Baskin’s Wish, Let’s Buy Happiness, Grandfather Birds.


It was a nondescript, utterly bog standard Tuesday night. May 3rd 2011, to be exact. I was in freelance-redundancy-non-payment-missing-cheque-skint-as-a-badger hell. I could only afford lime and sodas. I struggled to find a parking space near the venue. My camera battery was running on fumes because I couldn’t find the charger. The room was tiny. The lighting was questionable. And I was on the verge of death (no, really) with manflu.

I didn’t have high hopes for the gig.

Or at least not for the first two bands, which were both new to me. However, I’d first heard of Grandfather Birds about a year ago when their first CD, The Woods, landed on my desk. And it was good. Very good. I figured that I’d suffer through my lime and sodas and my manflu and the support acts until the GBirds took the stage. And I hoped that in just a couple of hours, their lush psychedelia-tinged trawls through life that would herald the release of their latest single, Higher Bridges, would be perking me up no end.

Baskin’s Wish

A couple of hours? Pfft. I didn’t even need to wait a couple of minutes.

I’d not heard much about the first band, Baskin’s Wish, before this gig. Having said that, neither had anyone else so it seems. Which is a shame. They’ve been around for a couple of years but freely admit that haven’t done a great deal of work in promoting their lively and energetic, west-coast inspired, free-wheeling, three-minute, indie pop blasts.

Why? I really don’t know. But whether it’s shyness, a lack of confidence, or just good old north east pessimism, I think these guys are selling themselves short based on what I saw tonight. Give them a listen and their guitars effortlessly drop names like Pavement, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne and, a little closer to home, The Cribs, into each track. Ask anyone who was there on the night and they’ll tell you they were impressed with what they saw and heard, surprised that the band haven’t done more with their music, and pretty damned sure that the potential is there for them to go far.

Well, if they wanted to, of course. Oi, Baskin’s Wish: you listenin’?

Let’s Buy Happiness

Right now, the north east music scene is kicking off. And Let’s Buy Happiness are without a doubt one of the new(ish) bands who are really putting the boot in. But in a nice way. Like how The Sundays might have erm… ‘put the boot in’ during a game of lawn badminton with Stereolab at an afternoon twee party hosted by Bjork and her Sugarcubes way back in June 1991. That kind of ‘nice’, you see?

I really, really like these lot. The singer reminds me of Harriet Wheeler, their music takes me back to my old Renault 4 with ‘Injection’ stickers on the front wings, and their entire attitude represents what’s happening in the north east scene. All of these things are good things. On stage, they were flawless, they sounded fantastic, they played a rock solid set, and the crowd was definitely won over.

One word of advice though: try to catch ‘em in an intimate venue like this while you can. Because then, in a year or two when they’re huge, you’ll really have something to boast about.

Grandfather Birds

This was the band that the crowd was here to see. The night was all about launching Higher Bridges, which was recorded outdoors with producer and Little Comets guitarist Michael Coles leading the sessions under a variety of Newcastle’s legendary bridges.

So it was fitting that the launch gig was held in Newcastle’s Bridge Hotel. They could have probably filled this place 5 times over, and the tiny room itself was rammed, hot, sweaty, and overflowing with anticipation. Especially when the projector started rolling out a flickering and atmospheric stage backdrop showing sleeve art, old cine film of Newcastle and, you’ve guessed it, the city’s famous bridges.

The GBirds make music that’s easy to lose yourself in, and just as easy to find yourself in, all at the same time. At first listen, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that they’re a band who do nothing but lights-off, eyes-closed, headphone tracks. Tracks that lift you up without warning, then plunge you deep into lyrically dark places in the same breath, but never without that sense of familiarity in Matt’s voice that reassures you that, in the end, everything’s going to be just that little bit more than OK.

So I wondered how all that would translate to a live venue that didn’t have the best acoustics. I wasn’t disappointed. She Likes It On The Left pricked up the hairs on the back of my neck just as much as it does every time on a CD in my favourite chair. What’s more, the rest of the set quietly – and occasionally very loudly – confirmed that, to me at least, the live Grandfather Birds experience is pretty much unmissable.

But what made this whole gig really stand out is that all three of these bands are local. As in from my home town. And that makes me very, very proud.

So proud that I almost forgot about the manflu, the missing cheque, the parking space, the… oh fuck it: I’m putting that Higher Bridges CD on again. Everything really is going to be just that little bit more than OK, innit.

By Barry Bell on May 13, 2011

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