The Lollies, Darts Club and Harvey Half Devoured
R*E*P*E*A*T Night @ The Portland

£3. That's it. For the price of a pint and a packet of crisps in most Cambridge pubs, you could've come to see three bands at the Portland.

I'm not quite sure why this kind of gig has had a price freeze since the late 80s - maybe it has to do with the socialist/DIY ethic of the whole small band scene - but if people have to pay £15 to see tired has-beens like Suede laboriously wheel out their past glories, how can it cost one fifth of that price to see three vibrant, up-and-coming bands? Serves the people that went to Suede right, I guess, so fuck 'em.

The Lollies

Hull's Harvey Half Devoured are fronted by the rather lovely base player from Fonda 500, which should be reason enough to go see them. Others include beautiful girl-girl harmonies, complex yet accessible tunes and an overall sound that's as tight as a gnats chuff. They reminded me of a less angry, less droning version of Th' Faith Healers, especially in the slower ones, and as they were one of my all time faves, that's praise indeed.

Even with a cold, ex-Pogul Magee frontman Rob can sing the tonsils off most people, and he's an instantly likable character, but very little else appeals about Darts Club. What sounded like interesting and amusing lyrics were drowned in a pub rock mess resembling a Paul Weller practise room. On occasion a bit of imagination piecing the malaise - a hint of Half Man Half Biscuit here, the odd tempo changes there - but overall a disappointment. There's still a pulse, but they'll have to dump 80% of the set and stick with the quirky stuff if they want to make an impression on people.

Having slagged them off, I should say that the CD is good – it’s a shame they don’t reproduce this sound live. Called The Wind Factory, it has an Associates/Echo and the Bunnymen vibe with a nod to Bowie and 70s mod pop. Dunno where it’s available, except at gigs, but well worth a listen.

One of the Lollies

And last, the Lollies. The fact that the riot grrl (excuse me if I missed out a few 'r's but as a humble boy I never was sure how many was de rigeur) scene was short lived in the inky media shouldn't detract from the good that it did the alternative music scene. The fact that, of the bands here tonight, female musicians outnumbered the males (including two - count 'em - drummers) is probably more down to Mambo Taxi and Voodoo Queens than to any crap the Spice Girls ever spouted.

They’re slightly shambolic but in an endearing way, and the honesty shines through in each thoroughly enjoyable pop nugget. This is pretension-free song smithery that puts a smile on your face, pure and simple. They wont win any awards for clever-cleverness but who cares? They’ll make plenty of friends, and surely that’s what really matters.

Top night.

Go see The Lollies at (HERE)
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