So, here was an unexpected night out at Yes, courtesy of the excellently-named Mr Elvis Thirlwell, YAANG’s press person. Off the back of VLURE at Birkenhead on Wednesday and Mr Fish at The Band on The Wall on Thursday, Your Humble Reviewer’s health points were erring dangerously into the red but I thought, “You know what – it would be rude not to”. So, off I trotted, unaccompanied this time, as Editor Girl clearly had WAY more sense than me and stayed at home to pack for the upcoming holiday – it has been a busy year.

I wasn’t familiar with ANY of the three bands on tonight’s lineup, which is always exciting as, in true Forrest Gump fashion, you never know quite what you’re going to get – however, Dear Reader, I am pleased to inform you that it was three hours well spent.

As I hurtled down the stairs to the basement, trying not to sound TOO pompous as I announced, “I’m on the list”. Cameth the reply, “Mate, EVERYONE’S on the list”, as a list of names on tickets was brought forth. Note to self, do NOT use those four words EVER again within the range of a good slapping down. And with that, in I go.

Described as, “A C86-influenced, socially awkward indie-pop band from Manchester”, in this case, you kind of already know what you’re going to get, and Autocamper do not disappoint. Comprising Jack (guitar/vocals), Niamh (keyboard/vocals), Arthur (drums/vocals) and Harry (bass), May saw the release of their “You Look Fabulous” single featuring demos of “Never End” and “Bonfire Night”, but if you purchase the cassette version, released via US-based cassette label Discontinuous Innovation Inc, you get a bonus track in the form of “Ken Hom” too, and all three form part of tonight’s set. We love a cassette, we do, even if we don’t have anything to play them on, and I think I lost my last rewinding pencil some time in 1989.

Set opener “Blanche” is a wonderfully summery poppy number that puts me in mind of The Wedding Present if David Gedge had actually managed NOT to break up with his girlfriend. Stage left, Jack skilfully manoeuvrers his Epiphone, whilst delivering the bass-y vocals of “Lighthouse” in the style of the Only Ones’ Peter Perrett, ably assisted by Niamh to his left whose harmonies are (to me, at least) reminiscent of The Shop Assistants, nicely tying in with the C86 label. She concentrates over her Casio keyboard whilst back in the gloom, even drummer Arthur gets involved in the vocals.

And finally, over on the right Harry steers clear of the sing-y bits, preferring to concentrate on underpinning his bandmates with VERY purposeful bass, also catching the best of the red and blue lighting, so tonight’s photo haul might not be as bad as I first feared. “Ken Hom” picks up the pace a little with its fairground keyboard motifs and Harry’s bass makes me want to mention Peter Hook so much, but I promise I won’t. Well, not during THIS review, at least.

Describing himself and his bandmates as, “The equivalent of a semi-professional football team” (a grave injustice, it must be said), Jack gives local music mogul Cal Moores a shout out in support of his dancing and he, (accompanied by fellow Manchester musician Yasmin Coe) acknowledges the hail as  Jack announces that he’s about to “Fcuk this one up, just for you” and launches into the intro to “Never End”, which could easily have Crashed from a Primitives album (ooh, see what I did here?)

I like the noise these fine folk make from the Jack’s plaintive, almost laconic vocals, to Harry’s understated yet clever bass and Niamh’s synths that threaten to take me back somewhere a long time ago every time she plays them.

“Night Time” has something of The Velvet Underground about it whilst “Sublime” has a Cure-y air (well, happy Cure, at least, if there is such a thing – don’t mention Hooky, Pete just DON’T). “Summertime”, is reminiscent of exactly that, as the summer ends and we drift gracefully into Autumn with just a hint of melancholy. “Bonfire Night” sees Niamh take responsibility for the vocals as I force myself back from just about-remembered times listening to John Peel sessions in my bedroom.

Autocamper close proceedings with the Underground-drenched melodies of “Sun” and it’s fair to say that any band who can conjure up memories for folk of a certain age whilst at the same time being mightily relevant to their own demographic certainly deserve your ears. I’d suggest you take Autocamper for a spin at the first opportunity.

Follow my TED talks for more bad puns at The Castle Hotel on October the 18th, The Wharf Chambers in Leeds on October the 27th and The Deaf Institute on January the 8th.

