BLOOD RED SHOES / THESE NEW PURITANS / PEGGY SUE & THE PIRATES, 3RD APRIL 2008, OXFORD ZODIAC
Ever felt like you're the anomaly responsible for raising the average age of a gig crowd above 18? Well, I don't tonight. The dads chaperoning their daughters are doing that...
Fact number one: Peggy Sue & The Pirates have nothing to do with Pete & The Pirates. Fact number two: judging by the absence of peg-legs, pieces of eight and shoulder-perched parrots, neither are they particularly piratical.
The Brighton-based duo - yes, there are only two of them - have supported Kate Nash and so it's no great surprise that they come across as being in a similar vein, albeit possessed by the maverick spirit of someone like Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes. Instruments come and instruments go, but always centre stage are their voices - strong, dovetailing, busily improvising additional sound effects (standout song, the single 'Television', ends with them imitating static), but for these ears too often irritatingly accented. Blood Red Shoes drummer Steven Ansell appears for an acoustic cover of his band's 'Take The Weight', but that's about the only time the chattering classes of sixth formers actually pay them much attention.
Slightly less straightforwardly cast in the role of prelude to the main act are These New Puritans. The Southenders played here as recently as January and have actually cancelled a headlining show of their own later in the month to appear in this support slot.
At times, there's something promising about the violent disco created by the two nerdy-looking mop-heads on stage, as thin as anorexic streaks of piss. Take single 'Elvis', for example: an indiefied Fall set to a thwacking great synthetic beat. But at others - the jackbooted Missy Elliott stomp of 'Swords Of Truth' (over which I guarantee you'll find yourself singing "Get your freak on"...) - it's distinctly underwhelming. And then there's 'Numbers AKA Numerology', on which they think they can get away with singing embarrassingly idiotic piffle like "What's your favourite number? / What does it mean?" by virtue of the fact that they're referencing mathematics, just like all good young angular NME-favoured bands should.
And so to the headliners.
As a wise man once opined, anger is an energy. That same wise man may have gone on to appear on ‘I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!’, but his point remains valid – and that’s why the room is soon positively crackling with energy.
There’s no denying the fact that Blood Red Shoes are mightily miffed. Halfway through the set, Laura-Mary Carter furiously flings her guitar to the floor and storms off stage right, her partner Ansell following sharply after.
This is no inexcusably arrogant diva-ish strop or childish temper tantrum, though. With long-awaited and unfortunately delayed debut LP Box Of Secrets finally about to hit the shelves, the duo have been bedevilled by malevolent technical gremlins from the off (the set delayed for the best part of ten minutes, the intro tape left to loop over and over again), so it's hardly surprising they've become increasingly frustrated in their attempts to showcase a bunch of songs in which they passionately believe. "It's hard not to get worked up sometimes", Laura-Mary admits to me afterwards.
When they reappear, apologetically, the anger hasn’t dissipated and - further riled by The Man’s joyless limiting of the stage invasion encouraged by Ansell to just Peggy Sue & The Pirates and one lone fan - they set about those same songs with a ferocity that the recording process just can’t capture, mainlining their furious art-punk assault straight into our earholes. An explosive live act at the best of times, tonight their abrasive reimagining of Nirvana if they’d been on Kill Rock Stars rather than Sub Pop is in a different league altogether.
In truth, Box Of Secrets is ingenuously titled, a whole clutch of the songs – ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’, ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’, ‘You Bring Me Down’ and most recently ‘Say Something Say Anything’ – having already seen the light of day as singles and on the band’s numerous jaunts the length and breadth of the country.
But there’s the rub. It’s fitting that such serious contenders for the title of the hardest gigging band in Britain should take their name from a story about Ginger Rogers having to rehearse a dancing sequence so many times her white shoes turned red. After all, it’s precisely that kind of dogged tunnel-vision determination and dedication, even at risk of exhaustion and personal injury, that defines them.
Safe to say that suffering sabotage at the hands of the fucking Academy and its goons is unlikely to stop them.