And so out of the dereliction of sticky carpets and thick black paint of the old Masque in Liverpool comes this smart new venue – East Village Arts Club.
It’s fab inside, helpful staff and great views of the stage, although they’d been suffering first night gremlins in sound-check, some of which continued through to affect the opening act.
Speaking of which, The Tuts were an excellent choice, not only to be the first band to officially tread the newly laid boards at EVAC, but to open for Kate Nash through her tour. Their facebook blurb says that are from the same town (Hayes in Middlesex) as the Ruts “with only a letter difference“. Tut tut for that not-quite-pun. An all female three piece with sparky bags of genuineness – I wasn’t squirming at all when they singled me out in the photo-pit, demanding to know just what do I do with all those photos I take?
No, despite what you might think, I do not have a private Tut-shrine in my living room. They were straight-on driving rock punk, great fun. It’s the sign of a good tour when the headliner sneaks out onto the stage mid-set to take photos of the support. I somehow got the idea they must be a brand new band, but was thrown by the amount of branding they had, printed patches on their jackets, that sort of stuff, and a quick bit of trawling shows that they joined MySpace (remember that?) way back in 2006. Great value for sure, well worth checking out on the festival circuit.
I met some friends in the interval and they told tales of Kate’s gig the night before in Manchester, where there had been stage invasions and crowd surfing, much of the latter from the lady herself. I expectantly appraised tonight’s audience. From the photo-pit they were reasonably frightening in their levels of dedication, even the boys had ‘Kate, Kate, Kate’ inscribed onto their cheeks with marker.
My heart rate went up more than a notch, but as it turned out, they weren’t quite enough to make a critical mass of the true believers, stretching in crowd surfing density only half way back to the mixing desk. After that the audience ran out into boyfriends with their arms crossed, looking unimpressed and too cool to be here. Don’t worry Kate, this is Liverpool – it’s a great town, with some brilliant music fans, just not quite as many of them as Manchester or London.
Kate opened in the manner to which we’ve now become accustomed – ‘Sister’ and then ‘Death Proof’ delivered with endearingly glam-snotty yowl, the rest of the band looking a lot more happily confident than when I saw them 6 months ago a few doors down this same street. The Arts Club has a smallish flat space in front of the stage, then rises in tiers. It gives those of the crowd who are not mosh-addicts chance to stand back and lean on balustrades and bannisters, but also gives those on stage a great view of the crowd. After a couple of songs, Kate was looking across and exhorting those lolly-gaggers to get down the front NOW and in fairness, to some extent she got her way. She gets full marks for playing multiple mid-sized venues; Preston, Manchester, Liverpool in quick succession, and was clearly keen to get up close and personal, climbing across onto the barrier and pressing flesh with the first row.
I promised not to go there, not to talk about Kate’s ‘evolution’ but she did so herself, speaking from the stage about the last year or so, getting dropped by her then label. The point of this, and of other vignet comments about listening to daytime radio, thinking what they played was ‘a joke’ and feeling way old at 25, was surely how she sees herself as stepping away from the mainstream, and as she vociferously pointed out, how she could have been dead in the water if it wasn’t for her fans buying gig tickets and buying into the new record. She talked about how she had written ‘Free My Pussy’ in the wake of the Pussy Riot debacle. It had been released only that weekend for Record Store Day. The fact that she could straight faced sing a song whose gauche and lengthy chorus is a plaintively delivered “miaow, miaow, miaow, miaow, miaow” proves that she doesn’t give a fuck about being cool, and that is somehow the coolest thing of all.
I was personally a little disappointed that she didn’t play the equally awkward ‘Rap For Rejection’, but this was made up for by the fact that, yes, they were going to play ‘Foundations’ but deliver it sans plunky plonk effects, instead of which we had a blistering lead guitar line delivered by Linda Buratto perched on top of a speaker cab.
We were treated to the small but significant story of her first gig, playing a pub in Harrow, no great shakes, but with enough of an effect on the girl that she phoned in the next day to quite her job at River Island, refusing to even pop in with her uniform; “I just couldn’t go back”. It was good to hear her say that in amongst all her promotion of girls in music that she’s keen to encourage the boys as well, although we’d all agree with her that they don’t quite need the same push.
The whole set was delivered as a sort of jubilant riot grrl jamboree, culminating in ‘Girl Gang’ and ‘Underestimate The Girl’. Knowing that ‘Girl Gang’ is a Fidlar tune that she’s appropriated and given new words to says much about where she is right now. Perhaps denied quite as much crowd involvement as she would have liked, Kate and her band had their own little stage invasion, the Tuts girls coming back out to join in the end of the main set.
They came back out, Kate now dressed down into something more comfortable, to deliver a one song encore in the form of ‘We Get On’. It was the quietest song of the night, and a much needed comedown.
I’ve not known an artist in recent years so effortlessly able to polarise opinion amongst my indier-than-thou circle of friends. At the same time it’s hard to think of many musicians that are impressing me more, and even harder to list the very small number that I simply enjoy right now as much as I do Kate Nash.