Live: Arbour Lights / New Alaska / Mansize – Firefly Worcester, 7/11/13

It’s an arty enough place, Worcester. They have an art festival and everything. But it was always meant to be a little bit shit if you wanted anything edgy or underground. It’s a great place to bring up kids. Loves royalty. Makes sauce. But punk and DIY? Best hit the M5 and head for Bristol. Or Birmingham.

Then, sort of around spring time this year, to this reviewer, anyway – things came out of the leftfield woodwork that were never expected. A world class skatecore band from Japan – JAPAN – played the fricking Firefly – on a Thursday, for THREE QUID. Baby Godzilla – watch out for these guys, people – went apeshit bonkers above that same pub only a few weeks before. A relentless horde of Metalcore, Grind and all sorts of gnarly bands keep playing at a truly charming dive-hole venue up by Shrub Hill (The Bridge) – for FREE. Will Tun and the Wasters are doing a gig at that same venue at the end of this month – for FREE.

Maybe it’s just me. But I had no idea that the supposed home of the displeasingly alliterative “Worcester Woman” – a genuine political pollster term for the key consumerist cosy female reactionary demographic who (supposedly) swept New Labour into power in the 90s – could actually be this cool.

But anyway. Speaking of cool. This was another Surprise Attacks triple bill Thursday. With some serious quality on display.

Local (Worcester) tri-hander Mansize kind of shambled on stage with minimal fanfare, and an almost apologetic wishing of the crowd a happy Thursday. Basically female-fronted and not lacking in brute sonic attack, this was periodically intricate 90’s grunge revival – with a few jagged hooks stuck in for good measure. The vocalist has definitely got a PJ Harvey thing going on (guess the clue is in the bandname) and to me that’s a thing to be loved. There was also a bit of cheeky crossover – the deployment of a rapper in the old school Gunshot vein on one track – something which could easily have gone wrong. It basically didn’t. Which is a hell of a thing to pull off. I guess this entire band – and the MC – were at best being potty-trained when the lost 90’s gem the Judgement Night Soundtrack compilation was released; featuring as it did a collaboration between Mudhoney and Sir Mix-a-lot (and many others in the same vein… if in doubt, google). But this little number, played live above a pub in Worcester, could have sat as track six on this very album quite comfortably. Genuinely.

Representing for Stourbridge, New Alaska were a much simpler proposition. Clean, fresh, a touch of neo-pub rock, and medically impossible to dislike… these guys were tight. Very tight. They visibly love what they do, and the love was downright infectious. There’s more subtlety and diversity on their studio material – shades of Post-Hardcore and even a bit of mathcore unless my ears deceive me – but live, this was just shitnails, joyous speed punk. More of the same please, gents. You really can come again.

And finally, boasting more effects pedals per square foot than I have ever seen in my life, and some seriously boutique kit… the symphonic majesty of Arbour Lights. Fronted by a Wunderkind remiscent of a teenage Beck, only more laid back and less off his freaky nut, on Bass – this was instrumental noise right out of the top drawer. To be specific, out of the top drawer of a bespoke designed six-drawer cabinet, hand-made by a master craftsman in a workshop, probably somewhere in the Cotswolds. Said Wunderkind held his place centre stage, working his effortless craft without a single word, for the whole set. This guy had so much neck and brass he even deployed a bow to his four string, Jimi-goddam-Page style (only Jimi Page was a guitarist, yeah I know) – while the big guy on rhythm guitar went right off to his music. The whole performance was completely wordless – but when you are this good at what you do with the equipment, vocals are pretty much superfluous. Unless, say, they were to summon up the spirit of Richard Burton to recite some Dylan Thomas poetry in an quiet patch, a la War of the Worlds, or something. That would have gone nicely. Awesome.

And in sum, then, this evening was not something you’d associate with anodyne archetypal homeland of Worcester Woman. Not at all.

And so, Power to the fucking Woo. As they say.