The expansion of Heineken’s ‘Green Spheres’ concept sees the original selection of free and intimate gigs spread across a whole mini-festival of a weekend. The opening gig, featuring two of indie-rock’s big up-and-coming acts, is arguably the finest draw, in part because of the tiny space into which tonight’s lucky attendees have to cram themselves. No one inside The Village is more than perhaps 20 metres from the bands, yet for all the ‘up close and personal’ appeal, a poor, heavy-handed sound set-up leaves the entire experience a little underwhelming.
Cloud Control open proceedings, restricted to a short set that’s laden with hits like ‘Gold Canary’, ‘Death Cloud’ and the Ganges-inspired ‘There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight’. Cloud Control’s live set generally revolves around slow-building crescendos, extended rhythm interludes and a sense that the entire experience is building towards one whopping crescendo. Their Academy show just a couple of months ago saw the band start indifferently, but build towards the kind of climax that had the night’s more drunken revellers acting like they’d just mainlined liquid sugar, yet tonight’s show seems more like a single-focused outing: it’s a nice taster, but it lacks the depths that often make this band such a compelling live proposition.
The Drums are increasingly looking like a band defined by Jonathan Pierce. The enigmatic frontman has his indie dance down pat, and while he struts and sways at stage front, the rest of his band – live-only drummer Danny Allen aside – are a disappointingly statuesque bunch. With the sound set up in a mumbled, distorted manner, too, it doesn’t make for a classic performance, yet there’s something about The Drums. The dingy, pulsing riffs of new album Portamento occasionally stray into Joy Division territory (in fact, with ‘She’s Lost Control’ featuring heavily on the stereo before The Drums come on stage, it’s notable that one track opens with almost exactly the same riff), yet even when Pierce reveals the most repressed and dingy of subject matter, he still succeeds in coming across with a real sunny disposition.
The set flits and stalls at times, yet the overall vibe is of a band a good deal more sophisticated than the act that first unveiled infectious summer anthem ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ (conspicuous in its absence tonight) back in ’09. Sure, tonight’s issues make this a less than compelling demonstration of what the group are capable of, but they’ve grown hugely, arguably straying into slightly more self-indulgent, finicky styles in their latest effort, but they sound significantly better for it. First impressions of tonight’s show are that things have not quite been done well enough; that the bands have been let down by that rough-shod sound, and the lyrics often lost as a result. With a little contemplation, though, the chance to see such high-quality acts in such humble surrounds is a special one, and The Drums’ new angle as a grimy live entity is hugely intriguing. Having said that, Cloud Control’s less cluttered set – despite being far from their peak – still comfortably steals the show. James Hendicott
Photo by Kieran Frost