By Steve McGillivray
October 5, 2011
Seems I’m always going to Sneaky Pete’s these days. This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. Sure it’s small and an odd shape, making viewing the bands difficult at times, but it’s just a damn good place to be for live music. Tonight’s aural feast features Glasgow-based band PAWS, Manchester’s Milk Maid and Mazes,who formed in Manchester. Safe to say this is a line up I’m pretty excited about.
First up are PAWS, a band I saw support Bronto Skylift in this very venue a few months ago. They impressed me a lot back then, resulting in my barely contained excited this time round. A very loud whine of feedback signals that the band are ready to rock. In an explosion of noise, feedback and distortion they launch into their set and they’re bloody brilliant. I’d say they were a garage punk band (if I had to take a stab at a genre) and they certainly lay on the noise, with the drummer putting in an incredible shift. In amongst the noise and feedback though, are some spacey sounds as well as some good melodies. There’s definitely a DIY feel to the band though and that’s meant in a very good way. During the last song, I’m in my usual Sneaky Pete’s spot behind the sound desk and what happens? The lead guitarist/singer wanders off stage and ends up beside myself and my wife Anj, thrashing the life out of his guitar. To borrow a phrase from our American cousins, it’s awesome. He ends by removing his guitar and placing it on a guy in the audience (a friend I suspect), before walking off signalling the end of the set. Fantastic stuff.
There’s no way Milk Maid can follow that surely? When the band go on stage to sort their gear out I’m sure their drummer is thinking the same thing as he looks fairly sullen and depressed. They open with a simply phenomenal rhythm section and some superb screeching guitars. The guy to my left is loving it, jigging away in his own world. There’s also an awful lot of American students here, who’re creating a pretty good atmosphere with their dancing, much to the bemusement of the band and locals in the audience. I’m loving the bass player’s attitude though. He just stands there looking serene and cool, while laying down a great rhythm. Milk Maid are sounding good, but I can’t help but think something is missing from their live sound , compared to the album. Maybe the teenage girl moshpit (basically lots of swaying) is clouding my thoughts. I also think the drummer looks like a slightly younger Luke Haines. Both look pretty fed up most of the time, so it’s possible they’re related. It’s a good set from the band, but I do feel a little disappointed as they seem to have lost part of the fuzzy, grimy sound quality from the album but that could be the venue more than the band. They get a rousing send off from the audience in any case, especially the Americans.
I spend the intervening time between bands chatting to my wife, sipping diet coke and being amazed at all the five feet five American girls and trying to figure out why they’re here. In the meantime, Mazes have snuck up on stage and started their set. Now the Americans have all got their hands on glow sticks and are waving them around like it’s 1990 and they’re at a rave. The band are sounding pretty good, coming across rockier than their record. It strikes me this is in complete contrast to Milk Maid with whom it was the other way around. There’s lots of short, sharp bursts of dazzling indie pop coming from the stage, where the band are also looking slightly confused by the demographic of their audience, but there’s a few wry smiles from them too. It’s a very impressive set. The album tracks are being given a new edge here tonight. The frontman, looking like Freddie Highmore all grown up, is excellent. His voice sounds really good live and he plays a mean guitar to boot. The band are joined by the Milk Maid frontman for a few songs too. The set ends with ‘Surf And Turf/Maths Tag’ which sounds incredible and closes the evening’s festivities on a really high note. There’s shades of Sebadoh and Sonic Youth in the guitar riff, but with a pop twist and it goes down a storm.
All too soon the night has come to a close. I sneak over to the merchandise stall, where I treat myself to a tape by a band called Sealings. Sadly there were no PAWS tapes left, even though the band themselves hunt high and low for one, for which I am very grateful. The PAWS t-shirt looks a tad too snug for my middle age spread. I will get a PAWS tape at some point though, because of the three bands on show tonight, they made the biggest impression on me. I did grab a couple of badges for myself and my Anj. Milk Maid were good, if a touch too poppy for me tonight, while Mazes were rockier than I expected so a mixed bag in terms of my expectations based on the albums from the touring bands. Off into the night and the delights of the drive back over the Forth Road Bridge. See you soon Sneaky Pete’s.