The Soul Tree, July 2nd 2006
A last-minute sounded-like-it-could-be-fun gig selected from the GreenMind mailing list, on the grounds that they're called "Maps", and addedentry likes maps, and, well, it was only £2 (and a band has to try pretty hard to be not worth two quid).
We arrived to find Sam already singing, so we shuffled in and took our places at the bar (nearly doubling the audience). Despite my best attempts at indie aloofness I found myself smirking along with his understated comedy acoustic act, particularly the following stroke of genius:
Did you ever visit somewhere that made you feel ill?Only, er, without the link, obviously. I don't know how you'd sing a hyperlink; I just added that so that non-locals could see some of the horror of Bar Hill for themselves. One time he substituted "Cambourne" instead, which was even funnier! ... Maybe you had to be there, or to live here. Sam's tribute to Queen, "My least favourite band", also made me giggle and nudge Owen at every punchline. And all this despite the best efforts of the Soul Tree to turn me into a nindie curmudgeon, by the power of their increasingly appalling and overpriced bar!
Oooh, ooh... Bar Hill
I expected Heather McVey to fit the mould of the standard-issue 21st century female singer-songwriter: feisty (short and red-headed), sultry (pouting a lot), bluesy (as before but affecting an American accent), and blurring the boundaries of blues, folk, and rock (playing the guitar). On that front, she didn't disappoint; unfortunately, on every other front, she did. She ended her set with a limping cover of the Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" (or, as she sang it, "Girls Don't Cry") half-heartedly intermingled with "I bet you look good on the dancefloor". She didn't even have the decency to look as embarrassed as her audience did. Her myspace says she sounds like "Uniquely me": for small mercies, etc.
Finally, the headline band! I thought Owen would like Maps, and he thought I wouldn't like them, and we both persisted with these expectations throughout the gig, and only one of us was right. Which is to say, a) I'm still working on my quest to find the most irritating opening line for a gig review, and b) I thought they were great, to the amazement of Owen, who'd instantly filed them under shoegazing and therefore assumed I'd hate them. Let me get this straight: I don't mind shoegazing. Some of my best friends are shoegazers. I just wouldn't want my sister to marry one... no, hang on. What I don't like is endless waves of undifferentiated white noise over one murky chord on the keyboard, punctuated only by somebody reading the shipping forecast in German through a vocoder. What I don't like is the sort of shoegazing where gazing at your shoes would be exciting by comparison. But I like a lot of electronica, even swooshy, fuzzy, wave-after-wave-after-wave electronica, so long as it keeps moving. So long as you can still pick out a tune or a change of chord or a drum-beat occasionally. I guess what I'm saying is that I like my music to be at more than 0.2bpm.
Anyway, to get back to the point, Maps had a good ebb-and-flow kind of sound but with plenty of movement (you could almost dance to some of it, or at least shuffle back and forth enthusiastically enough to make your fringe quiver and your thick-set emo glasses slide down your nose a couple of millimetres, if you were so inclined), and they even had words to some of their songs, words and sort-of-tunes that I could still remember on the way home (even if I've more or less forgotten them all now except for one song that I actually really want to hear again but can't remember its name or enough words to google...). But anyway: definitely worth the ticket price, and I'll be downloading the tracks I liked if I can find the damn things.
Oh, and, not wanting to put the indie kids off, but other people like them too! (BBC local: Could Maps put Northamptonshire on the, er, map?)
But don't take my word for it -- make your own minds up:
- Maps [see also myspace]
- Heather McVey
- The Morning People [see also myspace]