Writer David Evans / Photographer Emily Doyle
“I’m Brian Lightning and this is my shoe,” says a tall, denim-eyebrowed character with slicked-back hair, as they toss a Cuban heeled boot up into the air. It floats, for a brief moment of confusion and anticipation, before landing back in a black-nailed hand as an equally denim-clad band kicks into action.
I’m at the fourth instalment of This is TMRW’s distinctly Brummie event, Weird on Purpose, celebrating the dynamic range of the city’s music scene(s), and stood among a crowd who, understandably, look slightly at odds with each other.
Starting off tonight’s selection is Mr Brian Lightning (aka Ed Quigley), someone I haven’t heard anything from beyond three seconds of their debut single ‘Pilot’ looped over a promo video. On this basis, and the very reasonable ticket price, I thought I would give the Weird on Purpose pick-n-mix a go and come taste what’s on offer.
Complete with crooning backing singers, in Brian Lightning’s performance lines are traded about being brought together and torn apart by a former lover atop an infectious electric drum beat. Brian’s stylised image and songwriting instantly make me think of something halfway between Bowie’s iconic ‘Aladdin Sane’ and the more humorous Forced Witness-era Alex Cameron, an utterly serious but over-the-top performance.
The band ploughs through its repertoire and it becomes clear that alongside the curated image is a really solid set of songs. Led by a shaky electric organ, Brian plays while twirling a hand in the air or expressly raising one of those blue-slugged eyebrows. Guitars run lines like laser beams and witty vocals bounce effortlessly between the frontman and backing singers.
Mid-way through, we are treated to a friend of the band, Georgie Boy, who reads off a poem which seems to be about tonight’s show. After a few lines I don’t quite catch, he ends his chattering by announcing “the cats are in the Hare and Hounds, and the devil (Brian) is in double denim and fishnets”. Much like the flying boot episode, the band seamlessly rolls into another groove and I am thoroughly entertained.
Now for something completely different; local three- piece grunge-punk outfit, Otherless, take to the stage as a new kind of audience member shuffles to the front of the crowd. Their songs are dark, angry, and full of great moments of sludgy guitar and bass.
The opening track starts with this dredgy repeating riff reminiscent of one of King Krule’s darker cuts on Man Alive! if it were accompanied by heavier drums and more intense. It’s an instant hit with me and I love the variety of vocals the band has, as they share out singing duties. Our man on the bass is giving properly strained vocal performances in a slightly American accent, whilst the drummer sounds distinctly British and shouty – a lovely combination.
As we are about to start the second song, I’m informed by a friend of the band that they do have a beloved Sinatra cover that’s tragically not on tonight’s setlist. Whilst I’m equally gutted it’s not getting an airing, the next tune quickly helps me forget as it comes in with another massive sound. Cleaner than the first and featuring a chorus effect on the guitar, it’s a proper slow trotter of a song with a dreamlike quality, picking up dramatically into a chorus and huge climax.
More tracks bring us more impressive riffs, as the debut single ‘Murmur’ flexes Otherless’ incredibly catchy songwriting abilities. Fat guitar lines, washed in tremolo, and jarring pitch-shifting effects drive the song forward until its final reprise where the bassist screams a top the drummer’s repeated calls, it’s a great moment and I’m in awe.
After detuning the guitar during a funny interval moment, the deeper low-end sound on the next song really adds another layer of darkness. It’s another slow one that picks up to new intensity with the band giving it their all.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the collision of influences which you can hear in Otherless’ music; some Pixies chaos, some Squid vocals, and some Sonic Youth guitars, it’s a lovely mix. True to their sound, the set ends in a chorus of shouting and aggression met by a great reaction from the crowd as they’re clapped offstage.
Graywave, the final act of the night, is a local dream pop, shoegaze four-piece who probably sit somewhere between the previous two acts in terms of heaviness. Their opening track sets a clear tone by creating a wall of sound of guitars and bass, complete with long held vocals over the top.
As the guitarist viscerally hammers away at his instrument, singer Jess Webberley delivers powerful notes and melodies with an eerie aura.
Their set flies by with more huge sounding, moody, and dark tracks, but the recent single ‘Cycle’ really sticks out to me whilst I’m watching. It starts with a more reserved riff that pings around the room and gives a flavour of the different textures the band is capable of.
Webberley has a great way with the crowd, and as they approach the end of their set it’s clear they’ve also been a big hit with tonight’s audience.
All in all, I’ve been dead impressed by the three bands performing at Weird on Purpose and am very glad I took the punt.
Weird On Purpose @ Hare and Hounds 31.05.23 / Emily Doyle
For more from the Hare and Hounds visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk
For more gigs and events by This is TMRW visit www.thisistmrw.co.uk