A few years ago I went to a Heavenly Records showcase gig in Hebden Bridge and saw a two-piece band from Preston who I was very taken with. Soaring vocals and glimmering guitar over a drum machine with a clear nod to The Cocteau Twins. At the time the band went by the absolutely ridiculous name of ‘Britain’ – thus ensuring no chance of Googling them in any meaningful way. They appeared to vanish for a couple of years – only to reemerge as White Flowers (not much of an improvement but pairing it with the word ‘band’ gets you there) -and it took me a while to realise it was them and they’d already sold out several EPs and a limited edition LP during lockdown. Their excellent debut LP ‘Day By Day’ is out now and I’m delighted to say they’re the first band I’ve seen play since March 2020.
Katie (vocals and keys) and Joey (Guitar and occasional vocals) are joined by a drummer filling in for the reel-to-reel tape machine they would have used if they were really going for the Cocteau Twins thing. There is no great ceremony, they amble on like it’s no big deal and start playing. They don’t say anything, and they don’t need to – I feel a wave of relief and joy just to hear guitars being played, drums being drummed, and singing in front me.
They wear their influences well, which are probably more apparent to someone of my age – Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Beach House but they also weave in a bit of that Ghost Box/Broadcast oddness as well. They do that dream-pop thing very well. They’ve clearly obsessed over the instrumentation, the way vocals are placed and layered, the way guitars are textured and effected – but these are also well put together songs with clever hooks and some really good soaraway choruses and melodic twists. Haunting and beautiful – and the perfect way to emerge slowly back into live music hopefully on a more regular basis.
As ever the audience for a new Indie guitar band are a mix of diehard 6 Music listeners and avid gig-goers like me and I daresay a wee bit older than the band. Fortunately not marred by chatty tossers. We’re all happy to be there…happy to be anywhere tbh!
It made me think..
So how did it work? I was a bit uncertain about a Socially distanced gig but Yes Manchester did a brilliant job. The band played two sets, a matinee at 6 and a later show to split the audience numbers. Both sold out and I went to the earlier show. The venue usually functions as a combined bar, eaterie & club space. They’ve got a roof terrace and have acquired a car park space as a beer garden which is particularly popular today as it’s over 20 degrees in Manchester. Us gig-goers are carefully queued away from the drinkers and ushered up a secret staircase into the indoor venue having gone through the signing in process. Seats are arranged so that groups of up to 6 can sit together and spaced apart from everyone else. A barcode on the seat to order a drink which is left on the bar for you to collect ‘pre theatre’ style. It feels safe and comfortable. I could get used to this! This works for me and happy to see more shows like this until we can get back to some sort of normality. Quite like the matinee thing as well – that could be the norm in the future – I could see two gigs in the same night and do some catching up.