Spotlight Kid at the Hoxton Underbelly

In June of this year I found myself knee deep in mud, struggling from my Glastonbury tent towards the faraway, more interesting areas of the vast festival site. I could go no further, marooned in the one place you don’t want to get stuck at Glastonbury – the dance field (well, I suppose the inside of the portaloos might be worse). Yet here, in this foreign field, I somehow zeroed in on one corner where richer sounds were concealed, chancing upon the BBC Introducing Tent. And there I discovered Spotlight Kid.

That was how I came to be at the Hoxton Underbelly last Friday. Sometimes people describe me as “lucky” so I suppose it was no surprise that, having discovered a great new band originating from my home town of Nottingham, I would swiftly find them playing just round the corner from my adopted Spitalfields. After the fates had conspired, it would have been rude not to attend.

Rude, but possible. There was a parallel invite from ITV to spend the night in the Jonathan Ross green room (the real one rather than what you see on stage) with Noel Gallagher (who did so much to revive British music at its most dead), Michael Sheen (who did a magnificent portrayal of the great Cloughie himself) and Miranda Hart (who did so little to win all those comedy awards) but I reasoned I can go to Wossy any week when he’s filming. But then there was an also a British Sea Power  gig at the Barfly in Camden and they are quite possibly Britain’s absolute best band, but I have seen them maybe a dozen times before. Nottingham’s finest won out.

This year I’ve been invited to see Muse in the private Wembley box of the head of Warner records, stood on the very front row for U2 at Glastonbury and even had to step in as John Taylor’s body double for Duran Duran (I told you I was a lucky so-and-so), but it’s this sort of gig, down in the basement of a small club with an energetic hungry young band that will always excite the most.

Spotlight Kid (the Spotters on Tour) had support: the long running order comprised four hungry bands, but I missed the first (apologies to La Bete). Next up came three-piece Alphastate, with singer Ani announcing it was her birthday. She sang well, but spoke quietly and moved little, but I liked her dreamy folky vocals. And that she asked if anyone had been lucky enough to get Stone Roses tickets earlier in the day. I’d booked my place at the reunion gig so raised my glass to her and cheered, and embarrassed myself as I was the only one in the whole of the Underbelly in that fortunate position.

After Alphastate came four-piece Faults (in the unusual position of having a female drummer). They had what I thought were excellent songs,  but the Hoxton-fin-crowned lead singer’s voice was just one you really didn’t want to listen to for any time at all and the (excellent) guitarist squeezed every note with the emotion and anguish of forcing a number two. Half the audience seemed to comprise family or friends of the band, so you clapped on pain of being beaten up. Bizarrely the other half was largely made up of minute women, presumably swelling the crown to make pint-size Spotters singer Katty Heath feel more at home.

Katty’s pronounced “Cat” rather than “Kate”. I know because I asked at the beginning of the evening, finding her all glittery eyed selling CDs and T-shirts in the middle of the bar. That’s another thing about proper working/touring bands – you can talk to them properly, except when you get all tongue-tied despite being a professional wordsmith like me. But she is very cute and all smiles. And just when you think she can’t get any more perfect, you notice the Johnny-Mackintosh-style Starmark tattoo on her right wrist. It would have been rude not to buy a CD and in fact I found myself asking for two.

In the twenty-three years before I left Nottingham permanently I don’t recall any decent music coming out of the city. One band (Krush) made it to number three in the days when the singles chart mattered, and I think they even DJ’d at The Garage, a presumably long-defunct Lacemarket club where I spent most of my weekends, but House Arrest really wasn’t my cup of tea. I moved to Oxford and fell into the “Happy (Thames) Valley” Shoegazing scene made all their own by the once-mighty Ride, with support from Chapterhouse and Swervedriver and Lush and Curve. Back in that muddy Somerset field I felt I’d hit upon the new Ride, but with more ethereal vocals. And unlike Alphastate, Spotlight Kid are all energy on stage, Katty pumping her air guitar for all it’s worth.

But Spotlight Kid are much more than their female singer. They’re a six-piece of sweltering guitars, building a wall of subtly crafted noise and with vocals and energy also coming from Rob McLeary, an effortlessly thin guitarist with spectacular hair and a penchant for taking his guitar into the audience and climbing onto the sound desk. He told me he was from Arnold and he looked it. Your eyes are drawn to these two but the band are very tight, with Chris Moore and Karl Skivington also on guitar, Matt Holt on bass and Chris Davis bashing away behind them. Space was limited. I thought I’d caught Katty on video accusing the others of touching her bum but the phone failed so instead you get a video of a track from their new album Disaster Tourist. This is “Forget yourself in me” (I might be wrong but I think it would make life easier for Katty in all that wind if she got a shorter veil):

The Spotters are endearingly proud of their visuals and I guess must have spent a lot of time putting them together. I thought this meant that the occasionally bitty nature to the night was because, between every song Katty had to get down on her knees and play with a laptop to call up the next vid. But she reliably informs me it was just to have a swig of water before belting out the next number!

The setlist is short and well crafted, as yet without an encore. Is that because Spotlight Kid haven’t yet found their breakthrough song that might see them sitting in the Jonathan Ross green room? Or are they just modelling their appearances on Jesus and Mary Chain/Strokes/Vaccines (take your pick)? I hope the former. Next time they’re gigging, treat yourself – I hope London doesn’t have to wait too long. What we heard was:

Plan comes apart

Forget yourself in me

Can’t let go

April

Creeps

Reason

All is real

Seefeel

Haunting

During the final number, grasping her tambourine tightly, Katty made her way back to the CD stand to sell merchandise with the promise of kisses for purchasers (sadly I could hardly buy more) while Rob vaulted onto the bass drum, only to fall backwards into the drum kit – I wasn’t sure Chris was terribly amused.

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~ by keithmansfield on October 28, 2011.

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