It was new venue for me, one that I must have walked past many times on my way to the Roscoe Head or The Dispensary for a pint, or when heading up to the Phil. The gig was in the back room of the café at 81 Renshaw Street, and the main café area was already bustling when I arrived shortly after doors for the gig were due to open.
Clearly things were ever so slightly delayed, so I grabbed a less-than-ice-cold can of Red Stripe and perched on a step waiting for the all clear to head on back. After acquiring a second can, I managed to bag a seat after several members of the first act headed back to set up.
No sooner had I sat down than I was approached by a man known to me as Kicker Of Elves, one of the Trust The Wizards trio, whose podcasts I have been enjoying since being handed a flyer by one of them at a Lambchop gig at The Kazimier back in June 2013.
He recognised me from Facebook, as we had been in discussion about a story I recently wrote for Getintothis about the first gig the wizards are promoting that features one of the acts performing at this gig. He then introduced me to his fellow wizard, Chorizo Garbanzo.
In fact I’d decided to go to this gig as it was being headlined by The Swapsies, an über-indie outfit from Liverpool that I’d first heard through the Wizards podcast. The night was being put on as a farewell to their drummer Elaine, and to launch a new single.
When it was time to head in, I was offered a free party bag by a man who rather curiously asked me if I was Darren (I’m not!). I think it’s the first such gift I’ve had at a gig, and included a postcard, some stickers, badges and sweets (rapidly consumed by The Boy Wonder the following day!).
First up were Ukulele Club Liverpool, who I was looking forward to seeing as I’d heard they made for an interesting show. And I was right. There were ten of them, all armed with a ukulele, six women and four men.
They were seemingly led by a woman in a Swapsies t-shirt, who actually turned out to be Elaine, who the night was largely in honour of. They’re a ukulele club that offer courses and workshops as well as performing live with a variety of line-ups.
They started off with Pistol Packin’ Mama, a 1943 song that was the first number one on the Juke Box Folk Records chart, later known as the Hot Country Songs chart. It was made famous by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, with versions I like better by Gene Vincent and The Flamin’ Groovies. This song perfectly suited the mass of ukuleles, bringing smiles to many faces in the crowd.
They then came more up to date with Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’Mine, made much more palatable in this version, and then Elton John’s rather novelty Crocodile Rock, off his decent 1973 sixth album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player.
Pulp’s Common People also worked well on ukuleles (with the band playing no other instruments), with Walking On Sunshine by Katrina And The Waves then followed by their closing number, a witty song written about Elaine’s sister called Six Inch Heels.
He was in his (apparently) standard outfit of a leopard suit and started his set with a series of somewhat cheesy gags (with more scattered throughout) that went down very well with a crowd that he had eating out of his hand right from the off. I was expecting the outfit, but I was surprised by his lack of guitar strap which I guess makes me a little odd…
His first song was the marvellous The Amateur Taxidermist’s Bird. The next tunes were odes to Vimto and the Cumberland Pencil Museum, with the latter being probably my favourite of his songs on the night.
A couple of songs relating to supermarkets (where he used to work) were then followed by Stop Feeding My Cat, with a mass audience singalong. This was the song that he struggled most to remember the lyrics for, something that occurred a few times during the set. However, this was entirely forgivable due to his sheer charm.
He had assistance from Mary, a member of the audience who had already been the recipient of a carton of Vimto, for his closing number Morecambe, as she held up cartoon drawings to illustrate his beguiling homage to his hometown.
I compared The Thyme Machine with the wonderfully wry I, Ludicrous in my preview for their upcoming gig, but seeing Kriss in action also led me to recall the tweeness of Jonathan Richman and the theatricality of Misty’s Big Adventure.
The music between bands was up to scratch as well, notably 100 Unread Messages from Gruff Rhys’s fine American Interior album.
The rest of the band was Dave on guitar, with Mounsey battling with a sliding Lovelypool-emblazoned drum kit. Their grungey indie rock was dominated by Lucy, with my favourite bit being some nice guitar work on a song about ‘knowing your stories inside out’ as they grew on me during their short set.
Finally it was time for the headliners, The Swapsies, who are regulars on the local live scene, but who I’ve never managed to see before. Bassist Matt was clearly the spokesman of the band, trying to continue the humorous vein of the evening with his between-song chat.
They clearly state the influence of Belle And Sebastian on their website, which was apparent, as was much more from their progenitors like the Sarah Records stable and the shambling scene from the 80’s, and more recently bands like The Shins and Tullycraft.
They started off with the gorgeous new single, that they were here to launch, Piglet & Pooh, which was followed by one of the few songs of theirs I already knew, Bureau De Change, one of several they performed off their So Far… CD that I had just bought from the merch stall for the princely sum of £5.
It went straight into the player the following day, only to discover that two of the tracks skipped. Fortunately, singer/guitarist/glockenspieler Andy responded very quickly to my Facebook query about getting a replacement, which I got the very next day!
The Fortunes Of Nigel followed, with lead guitarist Sean switching to melodica. Then came the new single’s B-side, The Trouble With Lee, about The La’s’ Lee Mavers with many of their song titles included in the lyrics.
Some songs were sung by Andy, and others by Huw, also on guitar, with one rather incongruously introduced as sounding like Roy Orbison fronting an indie pop band (it didn’t really!)
A real highlight was the song about wishing to have a Scottish accent, but unfortunately that isn’t on my CD. Puzzle, a song about the band who’d just played, was sung by bassist Matt and featured a nice guitar solo from Sean. After Oh Me!, the set allegedly closed with the jaunty, lovely Another Game On Saturday.
However, there was no pause as all three of the singers then took a turn during a cover of You Give A Little Love from the film Bugsy Malone, a movie and song I am actually very unfamiliar with, but this was clearly a regular part of their set, judging by the audience reaction. It continued the jaunty theme.
Their very final tune was Leiber & Stoller’s (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care, a posthumous 1961 UK hit for Buddy Holly, although originally on his second album from 1958, but perhaps better known by Elvis Presley. They sweetly self-deprecatingly tweaked the lyrics so that Andy (I think) was the square one, rather than the girl in the song.
On my way out, I introduced myself to Kriss, who by now had realised that I wasn’t Darren, and had a quick chat with him and Chorizo Garbanzo. I nearly headed for a cheeky pint en route to the station, but eventually decided to put my foot down to make the antepenultimate train home after a really top night’s indie pop action.
I wore my red Track & Field tee as I was expecting a bit of twee indie heaven at the gig (and how right I was). The audience looked like they could have stepped straight from one of the many T&F gigs I went to around a decade ago in London in Water Rats and The Arts Café near Old Street.
However, there weren’t all that many t-shirts on show, though I spotted ones for AC/DC, Ride, The Beatles, the Indietracks festival and Chuck Prophet, the last mentioned being sported by one of the Wizards.
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Here is what I could find on Spotify from the various acts who played: