It’s quite a surprise to turn up relatively early at the Cockpit on a Sunday evening, expecting to be home for 10pm, to find four bands on the bill (one of which having already been and gone). Perhaps there’s more planned here than we realise!
The first band we see probably end up being my favourite of the night. Bearfoot Beware are Leeds-based, and despite there being a healthy dose of Foals-esque influence in there, they’re a lot more original than a lot of other recent offerings I’ve had the pleasure of. Their between-song banter is genially shambolic (though never awkward) and singer Thom looks a bit bored, but you can cut them a little slack for this because their songs are so bloody good. This is a three-piece with well written tunes that are punchy and a little bit punky, and with dynamic bass-wielding and fiery drumming. Importantly though they know how to use light and shade, how to let full bodied crescendos give way to poppy, picked out melodies, and not to slap abrupt finishes in just for the sake of it. This feisty fun is balanced out with slow and thoughtful sections, layering the different parts to reveal delicate melodies behind the roaring blitz, which all comes together (in probably a more planned way than it seems) into a band that’s actually fun to watch perform.
Fiction are our middle support band, who fill the stage with their five members, frequent instrument-swapping and fairy-lit drums. They lean more towards the dreaminess that we’ve been promised by headliners Dog Is Dead, with layers of twinkly melodies over a mellow, undulating, sometimes funky bassline. Their equally mellow vocals, with occasional venture towards falsetto and what could be another contribution to the Wild-Beasts-wave trend, add up to a distinctly epic, evocative experience, reminiscent of (while sounding nothing like) Band of Horses. Which is no bad thing and possibly what most people might want for a laid back Sunday evening.
We’ve heard a lot about headliners Dog Is Dead, and they should fit into this chilled-out Sunday ethos if the hype is accurate. We’re expecting something like a cross between GROUPLOVE and The Polyphonic Spree to have us reeling with life-affirming abandon. I can certainly see where these comparisons come from – all five members harmonise beautifully over well-rounded songs, melting into the soft yet upbeat bounding melodies, and that full, mellow sound scoops you up and sucks you in. The thing that strikes me about this band is just how many influences they seem to have in their set – I can hear Paul Simon in their Graceland-esque ‘Young’, as well as the bouncy syncopated surging of Foals, the crashing epicness of Band of Horses and those arty tenor melodies of Wild Beasts recurring throughout the set. A good set of bands to be influenced by, and they use the inspiration well, but I can’t help thinking I’d have liked to see a bit more of a Dog is Dead personality stamped over the performance. It’s with a little relief then that their last three offerings seem to do just this – perhaps it’s a cunning plan to keep you in suspense. Forthcoming single ‘Two Devils’ waltzes across a lush green park through a haze of spring blossoms, while ‘Burial Ground’ slows down the pace with clicky drumming and a determined bass that tells a story even without the vocals. But it’s set-closer ‘Teeny D’ that mixes stripped down verses with big huge in-your-face melodies, that finally proves they really can pull off the uplifting, end-of-the-night, isn’t-life-wonderful vibe for themselves.