Not Great Men/Phonetics/McCarthy Vigil @ Royal Park Cellars, Leeds 17.02.12

In the centre of Hyde Park, just along from the infamous Brudenell Social Club, is the Royal Park. Though you wouldn’t guess it from the suspiciously Yates-like signs garishly declaring ‘2-4-1 ON ALL BURGERS!’, traverse through this land of spoilt students and drunken karaoke and you will find the basement that has played host to some of Leeds finest DIY gigs. A small black box that feels like somewhere you’d go to escape bombs, the Royal Park cellars is the perfect place for Not Great Men to organise their event tonight.

Feb 17th, 2012 at Royal Park Cellars, Leeds / By Jack Sibley
Not Great Men/Phonetics/McCarthy Vigil @ Royal Park Cellars, Leeds  17.02.12 Yes DIY is certainly the name of the game tonight as a flushed Sam Turnbull (singer of Not Great Men) told Bearded that in the surprise absence of a sound technician the gig had been cancelled for about three hours during the day until they decided that the show must go on and responsibilities for sound would be shared amongst the bands. Truly an inspiring act of the Big Society, no? Anyway any fears there may have been at this prospect were forgotten on the entrance of McCarthy Vigil. Jumping onto the stage with two telecasters, there was fear that these guys would end up being a behind-the-times soft ‘indie’ band but these unfair judgements were not long for this world and they quickly whipped up a storm. With catchy melodic sections leading into desperately screamed chants, McCarthy Vigil knew exactly when and how to break it down and inject some balls. Lots of instrument swapping of questionable necessity only slightly hindered continuity but the vocalist (and acoustic guitarist, also probably not needed) was a wisely chosen mainstay of the set.

Next up was the freakish dance-puppetry of Phonetics. Always garnering a strong audience reaction, Phonetics seem to somehow worm there way into a crowd’s collective head through persistence, heart-on-sleeve emotion and a strong forward-drive throughout. Stories of angst that are worn into the singer’s face whilst in action are accompanied by pulsing adrenaline-beats and a sparse high-end. After an energetic set, sweat drips off the band as they drip off the stage. And still no problems with sound!

To top off a night of impressive displays of dedication, Not Great Men take the stage. This is a band who know their craft. Playing with a cool, relaxed but unpretentious air, they enjoy the performance but over-enthusiasm is a childish attitude to be kept inside. Knowing the exact techniques to employ in order to get full satisfaction, the band move as one and interact only with silent nods. Having said this, Turnbull takes his role as agent-provocateur very seriously, choosing his moments to provoke the rabble into frenzy-state wisely before hanging back and deferring guilt onto his partners in crime. A mish-mash of styles, it is always amusing to see the classic-rock enthusiast juxtaposed against the sweeping fringe on opposite sides of the stage but opposites attract and, like bacon and maple syrup, their diversity brings an interesting new flavour to the overarching sound of pancakes (pancakes in this metaphor being new wave).

Finishing up and sloping offstage to modestly take compliments, the band’s self-organised night has been a success and hopefully an inspiration to continue the tradition of DIY events in the Royal Park Cellars.