FRESH GOODS: Batch 1
- Eyesore And The Jinx
- Bill Nickson
- Beija Flo
- Sam (Jo Mary)
Despite its characterisation as the ‘dark side’ to Liverpool’s light, many of the best bands in Liverpool, of late, are actually from the Wirral. Launching in March, Wirral New Music Collective are helping to put on nights like tonight, showcasing the peninsula’s capacity as a place to record and to play. In an area surrounded by scrapyards and car supply companies, a small door leads into a warehouse containing Fresh Goods Studios – tonight converted into a DIY punk-style venue.
A rare occurrence starts the night’s music; SAM, Jo Mary’s lead singer, is performing a stripped-back set of duelling guitars, his and Jamie Roberts’ (Wild Fruit Art Collective). Musically, it’s a million miles away from the antics of his regular band. Bittersweet and laconic, it showcases Sam as a gritty troubadour. In fact, the only thing in keeping with his performances with Jo Mary are his increasingly trademark boiler-suit and dyed green hair.
We go from lo-fi to high-tech, with BEIJA FLO performing solely with the aid of a laptop. Sometimes, this kind of set-up acts like a barrier between the artist and the crowd. Not here. Beija Flo is charismatic, a deadpan wit with songs that combine open-hearted lyricism with a flair for the theatrical and more than a nod towards real-life struggles. One song, Merseyrail Blues – written at Conway Park station (“the most depressing station in the country”) is about heartache on public transport. Another, One Of Those Things, recounts the experience of receiving dilation treatment for MRKH syndrome, a condition that causes underdevelopment of the vagina or uterus, which the singer talks openly about. The highlight of her multi-genre set, though, is Heads Or Tails: an outline of life in her hometown of Harlow, once dubbed the UK’s murder capital, told in a no-fi anti-folk abrasive style. Confessional, emotional and dramatic, Beija Flo is unforgettable.
Both Beija and Sam pop up to support BILL NICKSON in his relatively new, five-piece backing band, with rhythm section, keys and backing vocals. With Dan Astles also on bass, it’s virtually a supergroup. The band gives Bill’s bedroom pop songs a rounded rock maturity, dawning comparisons to The Lemonheads and Dinosaur Jr in recent reviews. It’s a delightful one-two of Brit rock-pop four-to-the-floor with the best of US college rock mumbled emotions.
There’s nothing mumbled about SPQR’s stripped-back rockabilly, crossed with pop-punk, served up with a side of Motörhead noise-garage. With his hip-shakes, round-rimmed glasses and denim jacket, lead singer-guitarist Peter Harrison is, in appearance terms, not a million miles away from the early days of rock ’n’ roll. But with the band’s off-kilter garage rock, spun around Pete’s nasal tones and spanking riffs, songs build out of simple rhythms into a raucous caterwaul. There’s even space for a little stage ‘bants’ when a punter shouts: “Talking To The Deaf!”. Peter responds: “Nah, we don’t do that one anymore.”
For headliners, EYESORE AND THE JINX, the stage-patter includes lead singer Josh admitting: “I shit myself before we came on,” while reflecting on the strength of the line-up. It’s a rare vulnerable moment, in an otherwise raw, powerful set. Scratchy riffs mix with a doom glam stomp in the vein of The Cramps. On a song dedicated to “all the racists in the room” and suitably titled Shitbag, the band venture into Oi! territory. Scum Scum Scum takes the band towards Black Lips, before slipping into a skiffle hoedown. This isn’t just thrashing around, it’s sludgey and nasally. It’s designed that way: a whirlwind of anger that, by design, nearly teeters into cacophony before righting itself.
It’s 11pm when the live music ends. With the BYOB beers running low, some punters start to slope off into the night. Even at the end, Fresh Goods is still rammed, with a better turnout than some of the gigs that have been staged in Liverpool recently. With this in mind, perhaps the aim of the Wirral getting its own dedicated venue for alternative music isn’t so far off. Better get your Trios sorted.
John McGovern / @etinsuburbiaego