It’s a shock to arrive at Audio at just after midday and not be able to get through the door. People never get out this early at The Great Escape. Still, from a keen position rammed against a varnished frame Norway’s Team Me seem pretty decent, their upbeat, melody-laden indie-pop a pleasant salve to our sleep-deprivation and a dreamy accompaniment to the gradual asphyxiation of half the room.
YAAKS have been attracting some serious attention lately, with Steve Lamacq last week describing the five piece as his ‘new favourite band’, and it’s borne out in an Audio where getting anywhere near the door becomes just a distant, fading hope. They deserve it though, putting in a performance that silences the wary cynicism that always greets bands this hyped. Sure, the percussionist is pretty terrifying for this time in the afternoon, his face a mask of rage as he thrashes a tambourine from atop an amplifier like an evil Bez, but their brass-inflected constructions are increasingly infectious. Urgent rhythms mix with throbbing bass and pounding drums in songs that sound something like Foals could if they were to actually get a singer instead of a yapping dog.
Canadian five-piece Said The Whale make the kind of cute indie-rock that inevitably soundtracks films with Michael Cera in. That’s not really an insult though – they’re a lot of fun, if slightly insubstantial, and incredibly crowd-pleasing. They’re clearly having a great time too, their positivity enthusing a setlist that on record never really takes off.
In the fallout from The Jezebels (see review here) everything else has the volume turned down. It’s a shame: under normal circumstances Little Dragon’s show at Digital would probably be excellent, but as it is it’s almost impossible to engage with it. Singer Yukimi Nagano is clearly having a great time, though, and so it seems are most of the crowd: certainly there’s a lot in their leftfield electronica to pique the interest, particularly later in the set, but really we just feel like the victims of shell-shock, dislocated and numbed.
It seems ungrateful, when there’s a horde that would concern Gerard Butler baying at the closed venue door, to be critical of Villagers. And sure, they start well, Meaning of the Ritual evolving from twee beginnings to gain a beguiling darkness and depth. But good god are they earnest, frontman Conor O’Brien’s eyebrows ascending with every punctuated note whilst his lyrical themes ride a knife-edge of parody, occasionally stumbling over the line. Their musicianship can’t be denied, though, and this is a generally fine performance, at times – particularly with the vocal harmonies – attaining a level of epic grandeur. But Villagers just aren’t interesting enough, their songs diverting but inessential, and not really offering anything that Bright Eyes – that perennial elephant-in-the-room that stalks the genre – hasn’t already done better.