15 February 2005

Hope of the States gig

The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea is a 300 capacity rock venue on the up and coming circuit. My younger son Mike and I caught Hope of the States there just before Christmas and re-reading my review made me wonder if it might interest anyone.

“Who do you think those guys might be?” I asked Mike. "Dunno." He volunteerd rather helpfully. They looked out of place in grubby Southsea with their happening haircuts, brown leather jackets and black jeans. We tracked them for half a mile and followed them into the Wedgewood Rooms. They showed backstage passes and breezed through, they were The Open. Well three members of the band anyway. Surprising what you see if you keep ‘em peeled.

Mike made straight for the bar and got the drinks in. We took up position about seven feet from the small stage, just to right of centre. A big crowd was swelling by Wedge standards at 20:00. Young teens, twenty something art students and middle-aged aficionados of the Indie and Britpop scene. A spot of pre show surfing had elicited three acoustic downloads so we knew what to expect from Brighton's The Upper Room and they didn’t disappoint. Their short set was politely received and I guess there’s enough room for another band who can produce great sweeping guitar tracks and who wear their Morrissey influences with pride. The young lad on bass was surely no more than 19.

The front line stage equipment was swiftly dismantled and on came the boys from Liverpool. The Open showed plenty of energy and aggressive attitude as they strutted the stage and delivered a breathtaking set that would almost overshadow the main act. They previewed half their debut album with all the assurance of veterans. This is a class act which has built its following through last minute guerrilla gigs. They didn’t introduce themselves, they didn’t say goodbye, they just played. Played hard loud and with passion. After their set I spied the unassuming figure of Sam Herlihy sidle in the main door and head discreetly for the stage door.

Hope of the States finally appeared at 22:25. Worth the wait though. These are truly accomplished musicians and they play their repertoire to studio standard. But were they just a bit jaded after three months on the road? I think so when you compare their stage presence with the earlier acts. It was a pretty brave move to bring along such strong support.

“Sing a happy song Sam!” pleaded someone. Sam debated with the band whether they knew any happy songs or indeed any happy people! It was decided with great irony that George Bush was about the happiest person they could imagine fight now. The music was set to a constant backdrop of video footage showing the band's familiar images of American patriotism and military might. My highlight was The Red the White the Black the Blue. I took some video footage during this one.

The band was using Orange gear. In the centre of one speaker cabinet the Orange name plaque had been scribbled out rather scornfully in black felt tip. Pinned to the amp head was a dollar bill. Hanging from the amp was a hand written note which read, “Modern Life is Fucking Terrifying.” The last number was dedicated to the late great John Peel.

Set lists:

The Upper Room:
All Over This Town
Black and White
Once for Me

The Open:
Bring Me Down
Close My Eyes
Change Forever
Just Want to Live
Can You Hear

Hope of the States:
Black Amnesiacs
A Crack Up at the Race Riots
George Washington
Black Dollar Bills
Black Stars Red Stars
Farewell to Pripyat
The Red the White the Black the Blue
Enemies Friends

Drinkers on the Dry
Static in the Cities

No comments: