Does every venue in Brighton have a glitterball? The Prince Albert’s twinkly, shiny sphere casts a lovely light over the intimate band room this evening, as The Grand Nowhere kick off. A Brighton-based quartet, bedecked in bad Hawaiian shirts, one of their singer/guitarists looks like a fairly awkward rabbit in the headlights, the other potentially thinks he is Jim Morrison – said shirt unbuttoned just enough to give a glimpse of a medallion amidst plenty of posturing. As different as the two men’s performance is, so too is their vocal style, a brash self-assuredness from Jim’s incarnation, the nervous guy punctuating his melodic voice with the right amount of falsetto and vibrato, a la Muse. I’m not sure if it works alongside the solid basslines and guitar-based songwriting that dominates their short set, though recent single ‘My Thoughts Again’ displays particular promise. Generally, though, it appears that they are really still finding out who they are as a group. I’m rooting for them to do so because they can pen a tune.
Second local support act, Creeping Jean, are wearing similar shirts, though theirs are 60s-inspired (well, they are named after a Kinks song). They also have the most amazingly glamorous, voluminous hair, especially the bassist. As they begin to play, my ever-cynical plus one silently mouths, “Kula Shaker”, his eyes full of pain and fear. Personally, I always liked them as a band and isn’t it about time we had a revival of an early-90s act who channeled a bygone psychedelia anyway? In all seriousness, Creeping Jean are very accomplished performers who put on a show like they are trying to power the time machine they are taking a trip on. With a slight 70s tinge at times too (T. Rex at least), their use of melody surprisingly, and weirdly, sounds like Kasabian on occasion and they get the small crowd bopping in no time (yes, bopping is the only word that will do here). With nothing particularly deep to bring to the table, they sing about shaking your tambourine because the bad times are coming so live it up; keyboard-led tracks courtesy of duo Oliver Tooze and Joe Haberfield offering the perfect showcase for a five-piece that just want to bring the party. “You gotta be a bandit if you wanna get by/ Shoot your pistol, baby, at the sky”, they advise in recent single ‘Bandit’. I don’t really know what they are talking about but did I mention their fantastic barnets?
When The Snuts take to the stage, they are swigging whiskey but it could easily be Mad Dog 20/20, due to the nostalgia also surrounding their own style and sound. Immediately valued because they are NOT wearing bad shirts – instead donning Fred Perry polo shirts and cagoules – the fresh-faced Scottish four-piece could just as easily be Northern Uproar or Cast for their likeable indie-rock swagger. The perfect antidote to tired hipster cool, The Snuts are neither pretentious or trying too hard, quietly confident about living their rock and roll dreams. “We are the f*cking Snuts”, drawls singer Jack Cochrane, his cherubic curls giving away how young these former schoolfriends really are. “We’re f*cked”, he next admits, going on to reveal that they are actually really nervous. This is their first headline tour after their modern-day Britpop anthem, ‘Glasgow’, set Spotify alight, now reaching the ears of over a million devotees, enjoying something of the same unruly hype as the Arctic Monkeys did when they were emerging. It is clear that Mr Turner and co. are a huge influence, all spiky guitars and untouchable crooning vocals, a similarly playful lyrical ability and unapologetic presence of The Libertines or even Oasis, with the added pop banter of The Kooks.
Introducing ‘Mixer’ as somewhere between: “Your wee sister and your next girlfriend”, Cochrane giggles. “Oooh, that sounds pretty sinister actually”, he smiles and the audience laugh with him, the pretty blonde in the front row taking a swig out of one of the bottles still being passed around, fuelling the warm reception that they are getting. Many tracks are taken from their recent The Matador EP; from ‘Summertime’ (“The saddest song I’ve got”) to the celebratory ‘What’s Going On’, interestingly it’s the drummer that propels them, pulling his potentially chaotic bandmates into a focused cohesion that confirms the reason for their summer festival appearances and the rapturous reaction they are now receiving here. Basically resurrecting the best of hardworking guitar bands from the north in the last 20 years, will we be talking about The Snuts in decades to come? Who knows. Will they die of alcohol poisoning before the end of the tour? Let’s hope not. One thing for sure is that however long the ride is, it’s going to be fun to watch and watch you must. I still don’t know what Snut means but I’m betting on the Urban Dictionary’s ‘sweaty nuts’ definition, though these four lads are definitely a breath of fresher air than that.