On arrival to the Shipping Forecast’s basement venue there seemed to be a mellow electronica track playing softly over the sound system. I slunk about the place for an embarrassingly long time before somebody pointed out what I thought was a drum technician tinkering with some cymbals and a beatnick sat in the middle of the stage embracing a harp. It was only then that I realized what was coming through the speakers was live…
The harp player was singing over a drum machine so note-perfectly that half of the audience must have assumed it was a studio recording and didn’t notice she was there. As the string-laden trip hop number drifted to an end a guitarist and bassist stepped into position either side and the rock band was ready to show its true colours. Evelyn.Is are an impressively versatile guitar-bass-drums set up but much of their music sounds as if it has synth backing thanks to some clever pedal work. The singer was deep, tuneful and extremely charismatic in her stage presence. After a couple of songs she slid out of her shoes and socks as if adapting to a familiar habitat. The set featured some genuinely heavy moments but the long, ambient song they chose to end on failed to carry the half-baked audience’s attention.
Next up was Fieldhouse, a young four-piece with an energy and vitality that was perhaps missing in the previous band. The tunes were immediately a lot more up-tempo, driven forward by some relentless and inventive drum beats. The band’s quaint-sounding name is a red herring; although Fieldhouse’s forte is a similar kind of technical guitar pop to the other bands on the bill they quite often accessed their instruments’ grittier capabilities and got into some nasty riff-work. Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead had obviously influenced the band’s lead guitarist to a great extent and one of their songs seemed to be an apparent rewrite of ‘My Iron Lung’. Despite this, Fieldhouse’s set was a powerful half-hour of music and there’s no weak link in terms of their musicianship.
Up until this point the Shipping Forecast’s crowd had been fairly sedate. It has to be taken into account that this was a freezing Tuesday night in the middle of winter and most of the audience will have come straight from work, tired and wrapped up to the nines in Antarctic survival garb. Apart from this, I suspect the casual spectator effect maybe partly down to the club’s upmarket atmosphere. The majority of Liverpool’s larger venues have shutdown and the O2 predominantly hosts bigger, more established touring acts so places like the Shipping Forecast and the Kazimier have become the go-to places for new music. The Shipping Forecast lacks the DIY community feel of some of its peers and I think the exclusive vibe wards off a lot of the freaks and weirdoes that colour other venues. It’s easy to over look the fact that underground music has traditionally been produced by students and dolers so simple things like overpriced beer can serve to isolate a large part of the scene. Having said that, I don’t think the Shipping Forecast can be beaten by any Liverpool venue for sound at the moment, and fortunately the Scottish headliners brought along a large and animated fan base.
Apart from being one of the best named bands around right now, We Were Promised Jetpacks certainly no how to kick off a live show. An eight minute long jam crescendo is usually saved until the last part of the last song but Jetpacks jumped straight into it. The band brought things up to an anthemic high before everything cut right back down again for the first lines of the song. Doing everything backwards, why the hell not? The line-up was another four piece affair, more expertly fast drumming and effect-soaked guitars.
(Image: We Were Promised Jetpacks by Thomas Hermoso)
Unlike the other bands, Jet Pack’s lead singer had a more down-played stage presence and wasn’t obvious front-man material. This shy approach was refreshing and served to draw the audience in, ultimately amounting to a more moving vocal effect. The most intimate moment came when mid-song everything cut right down to the singing and it was so quite that the vocalist moved away from the mic, leaving himself exposed for a few bars of bliss before the instruments came back with a vengeance, in contrast becoming shatteringly heavy. It’s always amazing to see such an accomplished sound from such a young band, but what’s really interesting about Jet Pack’s music is that they’re not afraid to shy away from just slugging out a riff on their telecasters. The songs are long and wandering, frankly to the point of indulgence at times, but within them the guitars range from syncopated jangly melodies to just strumming out chords at the same time. The bass is also liable to get stripped back to post-punk melodies. It’s perhaps only the long arrangements and complex drumming which separate this band from some of the exciting Libertines influenced bands of five or six years ago. In a sea of indie banality, Jet Pack’s rough edge is definitely something to get excited about.