I enjoy going to gigs – especially when they feature bands and musicians I like. And when it’s local – and free – then, well, that’s just an outrageous bonus. A bit like it was when I went to see Sulk at Montey’s Rock Café in Harrogate on Wednesday 29th May.
This was the first time I had seen the much talked about five piece, who released their debut album, Graceless, last month. For lead singer Jon Sutcliffe, who hails from Harrogate, it was a home coming. “We could’ve played Leeds or York, but we chose here,” he announced towards the end of the set.
It was their second single, Back in Bloom, that grabbed my attention during a late night exploration of YouTube last year. As soon as the guitar kicked in I knew I was going to be a big fan. Having grown up adoring Bernard Butler (Suede) and Nick McCabe (The Verve), the track immediately confirmed that Sulk and I shared the same tastes in music.
Back in Bloom is a glorious tune; a sort of spiky, scratchy guitar with enough reverb and echo to make it feel like it was cultivated in some enormous cathedral. For someone who watches old Verve videos and wishes he was born just a few years earlier to have experienced those live performances, this was literally music to my ears.
There’s been a lot of anticipation about Sulk. Their first single, Wishes, was recorded and produced by Suede, Pulp and White Lies collaborator Ed Buller (as was Back in Bloom) and last year they supported The Dandy Warhols at the Manchester Academy 2.
Make all the comparisons you want – Ride, Suede, My Bloody Valentine and, most often, Stone Roses – but where Sulk have undoubtedly drawn influence from all these bands and more, they’ve been able to craft something new and shape a unique sound around them.
I suppose you could say they’ve brought the early 90s vibe – the stuff that prompted the birth of Brit Pop – into the twenty-first century. You could tag them as shoegaze, alternative rock or any other overly used music category that bunches bands together when they’re actually trying to create their own identity. But they’ve certainly created something new and exciting, and people are starting to sit up and take note.
The gig itself was great. The venue was packed and had already enjoyed what was a quality support act in the Dark Bells. The Australian trio, from Sydney, were a pleasant surprise.
Their twitter account explains: “Dark Bells spin a beguiling web of haunting, melodic sounds built on the bricks of post-punk with the atmosphere of an act you might have found on 4AD in 1983.” There’s a video of their single ‘Wildflower’ over on The Quietus, while The Line of Best Fit hosts their excellent new track ‘Run for Daze’.
Elsewhere in the music business I’ve heard word that my other favourite band, Exit Calm, will be performing on the futures stage at this year’s V Festival on 17 and 18 August. Their new (ish) single Rapture has been getting a lot of airplay and things look to be picking up pace for the Barnsley four-piece.