Monday, February 23, 2009
The crowd tonight is a hair stylists dream. Average age 20, hip and neatly dressed; it’s clear we’re here to see a young and smart band that plays disciplined music. What they manage to fit into that disciplined music though, is something entirely unexpected, if wilfully retro.
Minor Byrd, a relatively new band is tonight ‘in acoustic mode’ says oddly-voiced and charming singer and guitarist Andrew Humphries, a songwriter in thrall to womankind. After his voice relaxes, a pointless Neil Young cover is dispatched and mightily impressive and fluid guitarist Jack McKeon joins him, it’s clear there are some great songs up Humphries’ sleeve. Singer and percussionist Mark Gretton is also a talent that helps brings the warmly melodic folk-pop songs up from memorable to excellent, particularly This Young Girl and the closing The Way She Walks.
By the time The Harpoons are ready to play, a never-busier Birmingham crowd crushes around the instantly forming dance floor. There is a lot of love in the room for The Harpoons and they don’t disappoint. Being as talented as they are, it’s the thrill of the occasional fumble or improvised lyric and ensuing pitch-perfect three-part harmonies that ensue that tell you they could polish this act up and get a much bigger audience if they wanted to. That they haven’t lost the smiles they sing through during the whole show is a bigger giveaway as to what motivates them. Soul-pop that sounds like the members stopped listening to music made after 1961 played for fun, with the occasional hint of 80s guitar-pop; when youth reclaimed it’s innocence and referenced the 1950s in style and economical delivery was valued. The Contours-like rawness of Be My Lover, Be My Girl and You’re The One I Love gets a rollicking mood going, one that rarely lets up except for the show-stopping Faith which allows singer Bec Harpoon a chance to quieten the cheering crowd and her quiet moments to thrill as much as the Bo Diddly-beat of set-closing Garden City. ‘This is a cover’ says handsome singer Jack of encore Shakin’ All Over reminding you once more that the preceding 45 minutes was all original and no one is over the age of 24 was involved. No egos, all demo CDs sold within minutes of the set ending, Seymour Stein would have his chequebook waving were he here tonight. Swell!