darkness of the piece got my attention.

Being the headliners I picked out This Town Needs Guns from the Myspace haze and trundled through their math-rock drumming and guitar wankery before setting foot inside the venue. With slightly less people in the crowd than were present for Kartta, the Oxford band's trip might have been all for nothing if they hadn't put in such good effort. The set was exceedingly tight - the drumming was of the highest standard I have seen since The Mars Volta - and all in my party were impressed by the ability shown in keeping the intricate structure of the song together. The guitar work was all rolling riffs with melodies being thrown with abandon as if they were disconnected from the rest of the song.

The problem I have with This Town Needs Guns is that while Kartta were comfortable, almost in cruising mode, This Town Needs Guns, even when they were rocking their way though stand out tracks such as Chincilla, Baboon and 26 Is Dancier than 4, they still seemed a little uneasy at the task before them. But then converting a north east crowed on Valentines night, either filled with couples out on a date, people out on their own with single friends or on a first date, it is never going to be easy. With not so great inter song banter and a rather embarrassing forgetting of the support bands' names (two of which I missed, to my shame) it was always going to be a struggle and embracing that seemed tricky from the floor.

The fact that I had already given This Town Needs Guns air time was a good thing - expecting the technically brilliant guitar work and tight drumming, I was impressed by the vocals and the sound that the band created - even though the mix might have been a little off for the size of the venue. The band admirably gave the slightly empty Moshulu, a venue probably too big for the band, a good shot and filled the space with confident sounding music and strong melodies. I'd be interested to see the band further down the road with a bigger crowd or at a smaller venue, and maybe without the unfortunate and loathsome Valentines context.