Ramshackle? Maybe. Remarkable? Definitely. Getintothis’ Stephanie Heneghan reports on The Phenomenal Handclap Band’s return to the Kazimier.
A Tuesday night at back end of February isn’t the most sensible of times to try and gee up your friends into leaving the house to go and see an unusually named band from New York.
So after dealing with a myriad of excuses (I’ve not been paid yet, I’m still dealing with the after effects of the weekend, Holby City is on and I don’t want to miss it), Getintothis decides to head down to the Kazimer on our tod, figuring that a lone girl wouldn’t be noticed in the heaving crowds sure to turn out.
The unusually named band in question is the Phenomenal Handclap Band – a moniker which we’d become tired of repeatedly explaining to people so god only knows how they deal with it – and after being a massive fan of their first album, I was interested to see how they translated into performing live.
First things first, the support. A local band, The Winter Falls, who are spliced together from two Merseyside collectives – Elle S’appelle and goFASTER – provided warm up duties and did it particularly well considering the lack of audience.
A four-piece outfit comprised of three lads on instruments and a pretty girl on lead vocals, they’re working with a road tested formula while still producing fresh catchy guitar pop and they riffed chattily throughout, providing brief descriptions of each upcoming song ‘this ones a slowie!‘ or our favourite ‘the meow meow track‘.
After rattling through a 20 minute set they left the stage and the roadies took a good 50 minutes to set up for the headline act. Fifty minutes might not seem like the greatest length of time to you but when you’re slowly nursing a diet Coke and your only companion is the Twitter app on your phone… it drags. Considerably.
If nothing else, we thought, at least this extra time will allow those straggling latecomers to arrive in time for PHB’s set. Ahh, not so. By the time they did come on the Kaz was only half full, and that’s looking at it optimistically.
The Phenomenal Handclap Band.
When they tipped up, our first thought was how varied they all looked – as if they belonged to different bands and had been brought together by some musical hipster exchange programme.
Our second thought was that the drummer looked exactly like an ex-boyfriend which were followed swiftly with thoughts of relief when we realised a lad from Leeds who’s musical ability began and ended with the air guitar was highly unlikely to be in a cool ensemble such as these.
Starting with You’ll Disappear, they moved swiftly into Following, taken from their recently released second album Form and Control. We’ve tried to think of a genre that they fit into neatly and although Wikipedia offers Psych-Soul as a suggestion, we don’t think it does them justice.
They’re like Sesame Street’s Pinball Countdown Funk but for the 21st century; fun, soulful, instantly memorable.
The set list is a well thoughtout mixture of both albums with Father James Park sounding brilliant, 15 to 20 completely invoking the Pinball spirit and Born Again and Let The Right One In utterly epic 70’s style strung out disco funk.
They are unbelievable good as a live act and their initial visual incoherence matters not a jot once they pick up their instruments.
The audience recognise this though, judging by the outlandish dancing on display. Urged on by the band ‘because no one cares what you look like!‘, there are some serious moves being busted. Standing still during this is an impossibility and you can forget about sitting down…
The Phenomenal Handclap Band.
Then the last track arrives – a heroically marathon effort in rocked out soul which has large helpings of cowbell through out – and as the assembled start to pull on their coats and make towards the door, the band announce the Merch stand will shortly be opening – manned by themselves.
Getintothis arrives home to find that the excited tweet we sent earlier about how ace they were has been answered by the band themselves. Not only dead good at the music lark, they’re also polite multi-taskers – what more do you want?
The only sour note about the whole event was the lack of numbers attending, yes it’s a midweek night and you’re skint but live music that good doesn’t rock up on your doorstep too often. I’ll tell you one thing – it was well worth missing Holby City for.
Pictures courtesy of Adam Edwards.
Getintothis reviews Phenomenal Handclap Band live at Liverpool Sound City 2010.