The Sunshine Underground – Live Review – Black Flag, Wakefield
By Chris Dabbs, December 2011
The Sunshine Underground are supported by local Wakefield bands, New Vinyl and Dirty Twister. New Vinyl have a sound heavily influenced by the Brit-Pop era and the lead singer carries a swagger to match the noise. They were tight, the sound upbeat, and as the audience gradually made their late entrances, they definitely turn a few heads. It is a shame about the technical issues, which, to be fair, do take their toll on most performances at this level.
There is almost always an issue with the balance of sound coming through the monitors which are used to feed back music to the band as a reference point. It basically lets them hear the music they are playing. It’s usually down to the ‘sound-guy’ to sort this issue out and in my experience they very rarely do – it’s a problem. Unfortunately for the supports, they get far too distracted in trying to correct this and I feel it has a detrimental affect of the overall feel of their performance.
Dirty Twister, the second warm-up act, are unashamedly the spawn of Oasis. They live and breathe the Manchester rock sound and do a half-decent job recreating it. They are down a band member in vocal harmonies tonight, which, they tell us, is integral to their sound. I guess we can only say fair play for turning up. But I have to confess I think the order of the support would have worked better reversed. Either way you look at it, the support bands did their job well. By the time The Sunshine Underground make their faces known, the audience are up, drunk, and literally raring to go.
“Firing plastic pints at the ceiling”
The band open like they were trying to fill the holes in all the windows in Wakefield. Having performed a similar show in Wakefield the previous year, the band will have a pretty good idea of how it is going to go down. The venue is heaving, almost at capacity, and from the first song the lad-heavy crowd are firing plastic pints at the ceiling, granting life to prospective mould-spores that might have been thinking about starting up a rooftop family.
Owners of faint hearts, such as myself, quickly make our retreat to the back of the venue. Big men with tattoos stride boldly forward chanting ‘Yorkshire’ in proud unison. This continues in-between each of the songs. Is this a testament to The Sunshine Underground’s performance, or just drunken men getting involved? I’ve no idea, but the show is great. The band cracks out all the hits, presumably not at the request of a drunk leather-jacket wearer who loudly demands it. ‘Play the hits,’ it seems, was all they can do. The large vocal response to each and every tune is the same.
“At the mercy of the music”
There are times, even, when it becomes hard to distinguish between the roar of the supportive drunkard and the lead singer’s amplified vocals. This is not a battle the band are likely to lose though. It wouldn’t surprise me even a little bit if this gig is marked as an annual trend-setter. It isn’t all familiar tones and catchy choruses though. Certainly to their credit, the band introduce us to their new sound – four tracks, introducing a Sunshine Underground refined and perfected over time. The resulting feel is more of a Kasabian-esque dance-rock style and enlists the robotic help of beat-heavy electronic undertones.
The stage lights-up with what I can only presume is a new found enthusiasm for their music. The fans react in turn; a routed army at the mercy of the music (or the fifteen pints prior) who are ultimately surrounded. If the ceiling has a thirst for expensive crap beer, it is quenched along with that of my t-shirt. Great gig. Top band.
By Nate Wisniewski
While I was looking forward to The Sunshine Underground’s Christmas gig, I must confess, I am not looking forward to going to Wakefield. I have mixed feelings about Wakefield. I spent my first year of University in its vicinity. It has its strengths, but let’s face it: it’s no Kensington.
We arrive early to interview the band, then wait around like a couple of lemons, nursing Fosters from plastic cups. A short time later the first act hits the stage. A local band by the name of New Vinyl. While they don’t expand any musical boundaries, they are tight, and their Britpop sound provides a good opening act. The bass is simple but funky, the drummer is interesting and the lead guitarist has some pretty filthy riffs. ‘Tomorrow’s People’, a Jet-style mid tempo rocker stands out, starting well and building nicely to a catchy chorus.
Next up, another local band: Dirty Twister. Unashamedly cast from Oasis’s mould: it is guitar driven, swagger-filled, beer-in-hand rock. It suits the evening and the crowd seem to get into it. Although personally, I prefer the opening band. Nonetheless, by the time Dirty Twister are done, there is a party vibe to the place.
“A fuller, richer texture”
And so comes the headline act, The Sunshine Underground. Or rather, so comes the usual thirty minutes of waiting around, looking like another lemon. And then comes The Sunshine Underground. But it is worth the wait. The room bursts into action as the band’s signature style dance-inspired indie rock crashes around the venue. It is a jangling mix of guitars, drums and vocals washed in reverb. Beer is thrown aside. Who needs it? Dancing takes centre stage. After a few songs, it is hard to tell who is having the better time, the band or the audience. They feed off each other to create a vibe that makes the night an undoubted success.
As the gig progresses the band throw in a couple of new numbers. They go down well with the crowd, but to be honest, they’d have gone with anything. Still, the new tracks stand out for the right reasons. The synths and drum loops add a fuller, richer texture to the band’s already big sound. New songs are mixed in carefully with ‘the hits’, in a set that shows the band know their audience and their strengths.
They might not be in vogue now, but The Sunshine Underground prove they still pack a punch. By the sound of it, they’ve created an interesting new record that, if you like a bit of electro dance in your rock, is well worth keeping an eye and ear out for.
pictures: Danny Payne