Allright, there's no Crocketts/Crimea stuff, but it's Aber for Christ's sake.
On Thursday I travelled down to the home of the Crocketts, Aberystwyth, in West Wales, to visit a University open day. Now I'm a lucky git, and it just so happened that Radio 1 decided to turn up in the Uni's Student Union that evening to broadcast a live show. Now what's a show without a good line-up, and who could be better than ex-Murry The Hump band The Keys, along with support from The Hot Puppies and another local band, Gabrielle 25.
After finding a local to help me find my way around the Uni and get me into the gig if there's any problems, she's promptly turned away at the door for being underage, and I get in without any problems at all. Go figure. At least I'm still in good company, with local Crox fan and the man with the only 'We May Be Skinny & Wirey' t-shirt I've ever seen, Dan, who also introduces me to Murry The Hump and The Keys' website webmistress Sara.
After waiting half an hour, hearing the Evening Session In Wales show broadcast over the speakers, and having presenter Bethan mention the huge crowd in the room, on come The Hot Puppies to demand that the 200+ crowd starts jumping up and down. Frankly, I think everyone was too busy looking at what the girls were wearing to take any notice of what they were saying. They get through a couple of songs, and very quickly I notice how much of a nutter the drummer is. He looked like that guy from My Family, you know, the funny one, only more fucked up. And playing drums. While we're on the topic of lookalikes, the guitarist was the first of the evening to look not too different from a dashing young Dan Harris, flash shirt included.
The only songs that stand out are the ones I've heard through the Radio 1 Unsigned website. You can download some stuff for yourself here. They're said to sound like fucked-up Blondie, whatever that is. After about eight songs, an encore and a bit a energetic jumping from the lead singer, they disappear backstage and everyone goes off to get some drinks before headliners The Keys appear, to be broadcast live on Radio 1 to the whole of Wales.
One by one, the band slowly appear on stage. I've never seen Murry The Hump play live, but I doubt they ever had as many members as The Keys had that night. Ex-Humpers Matt and Gwion were accompanied by a bass player, a drummer, a keyboardy thing player and a guy who shook jingly things and played the bongos. Lead guitarist Gwion was the second to do a Dan impersonation, in a shiny purple shirt he's apparently wearing for charity. Once they're set up they get down to playing to the largest crowd all evening.
Again, my lack of knowledge of Keys songs leaves me thinking everything sounds the same, other than their current single Gurl Next Door, which sounds as good as it did when I heard it the radio. The other songs are all laid back, much like the Crox calmed down after a name change. Matt and Gwion play away on their guitars while Matt gets out some clean vocals, and some comments on how good it is to be back in the Uni again. No problems with guitar pedals ala certain Crimea gigs, but a couple of girls in the crowd seem intent on shouting out "Idlewild" every time The Keys finish a song. They could have just been very lost, but after it happens a third time Matt does the decent thing knowing the show's being broadcast throughout Wales, and tells them to fuck off.
A couple of songs later and the band do the same thing, not to return however many shouts for "more" there were. Luckily for you, the show was recorded and is archived on the Radio 1 website here, where you can listen to the songs through your computer.
The final band of the evening were a foursome I'd not heard of before, Gabrielle 25, who chill things out even more than The Keys did. Sadly half the crowd has now disappeared, but they play what feels like the longest set of the evening which includes ex-Gorky's Zygotic Mynci guitarist John Lawrence on bass, a drummer who can seemingly play with one hand, and half of the songs sung in Welsh. The best song has to have been what was either the penultimate or third to last song, I loose count, there were so many extra songs added to the end. It included half of the now normal chilled out acousticy type performance, and then the guitarists cracking up the noise and speed and ending in the lead singer strangely recreating the scene of a younger, drunker Davey MacManus, sprawled out on the floor with his guitar, trying to keep playing along with the song. Definitely a high-light of the evening, and something that lead me to look around Andy's Records the following morning for a copy of their single.
After Gabrielle 25 finally finish, presenters Bethan and Huw take to the decks to DJ, but not before I've said my goodbyes and made my way back to my hotel room. The whole show was recorded for Radio 1, and the other two bands will be broadcast on the Evening Session In Wales show on future dates, and will probably end up on the website too. Keep checking here for extra info on that.
I can't really go without again mentioning the should-be-world-famous Andy's Records. The place is a lot bigger and cleaner than I expected, a hell of a lot of old albums, and the biggest collection of Crocketts singles I've seen outside of my own home. There's about 20 copies of various stuff ranging from the earliest, Explain, to their last single 1939 Returning. Also playing over the shop speakers is Murry The Hump album Songs Of Ignorance. Quite possibly making it the best record shop I've ever been into. Being a huge Crocketts fan, I get a copy of each different Crox single, including the Keys single Gurl Next Door, and am served at the till by none other than Mr Andy himself. Knowing he's not exactly the worlds biggest Crox fan (a story I'm not too sure of myself), I pay my money, a total of just over £20 after a two for a fiver deal on the Crox CDs, and get out of there as quickly as possible.
It's definitely a shop I recommend. Infact, I recommend the whole fucking town, and every single band to ever come out of it. They all kick ass. Obviously though, non as much as The Crimea, whom I shall never again criticize for a couple of messed up chords and quiet keyboards because, after finally seeing some well known bands other than The Crimea, the ex-Crocketts are actually very good in comparison, with a lot more emotion and energy than a lot of other bands, whatever anyone else might say about them.
Review by Christopher Friend, 22nd February 2003.