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Up From Below #8: The Wombats and Jessy Lanza
The North's best newsletter wallows in landfill
In this week’s Up From Below, we look at one of the finest examples of what some may consider indie landfill, but I will argue to the death for them to at least be sent to the recycling centre.
This gig had to be good. The weather was atrocious, the rain pouring down the side of the stage in the corner of Millennium Square, shelter was non-existent. My dad, who I’ve seen pretty much every Wombats tour with since 2011, had to pull out at the last minute. It took a lot of strength to not just close the curtains and kiss goodbye to the £36.50 I’d spent many months ago. But, it was my birthday, so off the ever-patient Sarah and I went.
We got there just in time for the start of the main support act (or just, the band before the one you’ve paid to see), who happened to be Circa Waves. They’re another of the indie bands you’ve probably not thought about in 5-10 years who also happen to be from Liverpool. I last saw them in a tent at Leeds Festival, and they sounded pretty good to this then-pissed-up 18 year old. Here, they didn’t shine quite as much to my sober, now 25(!!) year old ears, but they did a decent enough job getting the crowd going, T-Shirt Weather does still rip, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Quickly though, the main event was upon us. Liverpool’s favourite sons (can’t think of any other examples) took to the stage.
The band themselves occupy a really odd space, in that they’ve gone through a lot of reinvention and tinkering with their sound, without really losing that core “indie” label that keeps them on the rotation on Radio X. They sit alongside bands like the Lathums, Reytons, and Blossoms, all of which I consider to range from bang-average to proper-shit. The Wombats transcend this though, in my humble opinion.
First of all, they’re just a great live act. Their longevity means they have a lot to dip into - they go from synth-driven, dance bangers like Jump Into The Fog to your classic, guitar indie tunes like Kill The Director, and then transition through to newer, riff-laden tracks like People Don’t Change People, Time Does - without blinking.
Somehow you get the feeling that if the Wombats weren’t the Wombats, the crowd would noticeably tune out of the musical conversation, running to the bogs or the bar as they try and get you onside with the new stuff. They don’t though, the audience, which is a chaotic mix of TikTok teens and car-CD dads, stays with them throughout.
In my opinion, this is purely a testament to good songwriting. There aren’t any duds or complete diversions from the formula that’s worked for so long. It might all get a bit verse-chorus-verse-chorus, but sometimes, that’s just what you need when the weather’s shit on your birthday.
The jam-packed summer schedule of these sorts of acts mean that they had woken up in Spain that morning, but the energy really was there from the off, even if the setlist order does warrant some questioning. If you had Let’s Dance to Joy Division in your locker, you’d play it last, right? Not here, but somehow it still works.
By the time they were into their encore, the rain had stopped. By the time the final notes of Turn rang out, the clouds parted and the sun shone. Or it would have done, if it wasn’t half ten at night.
This week, I’m featuring Canadian artist Jessy Lanza, whose new single Limbo has been gracing my speakers way more often than I’d probably like to admit. It’s a complete dance sheller that sits in my mind alongside the likes of the Grace Ives’s of this world. Fun music with introspective words over the top, a winning combo.
If you’re into this sort of thing, Jessy Lanza is doing a couple of stop-offs in the UK as part of her EU tour later this year, so definitely grab tickets for that if you’re nearby.
Nile Rodgers/Chic at Millennium Square, Wednesday 19th July - note: nearly double the price of The Wombats at £62 a ticket, I know it’s Nile Rodgers, but fuck me. No wonder it’s not sold out.
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