Crows, St Tropez, SUB071, Leiden 21/7/15

Both bands contributed to a great night, and a lot of new people turned up and realised that there is another world outside the 3fm bubble that is actually a creative drip-feed for it.


OK so we all know, SUB071's days are numbered in Leiden. October 1st is the kick out date, just before the 3 October madness, just in time to leave whilst a massive funfair sets up all around the city. That seems incongruous, but there you are. This gig seemed incongruous too; mainly because this was another packed out night hosting two bands with reputations in a place they'd probably never envisage being in. Two bands with ambitions playing a place that has remained on the margins for years, but a place that they both need to help them along their allotted trajectory. A place, moreover, that has exerted a strong influence of the Netherlands music scene, even if the more fragrant upper layers of said scene wouldn't know "what" SUB071 was, or even care. After all, many of these championed new "garage bandjes" look like they practise in very clean garages. Hilversum uber alles.

But this review is not meant to be a bitter one. As both bands contributed to a great night, and a lot of new people turned up and realised that there is another world outside the 3fm bubble that is actually a creative drip-feed for it. It's a gig where we - and hopefully those who came for the first time - can reflect on the uses a place like SUB071 has had over the years, certainly in relation to other Dutch venues, who seem more concerned about paying the right architect than getting the right bands. Grotty old SUB071 served its purpose once again.
The place was packed. Lots of fans for new band St Tropez, a new reincarnation of stadium rockers/top of the NL poppers, Go Back to the Zoo, a band I'd never liked, musically. But they were decent lads and happy to play and be here. You could see them cautiously digging the place. Their fans looked a bit pop-eyed though, especially when negotiating SUB's unisex toilets. St Tropez started off with a bang; determined to show that they could negotiate this space as well as a festival main stage. In terms of "performance" (as in putting on a "show" to be "enjoyed") they did this very, very well; realising that there was no time for second thoughts in such a small space. One of them even climbed on the drum kit, and forays were made into the crowd. As said, the first numbers rattled by; and made your correspondent think of a clean, digipack take on New York Dolls or a slightly "hysterical" Strokes. Glam-punk played by frat lads rather than garage played by lads siphoning their dad's petrol for kicks. We got solos, and a set of other gestures and asides that were clearly a hangover from their GBTTZ days. Now and again (especially in the middle of the gig) the set sounded like a buch of styles in search of a song. And there's a feeling (OK, rephrase, I have a feeling) that they need to go further and really embrace this garage thing, really understand its deep, Odinesque, Litter/Kim Fowley roots. Still; their nous, wit, and innate musicianship pulled them through to end on a bang; the last track being especially good, maybe because it seemed rougher and looser than the rest.

Following this we got Crows, a bunch of Young Turks from London who had impressed at Le Guess Who the previous November. I like Crows. They are brazen, and dark, and have a way of doing the obvious/potentially naff with a bare-faced cheek that is very typical of good British bands. They are a lad's band too, in the way that they present themselves as a gang on a mission. The singer played about with a look that was a C21st amalgam of Ted, Goth and scally; a long-sleeve top straight outta 1990 and a strut that had me thinking of prime time Sham 69, or yer man from Killing Joke. Their sound had something of early Killing Joke too, a treacly, grimy, oily noise. One full of these cavernous, murky riffs and doomy choruses, that had you thinking of urchins sheltering under dank Victorian archways. All very Gothicke, it must be said. And boy do they like knocking out "statements" and "manifestos"... I was expecting an intense gig, and yes things did get intense, but in an unexpected manner; rather than an all out assault, the band ensured the gig slowly built up; creating a very cool sense of remove which allowed the audience their own headspace. This remove and calm from both parties also helped us to take in their songs, which do have a very catchy side to them, especially in the beat. A melodic take on the long-lost and lamented The Telescopes, or a ramped up, cut and paste, Roundhead take on Bauhaus.

SUB was getting sweaty, despite the metallic ectoplasm Crows were kicking out, and after the gig ended in the inevitable crash bang wallop, festivities continued; some not wanting to go home. Even playing Sidney Poitier reads Plato over what constitutes a PA here couldn't bring back a sense of perspective. Let's hope this isn't the last great SUB night.