Today is the first real display of summer that the British Isles has dished out this year, an event flagged by the sun-and-cider-soaked figures strewn about outside The Brude. It’s not a massive turn out but it’s a Sunday and the first mad rush to the beer gardens of 2015 may have depleted the numbers somewhat.
Peace and Love Barbershop Muhammad Ali kick things off with a thudding, riffy opener that urges the spattering of an audience to get to their feet. The sound is early 70s, pre-punk, leather and rusty wire-harsh comprised of simple, stamping riffs and whining, anarchic vocals. I’m surprised to learn later from the bass player that it’s only their fourth gig as a fully functioning band – they rattle through their short, sharp songs with a tight abruptness that would suggest they’ve been doing this for years.
In terms of showmanship they are lacking but this isn’t the end of the world given the style of music they have submerged themselves in – it’s no nonsense, square up to you and slap you stuff that wastes no time in getting to the point. It has kicked this particular Sunday in the bollocks and then marched off to the pub and I have nothing but respect for the single-minded swagger of it all.
Considering the length of the set, there are a lot of songs and a lot of repetitive riff-grinding that leans towards the style of The Stooges with a sprinkle of Blondie and Lou Reed here and there.
The final song winds up with a hypnotic dirge of guitar and bass thump drawing you in a lot deeper than it should in two or three minutes. The musicians put down their instruments one by one until there is just the figure of the bassist, stationed underneath her majestic afro, chugging out the last slabs of music that they have for us.
It ends a performance that, above all, leaves me encouraged by the fact that there might still be a few pockets of people who are trying to chip out something raw that shuns the world of slick guitar music in favour of a simple, visceral feeling. It’s probably not the soundtrack to the revolution this time round but it might at least remind us of the need for one.
The gaps on the floor reduce by a reasonable degree by the time Bohicas arrive before us. Perhaps not surprisingly there is an audible cheer as they take up their positions; this is a band that has received a healthy number of hits on YouTube and they were recently given air time on Steve Lamacq’s show on BBC 6Music.
It takes no time at all to spot that these four mean business – in every sense of the word. They are polished, rehearsed and ready for their photo shoots. They are scruffy enough to let you know they have done their time sat in a transit van amongst a drum kit on the M6 at four in the morning but turned out well enough to allow parents to relax, secure in the knowledge that should any of their daughters end up being invited backstage these chaps will at least have a wet-wipe or two available for a quick freshen up prior to whatever illicit deeds may ensue. Particularly striking is the guitarist’s hat that surely must be a nod to Lee van Cleef (which I genuinely hope it is – that guy is bad ass in For a Few Dollars More).
But enough of this superficial nonsense, for it is the music that we’re really interested in. The most noticeable difference between Bohicas and their support act is that they are tight, honed, slicker and prepared to give us a show. There is a steadily increasing energy about the way they jump into songs that suggests they have considered the merits of being able to build a set up as it progresses and draw the audience in through the evening. Technically they are very good and all the hooks that you’d expect from a fully fledge indie act are there – at several points I swore I could hear distant crowds of panama hat-wearing festival goers sat at shoulder height singing the lyrics back at them. They know how to work a room and there is just enough snap and vigour about proceedings to maybe shuffle them into their own corner of the indie world. The three-part harmonies that are tossed around effortlessly are the stuff of radio play wet dreams with more than a couple of their songs sounding like potential hit singles packed and ready to go. I am naturally suspicious of a band that already sounds like it has been given the pro-tools treatment live on stage, nobody can be that good can they? Surely there must always be some splintered edges that require the touch of “The Industry” to be smoothed? Perhaps not – perhaps that’s just how they sound.
Bohicas seem to be ready for the next step, for that stage in their career where they find their way onto the Xfm playlist and insert earworms into thousands of people. They have the songs, the act and the attitude – they give it some welly and ease off as required all in the name of high level entertainment – and would be a good bet to become a well-established and well known band.
In all honesty however, they didn’t blow my hair back all that much on this occasion but it serves no purpose to sling mud at clearly talented acts just because they don’t tick all of one reviewer’s boxes. Both of the quartets that graced this hallowed stage tonight were worth the ticket price and it would’ve been good to see a bigger crowd for them. Bigger crowds will come for Bohicas over the next couple of years, for Peace and Love Barbershop Muhammad Ali – who knows, I hope so. For me tonight though, it was the latter that provided a bigger buzz – they were rough and ready and ploughed right on in the face of a less than responsive audience. I think Iggy and Co. would’ve approved.