Ok, so despite there having been a fair few shows – and shows I was interested in – having been booked in what is, for York, a new gig space, this is my first time in The Crescent. And less than ten minutes’ walk from the train station, it’s a good space, in terms of size and capacity, with a well-proportioned stage, and a well-stocked bar. These things are important, and with a decent selection of bottled beers on offer, I went for a Jennings Snecklifter at £3.30 – a great beer for a cold night. It’s still early doors, but by the time I arrived, the place was packed with sixth formers and students. Or maybe I’m getting really fucking old.
Still, any band that can combine the garage firepower of The Strokes with the harmonies of The Beach Boys and the guitar solos of Dinosaur Jr and wrap it all up with a dash of Pavement and bring it to a new generation of music fans are ok in my book. Bull are that band, and on a good night they’re awesome. Last-minute stand-ins for the first scheduled act, turns out it is a good night, with a lively set that makes for a killer start to the night.
Broken Skulls almost threaten to derail things. They’re not bad by any stretch. But they are the musical embodiment of an identity crisis. The drum ‘n’ guitar duo can certainly play. Drummer Dan Sawyer is solid, and so is the guitar work, courtesy of brother Dan, although the guitar needs to be louder. Much louder. Leaping from chiming, weaving textured segments quite naturally, the songs themselves work. But it’s the chasm between what the band thinks it sounds like and what it actually sounds like that’s a sticking point. They think Black Keys. They think post rock rock. They think ‘kind of punk rock, kind of not’. But Dan has a U.S. heavy blues / hard rock, gritty, straining, vocal style that just doesn’t sit comfortably. Still, it’s not as awkward as the between-song chat, but still, it is early days and there’s definite potential on display here.
Avalanche Party have even more potential. They seem to have their act nailed, and the material too. They know how to amp things up. Attitude, man, attitude. And pace: frantic pace. They’ve got both in spades. They’ve also got some cunty mates, unfortunately. I’ve got no gripes with moshing, but kids in bovver boots and braces, jeans rolled above the top of 12-hole DMs with suedehead crops rucking the fuck out of one another for sport, I’m not so sure about. ‘I think our behaviour was rather frowned upon’ I heard one of them say to his mate while dabbing a bleeding nose in the bogs after the set. I wasn’t sure if they’d actually paid much attention to what was going on on stage, sadly. It’s a shame, because the energy of the set and the quality of the material was top-flight. YTheir brand of driving indie rock may not be remotely revolutionary, and the guitarist may be sporting the most preposterous man-bun, but when it’s done this well, you can let such niggles pass. Doing brash with panache, Avalanche Party have the potential to be the next Arctic Monkeys, but not while their dozen or so tosser mates are in tow.
There aren’t many bands who can replicate the initial impact of the first time you see them. Sure, they’re good, but that first euphoric bang… Nah. …And the Hangnails are that rare band that does it every time. And more. With new material sounding absolutely belting, and established favourites like ‘Everybody’s Luck’ and ‘Fear of Fear’ (played with only five guitar strings) cranked out with blistering power, there really is everything to love about Hangnails. The songs – simple but effective, vibrant indie alt rock with a raw garage aesthetic – are great. But it’s all in the execution. They work hard, and crank it up to the max. Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar given them a really full sound, but it’s the way it plays against Steven Reid’s insane drumming that really sets …And The Hangnails apart. He’s got more power than the national grid, and he’s fucking tight, too.
…And the Hangnails
To see four bands of such a calibre for a fiver seems like more than just a good deal, and it’s one hell of an avert for both the promoter, Please Please You, and the York scene as a whole. Given time, and a lighting rig that matches the sound and does the acts and the stage justice, The Crescent has the potential to be York’s long-awaited answer to The Brudnell.