Live Music Review: The Nottingham Pop All-Dayer at The Maze

8 October 16 words: Gav Squires
celebrating ten years of all things jingly and jangly
Fever Dream The Maze

Fever Dream - Photo by Gav Squires

First up were Wolf Girl from London, arriving on stage complaining of being hungover, covered in grime and glitter and fresh from uninspiring job interviews - "Where do you see yourself in five years?" "Erm, dead in a ditch?" Musically they sound a little like Betty and the Werewolves crossed with someone like Bleached's American indie. They also have a song, Due To Repeat, that cribs its intro from The Cure. For the final track, the guitarist and bassist swap instruments, which brought to mind The Clash during Guns of Brixton, although not in a musical sense.

Just in case the name didn't give enough of a hint, Fever Dream are the first shoegaze-y band. While the main influence is someone like My Bloody Valentine, there are also hints of something like British Sea Power in there too without quite being as exciting as either of those bands. Occasionally, the lethargy of the tracks threatens to collapse in on itself. This could be due to the fact that they are playing a number of new songs but it wouldn't take a whole lot of polish to see them move into the orbit of a band like Temples. They end their set with probably their best song, which sounds a little like Echo & the Bunnymen up until its instrumental section.

Cowtown The Maze

Cowtown - Photo by Gav Squires

The first band with a keyboard, you could easily imagine Cowtown soundtracking an upbeat mid-80s movie. For the song Monotone Face, the singer tries to put on a Bart Simpson mask but has trouble with putting it on. A later song borrows the "oh-way-oh" backing vocals from Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles and sounds like an 80s take on one of the Ramones' bubble-gum punk songs. They also have a song called Captain Planet, which unfortunately isn't a cover of the theme tune to the popular cartoon series.

Indie survivors Darren Hayman from Hefner and Emma Kupa from Standard Fare bring their new project, The Hayman-Kupa Band; a mix of Jonathan Richman pop-sensibilities, Courtney Barnett and Girls. You can tell that they've been around the scene for a long time as Darren is willing to crack awful jokes such as, "it's like a maze in here". A really strong set closes with the single Someone To Care For, which is unbelievably catchy and deserves to be a massive hit.

The Fireworks initially they sound a little like Dum Dum Girls crossed with The Stone Roses, in fact the first three songs are all similar to Mersey Paradise. Once they hit their stride, they’re good and a bit broader in terms of influence, although the guitarist sings too much lead for my liking and he could do with turning his guitar down a bit as well. Highlight of the set, I'll Say To You sounds similar to The Like, and that's alright by me.

Milky Wimpshake The Maze

Milky WImpshake - Photo by Gav Squires

Going on late due to their drummer being stuck in traffic, indie stalwarts Milky Wimpshake bring us their blend of Jilted John and solo Graham Coxon. Questions abound such as are the lyrics "every move you make/lemon drizzle cake" about Great British Bake Off moving to Channel 4? Cherry Pop sounds a little like  - in a good way -  Digsy's Dinner by Oasis and another song contains the line, "without emotion the songs are just noise" It's easy to see how they have been going so long, they have genuinely funny and heartfelt lyrics.

The "indie Krafwerk", Haiku Salut are a three-piece electronica instrumental act. I'm not quite sure where they fit in with the aesthetic of the day to be honest, they are so different to anything else that's on. I could definitely imagine them making music for adverts, which may sound like an insult but it worked out pretty well for Moby. They feel a little like a sorbet band, there to clear the pallet ready for some more indie pop and it's always a little disappointing to see a band with an accordion who don't cover Squeeze Box by The Who.

Joanna Gruesome The Maze

Joanna Gruesome - Photo by Gav Squires

After being slightly concerned that their first track sounded a bit like 1970s American AOR, it was relieving to hear Spinning Coin switching to something more akin to Surfer Blood or The Drums - that intersection where American indie and college rock collide. They have two singers who take it in turn to sing songs but the band sound much better when one of them is singing as it prevents him from noodling too much on his guitar. With him singing, they are much more immediate, with a couple of songs sounding a bit like The Libertines and the penultimate track leaning towards Pavement.

Somehow Joanna Gruesome managed to get six people crammed onto the small stage. With three guitars giving them the wall of sound that the Ramones probably envisaged when they employed Phil Spector as their producer, this is a band that wear their influences on their sleeves. From the poppy-punk of The Runaways to the post-grunge of Hole and the pre-Britpop of Lush. While their between song patter could do with a bit of work, they are full of energy, they are actually having a lot of fun on stage and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to hear them covering the theme to The Powerpuff Girls by Bis.

Allo Darlin The Maze

Allo Darlin' - Photo by Gav Squires

Finally, the headliners Allo Darlin' and they are playing their last ever gig in Nottingham as one of them now lives in Finland and another is moving back to Australia. Like an upbeat Camera Obscura, they have just the right mix between twee and jingly-jangly indie pop, and, as with all great C86-esque indie bands, the audience don't know whether to swing their pants or pogo on the spot. The rest of the band leave lead singer Elizabeth Morris alone on stage for a heartfelt rendition of Tallulah. They return for a set closer that sounds like Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison to me (maybe that's why they're really splitting up - I hear he can be pretty litigious) They are even afforded the luxury of an encore during which they cover If You Don't Pull by The Just Joans and dedicate it to all of the bands that they've played with over the years.

And with that, 11 hours of indie music is brought to a close. It was a great day, kudos to the promoter and The Maze for putting it on and for ensuring that it really encompassed all the facets of the genre of "indie". If I had to choose some highlights, it would probably be the three most experienced bands - The Hayman-Kupa Band were excellent, Allo Darlin' were perfect headliners and Milky Wimpshake were just amazing. There were another couple of bands that I'll be keeping an eye on though and I'll definitely be heading back to The Maze for the 11th Annual Nottingham Pop All-Dayer.

The 10th Annual Nottingham Pop All-dayer took place at The Maze on Saturday 1 October 2016.

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