It’s worth going through piles of needles just for one poke of hay. At the rocktastic time of 7.45pm the Stacking Chairs line up on stage: Casey Raymond, formerly of fabulous irritants Botanophobia and Presto & Spartanite; Huw Evans, ex of Meanz Heinz and currently looking a bit like the lesbian hipster from Big Brother (my flatmate watched it once okay?), and Louise Mason, later to play as one third of the Victorian English Gentlemens Club. Seated behind what appears to be a bunker made of tape machines, busted kids instruments and other twiddlables, Casey issues guitar notes and manipulated noise as his colleagues hunker down on either side, adding further guitar layers and random bass thud. It’s like competing radio stations fading in and out: brief, galloping drum samples overrun drifting in riffs, while a snatch of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ leads to some top nasal ranting. Brilliantly playful, dreamy and awkward – I could eat this music for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
More indigestible fare follows. Let’s be unfair and lump them together. The Woe Betides may have a Colin Hunt-style drummer who sometimes wanders around looking like a pouting frog in a Stuart Cable wig but they bash out music of a resolutely indie girth, drab nuggets too clean and polite to be the nervy post punk guitar rock they aspire towards. Asking for dry ice for one song is a good idea, unless that song finds you at the keyboard, making a passable Keane impression. 90% of the crowd take up smoking during their set. But the VEG Club teeth kick you in a different way. Clearly smart enough to make even setting up a benignly surreal experience – costumes, a loudly amplified metronome, dry ice again (and lots of it), a tape of birdsong that continues for the whole set – it’s a little weird and heartbreaking to find their musical pie pretty devoid of any filling. Songs like ‘Parrot’ poke toes in dark banshee territory but again lack the true demonic energy needed to burn these songs properly into memory. My inner Swells is in danger of coming out. Time to leave.