Middleman’s debut album launch has been a long time coming – 8 months if you count the time it’s taken from finishing recording to tonight’s launch, and in total a culmination of 5 years’ songwriting, gigging and earning a reputation as one of the most lovable bands in Leeds. I had a quick chat to Lee the bassist as he bounced past me to find his bandmates – he’s all smiles and could hardly contain his excitement that the album has finally arrived (literally in the nick of time – the delivery arrived only earlier today and Lee’s had his hands covered in still-wet ink).
If you want to know what you’re in for tonight, you only need catch a glance at Lee’s infectious grin. Middleman are all very excited about tonight, and when you consider that even their usual, non-celebratory gigs are pretty energetic, it’s not hard to put two and two together and finish up with a helluvalotof anticipation.
To warm up for them, Middleman have asked two other Leeds bands to support. Pet Accessories, new brainchild of ex Red Go Green Stop’s Anna Hetherington treats us to her engaging, spunky pop, playing with the vocals in each song to show off her astonishing range and quirky talent. Milk White Teeth continue the jollity with their buoyant pop, reminiscent of by turns both Arcade Fire and Wild Beasts, but perhaps a bit more chipper, which is convenient given the mood of the headliners.
But now its Middleman’s turn, and it’s not just the band that can’t contain their excitement – it’s pretty hard to move through the room, let alone get to the front. Vocalist Andy Craven-Griffiths can’t resist having joke with the crowd, which is really what the atmosphere’s all about tonight – and it’s not hard given how contagiously high spirited their hip-pop is. For me though the real joy is Andy’s carefully crafted rising-above-adversity lyrics, giving Middleman a substance, reflected too in their urgent rhythms – and something more than just a bit of jumping about for the kids. Although the kids still do enjoy jumping around to them rather a lot. As do us – cough – older folks. There’s no-one whose face Middleman can’t put a smile on, or whose feet they can’t make move – and if you’re not singing along to their anthemic choruses it’s probably because you’ve lost your voice singing along already.
This album launch brings together newer less-played material, and firm live favourites like It’s Not Over Yet, Can’t Hold Me Down, and Good To Be Back, leaving not one person without an inane grin or a pint of dancing-induced sweat across their brow. One look at the exhilarated faces of the fans, and of the band, during the stage invasion at the end of the set tells you all you need to know about just how much fun Middleman will make sure you have when you see them play.
Middleman’s debut album ‘Spinning Plates’ is out on 2nd May from all the usual places online and in real life, or catch them at one of their 28+ UK live dates and festivals over the summer.