Saturday, 21 March 2009

Shrag / Violet Violet/ Town Bike at 229 18 March 2009


Heading down the stairs into the sterile environs of 229 I find that Violet Violet have just started their set. I’m just grateful to finally catch them.

This trio from Norwich has been on my wish-list for well over a year, but I’ve always been thwarted by gig clashes, non-appearances or evenings that have run so late that I have needed to be tucked up in bed before they set foot on stage.

They are worth the wait. Cheri, Fliss and Kylie know that the secret of pop perfection is a good tune allied to a good racket and they have both in spades. Songs are crisp and sharp, and none hangs around long enough to outstay its welcome. New song “C-c-cat!” is a particular highlight.

Brighton based fun bunnies Shrag follow on and the venue, which resembles a school hall, becomes even more like a cheesy disco. Possibly the natural heirs to The Chalets (and for that matter Shampoo), Shrag combine bratty nonchalance with deceptively simple songs and take the evening by the horns.

Big fun ensues. It is a sign of Shrag’s boundless creativity that with their eponymous album having only landed in the shops a mere handful of weeks ago, their set is liberally spiced with new songs that are as good if not better. Of these, “Ghosts Before Breakfast” is a real cracker.

Old favourites are not forgotten however, and probably the best song of the night is a gleeful shout along version of “Long Term Monster”.

Shrag are a band that make you smile and dance in equal measure. Any evening is a good evening when they are about.

Tonight’s headliners (rather inexplicably) are Town Bike, who are nattily attired in matching bowling shirts. They look the part of a happening band. However, once they start playing, things go awry. There is a very fine line between a band that has that indefinable quality that make you sit up and take notice and others that lack that spark and are just depressingly ordinary. For the majority of their set, Town Bike cannot lift themselves from this second category.

Not awful, but just a bit rubbish, Town Bike make all the right moves, but for the most part just grate. That said, the last two songs that they play are noticeably better than those that have gone before and it seems that all that is really wrong with them is a lack of uniformly strong material. They have identified this, because they have structured their set to finish well. They can still save themselves.

Anyway it’s been a fine evening’s entertainment. Three bands who are cheerful and poptastic, three bands who are dedicated to making sure that everyone in the room is having a good time. Check them out.

(Incidentally, while researching Myspace addresses for this piece, I got to hear Shampoo's 'Bouffant Headbutt' for the first time in years. What a tune that is!)