Picture this: stone walls and floors, high ceilings, stained glass. You’d be right to assume we’re in a church, and this was the location of the July 14th ‘Shindig’: the charming St Paul’s on Hills Road which welcomed us with a set from Hella Better Dancer. Most striking were the acoustics, which was unsurprising given the location. The swooping harmonies and wandering guitars flowed intimately, and through the constant waves of songs the lead singer of the quartet managed a “hello everybody” to the crowd left mesmerised.
Eventually the flow of music stopped with an actual pause between songs, which allowed me time to think. So many comparisons can be drawn to this band; they seem to take so many great influences and combine them to create something spectacular. Like a funky, danceable Warpaint with the soaring highs of the Maccabees and the swooping lows of Fleet Foxes. I urge you: if you ever get a chance to see this band, do.
The bar was set high for Like Spinning, an acoustic group, of whom only lead singer Kari was here to entertain us. But she didn’t let us down. Her folksy finger-picking and ethereal voice shrouded everyone in warmth. She sang her heart out, and if anyone had any qualms when they arrived, they were surely gone now. Just as quickly as she started, it was over and everybody felt better for having been loved so softly.
With everyone suitably relaxed no one was prepared for what came next: Spire Craines. One Cambridge man sporting his guitar, a laptop and what looked like a jazzed up, old skool Yamaha keyboard. All the keys had been taped up and playing cards had been stuck to it; there was clearly some sort of code going on, but it was lost to us, the plebs. The laptop acted as a loop pedal and pretty soon crashing electrons were the order of the day as heavy guitars thundered and the Spire Craine was huddled over his equipment creating ten-minute epics. His twenty-minute set was highly experimental, filled with a wall of sound built up with interesting textures, breakcore beats and avalanches, and yet, peculiarly, he still managed to sound like Muse. ALmost randomly, he’d break into a heavy-metal influenced section. This fiercely alternative set couldn’t have been any more different from Like Spinning, but this was by no means a bad thing.
Introducing themselves as Ash and Tom (rather than Cambridge band Model Staggs), the headliners played funky, broody, building indie-rock, featuring math-y guitars and some sort of loop machine or sampler playing a pre-recorded bass guitar, which, given the acoustic, sounded earth-shattering. The guitar and drums roved among one another and were tight as a tick; this probably shows the advantages of the two-piece set up, as you could see the chemistry when they played facing each other and then the audience. In short, a fantastic end to a fantastic night.
The Shindig nights are gaining in popularity and for evident reasons; such a broad spanning of genres were explored tonight, set in an intimate venue and with each artist unquestionably talented. Several other nice touches make the night memorable, such as the living room set up of the stage, the story reading between sets, and the venue being used as an art gallery. I urge you – attend the next Shindig night. You can follow their news by following the link below.
We filmed and photographed the night, and videos are to follow this week. You’re in for a treat.
Reviewed by: Matthew Cooke
Edited by: Huw Oliver