The City Tavern. Just a short stumble away from the festering mass of humanity that spills, totters and...I hope you’ve already eaten...oozes all over Broad Street on a Friday night whilst seemingly remaining a hundred miles away. In that respect it’s pretty much the perfect venue for Miss Halliwell, a band that similarly skirts close to popular appeal with some deceptively catchy tunes and lyrics (check out Free Chips for instance...it’s got sing-along hit written all over it) whilst somehow remaining safely outside the ‘mainstream’.
With record label support and global management deals so far disappointingly lacking their inspirational leader Miles Perhower continues to plough his own sweet/sour furrow and tonight’s gig billed as ‘The City Tavern Experiment’ is a yet another self financed and self organised – although happily not just self attended (shit...don’t say people are finally getting the message?) – affair.
First up D.N.P aka ‘Little’ Chris Downing the dude who’s behind the much missed Brumcast series of podcasts. In the intervening year or two he’s clearly been busy copulating with Satan...as least that’s what his ‘black ambient drone’ sounds make you think of. The video projections behind him neatly hammer (House) the point home.
How do you follow that? With some top notch indiepop courtesy of The Dollcanoes of course. Genius. There’s far too little mixing stuff up on conventional gig line-ups...why shouldn’t you go from Satan’s soundtrack to indiepop eh? No idea how long they’ve been going for (I neglected to ask that during a post gig chat with one of the band, I guess Paxman’s job’s safe for now then) but I believe one of the blokes was/is local legend Bom (of Bom and Magic Drumstick fame). From the BiS-ish Masterbluster through to the more Riot Grrl influenced You’re Dead and Chicks On Speed tinged One For The Road it was a hugely enjoyable set with just the right blend of chat and humour (loved the balloon cock and ball set...not so sure about popping them with a pin but that’s a chap thing...ouch).
As warm up acts go Big Bren’s Combo is pretty out there. Big Bren himself is a performance poet / bar room bard backed by, amongst other instruments, a saw player. Yes, as in the sharp things you cut trees with. Okay, on paper (alright then, screen) it seems an odd proposition but somehow the combination of Big Bren’s broad Brummie delivery and his backing band’s free jazz fusion can be particularly effective. A Child Has Died (backed by the aforementioned saw) was strangely haunting whilst the rant fuelled Noisy Neighbours and Mad Woman both trod the fine line between genius and insanity. Which leads us on rather nicely to our headliners...
Okay, ladies and gentlemen, the main event (if that sounds a little like the introduction to a boxing match it’s no bad thing)...all the way from Bearwood (well some of them at least), with 18 knockouts, no losses and most definitely no submissions...the undisputed heavyweight champions of pissed off pop...MISSSSSSSSSSSS HALLIWELL! Okay, maybe ‘pissed off pop’ isn’t the right term but what is? Answers on Vladimir Putin’s severed scrotum (or any part of his anatomy for that matter) please. It’s seven years since I first started banging on about this band and I confidently expected them to have long ago stolen the hearts and minds of serious music fans by now. The fact that they haven’t yet matters not a jot. They will. And if they don’t, well, shame on us all.
In typical Miss Halliwell fashion they played two or three new tracks tonight (no point in making life easy for yourselves eh?) including the opening number (Galleon?) which saw Miles out front in the audience checking out the band and nodding approvingly. It was well deserved. There’s a complexity to the music that many players might struggle with but (and I’m guessing rehearsals can be pretty intense affairs) they’ve all clearly put in the hours, days, weeks and months. Delving back into his solo During The Interrogation EP, Signature’s stream of conscious lyrics and 1,2,3,4,5 refrain is nothing short of a Miles Perhower post punk classic. Fast forwarding to new album Fresh From The Holy Spring he then spat out Favourite Guitar like some kind of deranged savant, proffering a mic to guitarist Ross in much the same manner as a reporter trying to land a scoop from a shifty celeb. Three songs in and it’s already the kind of gig that makes you glad you’ve got ears. Kickboxing (again I think this was the title) is another new one, once again harnessing Perhower’s knack of stringing together seemingly unrelated words to make more sense than most songwriters manage in a lifetime (sample lyric “Tabloid, haemorrhoid”...doesn’t that just neatly sum up the Daily Mail eh?). During the song Miles played WITH and PLAYED with the band, fiddling with their instruments a little to get the sound he was looking for. Another new track (no idea what this one was called) was recorded “For data” and will no doubt find itself on the next instalment of the Brumdemoters trilogy of films. I wrote down the words “jittery, edgy seat of your pants stuff” but was too involved in watching it all go down to note anything more illuminating. That’s a good thing by the way. A“Thank you, that was fucking tight” to the rest of the band at the end was well justified praise though.
“Time for the hits now” remarked Miles with just the merest sack of irony. They bloody well should be. In Free Chips, Rulerfueller and Ponytail Quest Miss Halliwell has a trio of tracks that we should all be self pleasuring ourselves over. Well I am at least. Bear with me a minute...okay...three minutes. Ahhh...that’s better. Free Chips is so naggingly addictive it should be issued with a Government Health Warning. Live Rulerfueller is far more of a kick up the ass than the recorded version with Miles prowling the floor, seemingly on the edge of a meltdown. He’s saving all that for the last song of the night though, Ponytail Quest, a brain frazzling jazz / rock / metal / punk / prog tinged odyssey into Miles’ troubled mind that ended with him grabbing his coat, ripping down a banner promoting the gig and chucking it at the stage, disappearing down to the bar below to, no doubt “down half a bottle of wine”. And there he remained. No encore. No schmoozing. No compromise.
Seven years on from my first sighting of them Miss Halliwell incredibly remains one of the freshest, most compelling bands I’ve ever seen.