Autocamper played: Blanche, Lighthouse, Ken Hom, Never End, Night Time, Sublime, Summertime, Bonfire Night and

Formal Sppeedware (the double “p” is a long story that none of them quite remember, before you ask) who have recently signed to Melodic Records, describe themselves as either, “A three-piece band from Stoke-on-Trent” or “3 digital men”, which admittedly gives away very little at this point. However, Melodic’s description of them as, “Loitering at the cross section of post-punk, synth pop and art rock and combining geometric riffs and apprehensive lyrics written around themes of isolation, the uncertain future and the great British mammals” is WAY more useful… I think!

Initially formed by frontman Beck Clewlow as a solo project, Charlie Ball (guitar) and Connor Wells (drums) joined later, to share a liking for krautrock and protopunk (the latter of which I’m happy to add to my ever-growing list of genres). Debut EP “Dynamite” was followed by a second EP “Push” which was the first to feature the full band lineup.

Tonight’s set closer “The Line” comes from “Push” and has the distinction of being the first track that the band sent out to media, and that’s when we knew they were a Thing. Coming from backgrounds of art, design and film provides Formal Sppeedware with an excellent set of skills with which to produce both music and visuals, although there’s not much evidence of the latter tonight, sadly – all we have is Yes’s pink and blue light – ah the photographers’ curse!

Beck takes stage left, playing his right-handed bass (bearing the legend “How do I get cowboy paint off a dog?” – I REALLY need to ask him about that) left-handed in what looks (at least to my untrained eye) to be a VERY complicated manoeuvre indeed, possibly not helped by wearing a MOST uncomfortable-looking pair of heels which are soon discarded after the first few songs. He casts a striking figure, looking like a cross between David Byrne and Jarvis Cocker and sounding like a cross between The Talking Heads and Devo.

These are both fine combinations, it must be said. Stage right, Charlie (bearing more than a passing resemblance to a much younger Robert Smith) delivers fine guitarwork from within the midst of a dressing gown and cowboy boots. It’s hard to see Connor through the murk, but we know he’s there, for sure!

It’s fair to say that this is a most enjoyable experience with my synapses being massaged extensively to stir up all sorts of musical memories – I LOVE it when that happens. The crowd around  me seem to think so too – David Byrne is definitely alive and well in Manchester and the sharp riffs, punchy bass and staccato drums produce fine music, accompanied by assorted electronica and sound effects driven by Beck.

The vocal delivery switches effortlessly between Davids, with Bowie and Byrne blending before your eyes and although there’s little if any audience interaction as we Devo-te ourselves to a thirty-odd minute game of, “Now where have I heard THAT before?”, that’s probably no bad thing in this instance. There’re even traces of Japan in amongst the thirty-minute set if you listen hard enough.

Charlie throws himself to the ground at the end of the set, waving his legs gleefully in the air, as though he has riffed his final riff and is ready for a good sit down and a brew. The audience whoop enthusiastically at his antics and in appreciation of a tight, well-delivered set.

Formal Sppeedware are challenging, occasionally discordant (in a good way) but entertaining, thought-provoking and interesting. If you fa-fa-fa   fa-fa   fa-fa-fa-fa   fa-fancy (yeah, “Psycho Killer” – it’s nearly midnight and it’s the best I can come up with) some fine tuneage, you can catch them next at The New Headingley Club on the 8th of September – and why on EARTH wouldn’t you?

Formal Sppeedwear played: Bunto, Appointment, Lofty, Britney City, Anvil, Betry and The Line

And so, to YAANG. Oliver Duffy (guitar/vocals) met Davey Moore (sampler/vocals) at a rhythmic awareness class (no, me neither, but it’s clearly a good thing that they did) at Salford university back in 2017 and were joined later by Ben White (bass/vocals and former denizen of the good parish of Working Men’s Club) – if you’re not familiar with them from their shenanigans with the likes of Maruja, Splint, Duvet and Nightbus, you MAY be aware of their famous Twitter “Alright everybody, the UK post punk revival is over” tweet that certainly brought them to the attention of many – about half a million views, to be precise.

They come here off the back of new single “Pressure”, released this very day (September the 1st) and which features in tonight’s set. Describing themselves as, “Genre fluid”. they also say, “If it’s not fun, then it’s pointless”, and I couldn’t agree more – let’s see how they make that happen.

YAANG take to the stage to the accompaniment of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”, and though we’ve paid £5 (plus a £1 booking fee) which isn’t exactly Nothing, for tonight’s entertainment, it feels like we’ve already had excellent value.

