- Jack Haworth
Posters promoting this show have been dotted around town, asking the question ‘Who are THE MYSTERINES?’ And, tonight, right until the three-piece take to the stage, the question is still hanging in the air. Having caught the band in some of their various support slots for The Big Moon and Goat Girl, they’ve always had an air of mystery surrounding them, with their sets following a ‘get on, say nothing, smash the set, get off’ kind of pattern. If tonight’s first headlining gig pulls the curtain down a little, then it was only to leave another question – how far could they go?
There’s a not inconsiderable number of people down early doors for the poetry stylings of JACK HAWORTH. In a shimmery blue suit and with lightning-speed delivery, Haworth rattles off verse after verse, covering aspects of life ranging from “wanting a Toffee Crisp at a bus stop and all you get is a Double Decker” and the mindset of a priest in love. It’s something of a verbal assault, but with plenty of knowing jokes that keep the crowd chuckling amid the rattle of speech and hum of the backing tracks. Second support SHARDS, meanwhile, seem destined to have ‘one of those sets’ when guitar problems after just a single song see them requesting a lend from the audience. There are nods to a range of the North West’s indie back-catalogue in their tunes: The Stone Roses, James, The La’s and Joy Division, with a twist of Libertines scuzz on top. All told, though, the set simmers nicely and the group find their feet with some Verve-y heft towards its close.
Also belying their age are the dreamy alt.pop five-piece MONKS. They’re so dreamy, in fact, that their lead guitarist has the word ‘dreamboat’ stencilled on the back of his mint green boiler-suit. With a lead singer who also plays a 12-string rhythm guitar, a bassist, a frantic drummer and a multi-instrumentalist alternating between synth and trumpet, Monks emit a wall of sound when they’re in their pomp. They’ve got the summery feels, with a blue-eyed soul meets early Primal Scream sound, infused with synth crescendos. The trumpet interludes, meanwhile, lend a nuanced layer of pop maturity and, coupled with the temperature of the room, make this feel more 90s Balearic than millennial North West England. It’s so hot, in fact, that the drummer spends the gap between songs downing bottles of water and putting damp towels over his face. At the same time, disembodied voice samples are played, which, when coupled with the band’s willingness to switch time-signatures mid-song, act like a gateway to something more expansive; threatening, late in the set, to teeter into jazz or psych. Monks seem ready to break out of their cells.
Tonight’s headliners come out like heavyweight boxers – their entry music booming out electric blues in front of a sell-out crowd (an unusual feat in itself in the Arts Club Loft). And, straight as an arrow, the three-piece tear into their own blend of garage rock. It’s Stooges-style no-nonsense with Lia Metcalfe’s razor-sharp voice from the Wanda Jackson/Lemmy/Joan Jett old-school and riffs in the vein of Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith and Ron Asheton. Maybe it’s an effect of the heat, but parts of the set edge back slightly from the raw power and into a Southern-fried rock of a sort that made the joie de jeune of early Kings Of Leon feel so crucial. The band give very little introduction to their songs and there’s even less in the way of stage-patter: not through nerves, but through a commitment to speaking through their music, without the usual cloying obeisant bullshit. Mysterines’ set is as fierce as the heat in the room, the drilling of George Favager’s bass and Chrissy Moore’s drums pushing forward the wailing vocals and crying guitar. And it’s rewarded by an audience who start their own handclaps and mosh-pit.
By the end, there’s one guy on someone else’s shoulders, and Metcalfe’s nearly-always deadpan face even breaks into a smile. They sort of do the encore thing, scarcely attempting to get off-stage before the crowd demand “ONE MORE SONG, ONE MORE SONG”. So, they strap on, set up and rip-roar again for a thunderous reprise; before the lights come up, there’s a brief stunned silence before the crowd starts to move.
After the gig, a lot of the crowd move to the merch stand – as if word-of-mouth of the set’s bravura force wasn’t enough, the band will now have dozens of fans walking around wearing their name. It’s the first indication that a group of people drawn to the band by the mystery have bought into the facts. If tonight’s gig started with the question ‘Who are The Mysterines?’, the answer comes with the band’s ferocious set. If the next question is ‘How far could they go?’, then the acolytes wearing band T-shirts and clutching gig posters suggest that The Mysterines could go all the way.