“Tonight’s show is sponsored by Linda McCartney sausages. Sausages! Vegetarian! Sausages! Vegetarian!” is announced through the speakers in the unmistakable tones of Spook School drummer, and mouthpiece of the band, Niall McCamley.
It’s a theme that plays out throughout the show, as McCamley’s battle for veggie sausage sponsorship is played out before us, but before we get into that there’s the not so small matter of support.
Marble Gods have stepped in last minute as Shopping couldn’t make it, but such is the sun chasing indie pop of the trio that you can’t really complain too much as it warms you nicely on a cold January evening, not that Stereo’s sold out basement needs any help being warmed up.
Chat about waking up this morning and looking forward to going to this gig before ending up playing is charming, as is amusing anecdotes about Ronan Keating and turning down Springsteen tickets when you were 14; Marble Gods play sweet pop with an addictive groove and a melancholy c86 delivery.
There’s a shout out for Taylor Stewart, who’s filling in on drums tonight, and the ever-charismatic Stewart takes a bow in his shades before another lovely tale leads us into ‘Washing Machine’.
Durham four-piece Martha had no such problems getting here for one of their favourite band’s launch parties and they take the energy up to break neck levels, while keeping us knee deep in indie pop territory.
They deliver punk tinged pop tracks that ooze urgency and hooky addictiveness, while their infectious three way vocals and speedy hooks have the crowd whipped, with a good portion belting back every word.
They even tell us a secret, but we can’t tell cos it’s a secret; from sneery pop punk to super fast pop you can’t keep your eyes or ears off them.
The Spook School are “big on sausages” apparently, and as they arrive on stage sporting vests and sweat bands the typically eccentric four-piece open things up with album opener and recent single ‘Still Alive’, followed by catchy nostalgic number ‘Less Than Perfect’ as they continue to play the new album, Could It Be Different?, start to finish.
Niall’s sausage narrative continues with recorded phone calls and answering machine messages to Linda McCartney, as he pitches potential sponsorship, assumes he’s got it and then panics cos the sausages haven’t arrived and they’ve catered their merch accordingly.
His enthusiasm is addictive and as he plays up the sausage stick preparing people for if they arrive with “you’ll have to get them home quick, they’re frozen”, and it’s only six songs in before his top comes off and tassels come out.
‘I Only Dance When I Want To’ blasts us with possibly the catchiest chorus of the album, before more sausage related banter and the closing few songs of the record before the band enter a greatest hits of sorts.
A run through of ‘Burn Masculinity’, ‘Speak When You’re Spoken To’, ‘Binary’ and ‘I’ll Be Honest’ act as both reminders how good The Spook School are at writing catchy numbers, but the fact that the only noticeable difference in energy from the first portion of the set is the crowd knowing every word, also put into light how strong the set of songs that forms the new album are.
Then just when you think the McCamley’s pushed the sausage thing too far, he starts strutting around the stage as the band burst into a version of Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ and Martha and Marble Gods emerge holding ‘Linda’ and ‘sausage’ banners; it’s a joke forms for too much of a talking point in this review, but one that acts as a mere distraction from the real winner of the night Could It Be Different? Would you want it to be?
Words: Iain Dawson