“It’s nice to be back in town”, announced Davey and from the opening bars of set opener “Billy Blake”, it’s clear that we’re going to be in for a raucous hour. Davey is very much the showman and it’s not long before he has us eating out of the palm of his metaphorical hand. Oliver stage left on guitar and Showaddywaddy coat and Ben stage right on bass, vocals and (somewhat alarmingly) kazoo join in with the mayhem, parts of which also have the delicate whiff of Devo.

Although it’s probably going to be Squid or Yard Act of whom the slightly younger folks around me are thinking. “Put on your best high heels” entreats Davey during “Hole in the Head”, and if I had some, I dare say I would. I bet I’d wobble more than Beck, though.

There’s a wonderful sense of mischief about YAANG that’s instantly endearing. Tonight’s rhythms are generated courtesy of Davey’s electronica and it’s impressive how he manages to fulfil two roles at once – this isn’t pre-programmed by any means and there is much twiddling of knobs between the songs, but miraculously, it all seems to work perfectly, with echoes of early Paul Weller (or maybe IDLES’ Joe Talbot for the younglings amongst you) peeking through the chorus of “Don’t tell me what to  say” (the response is “Go fcuk yourself”, by the way, which seems perfectly right and proper).

There’s a great deal of appreciative whooping and hollering both during and between the songs. “We’ve got a lot of songs tonight, that’s why we’re rushing through”, explains Davey, helpfully. “Normally I chat shit for a bit, but I’m really missing my doggo” – cue “Aww”s from the audience, which turn to cheers as Davey removes his top before launching into “Pub Dog” with its simple, effective, insistent percussion.

The party atmosphere continues in the packed Yes Basement as “Alright Anyway”’s essences of Elvis Costello and Eels waft sinuously from above Davey’s thoroughly excellent moustache and up our collective nostrils. Is that a disturbing image? Not for THIS event, for sure – nostril to nostril communication seems perfectly acceptable.

Davey informs us that he used to be a, “Skinny Queen”, but now that he has a real body, he’s going to appreciate it, poking it experimentally, much to the delight of the crowd. Ben’s had his top off for a while, but Oliver is having none of it, announcing that they’re not Biffy Clyro, before asking if anybody would like to buy him a beer – the banter with the audience is as much a part of the show as the songs themselves and adds to the fun immensely, although it’s probably best to pass over the lyrics and visual antics of “Fcuk Pain” – you really need to experience that for yourselves, Dear Reader – I’m still scarred.

“White Socks Yellow” has wonderful lyrics – “I’m pissed – I lost my phone last night. I’m pissed – I’d love to have a fight. I’m pissed – my wife hates me, I swear. I’m pissed – and I don’t seem to care”, and it doesn’t take too much imagination to work out how the white socks end up getting yellow – eww. “Airport” resets the pace to frantic and “Too Much Money” leads us nicely into today’s release “Pressure” – you don’t get fresher than that. There are essences of The Stooges and Suicide lurking within its darker corners and both Iggy Pop and Alan Vega would be proud, for sure.

Formal Sppeedwear join YAANG on stage for set closer and psychedelic romp “Hero” and a wonderfully executed (if somewhat cramped) jam ensues place, lasting for ten minutes or so, before the members of both bands drift off stage and into the crowd, much to everyone’s delight, as fewer and fewer musicians remain on stage to keep things going, until we’re down to just Sppeedwear’s Connor on drums, and then we’re done, to the loudest cheer I’ve heard in a long time – Charlie tells me afterwards that the jam was “Unanimously the most fun that any of us have ever had on stage”, so it’s good to know that they enjoyed it as much as the rest of us did!  

Absolute mayhem and brilliant entertainment all at once – tonight’s fun has spanned multiple genres, each act bringing their own specific Tupperware container of goodies to the overall banquet. It’s also been a great way with which to round off my three-nights-of-gigs-in-a-row. I’ll be happily tracking down all tonight’s acts again and will be recommending to anyone who’s prepared to listen to me, that they do the same. But for now, my bed calls out to my auld bones and it’s time to say goodnight.

YAANG played:  Billy Blake, Hole in The Head, Don’t Tell Me, Pub Dog, Alright Anyway, Fcuk Pain, White Socks Yellow, Airport, Too Much Money, Pressure and Hero.

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