The Hot Lights, The Corner House, Cambridge, 4 July 2014

Billed as ‘Cambridge Indie Heroes’, anyone expecting an evening of relentless introspective shoegazing would have been surprised at the exuberance and variety on offer. First on were Riverane, two guitars, bass and drums line-up. Vocalist /guitarist Gabriel Coulter has raw edges to his voice, suiting the sound well. The songs vary in unexpected ways, different sections, changes and instrumental passages show a will to experiment and keep the listener interested beyond the standard ‘Indie’ template. They are a young band with potential, listen to their soundcloud tracks.

The next act was the solo guitar and voice of Dickon McCarthy, an unassuming and unpretentious performer. His gentle and mellifluous vocal style, smoothly drifting over busy guitar work is something a bit different from the current crop of solo singer/guitarists. Having seen so many loops/triggered sounds/backing tracks etc recently it was intriguing to see a performer going back to basics, creating the rhythm and effects interweaved with the conventional accompaniment on a standard acoustic guitar. Again, have a listen to soundcloud…

Venus Grove are a competent four piece, playing catchy tunes drawing on the power-pop and punk heritage of the late 70s and early 80s. The lead singer Bob Nicholas had a style and delivery similar to Elvis Costello (and the glasses as well..) and the drummer created a punchy pace to the songs. The set built up well, again there was variety and having read that their influences were XTC, Beatles, Small Faces, Jimi Hendrix and others I think most of those boxes were ticked with style.

Top of the bill were The Hot Lights, they had a shaky start with a guitar string repair needed during a suspended opening song, but the audience were patient and responded well to the comeback ‘Keeping on Track’. With a relaxed and very charismatic front man and many supporters in the audience the rocking set rolled along with energy, their own material was strong and there was an interesting choice of two covers, ‘Luka’ the Suzanne Vega song (she was playing in Cambridge earlier this week), later covered by The Lemonheads, and the Nelly Furtado song ‘Turn off The Light’. Second guitar was sometimes substituted by keyboards for a different version of their Indie sound. I particularly enjoyed the songs towards the end of the set, ‘You Should Be With Me’ was a highlight. It was an engaging and enjoyable performance..

As a prelude to the Cambridge leg of the ‘Tour de France’, there was a free concert on Parker’s Piece featuring Billy Ocean and The Bay City Rollers, I think I made the right decision to seek out the alternative free show in The Corner House…


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