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Live Music Review: The Magic Gang + The Orielles + Sports Team at Rock City

3 October 18 words: Becky Timmins
photos: Mike Kane

The Magic Gang assert themselves as one of the most exciting indie bands around...

The Magic Gang

We all know that Rock City is a hard-to-beat kind of venue. From the sticky floors to the uniquely wide-set stage, it is a transcendent place, and for a large chunk of Nottingham’s young’uns, it’s the place to be for a smashing live music experience. This Saturday, the iconic venue hosted a trio of indie delights for a princely £15, which seemed like too much of a bargain boogie to miss.

West-London based sextet Sports Team kick-off proceedings, immediately defying all assumptions around gentle support acts. Their front man Alex Rice is overtly sleazy and chaotic as he struts around, at times deliberately discordant from the rest of the band. He appears to be going for an obnoxious Mick Jagger-meets-Fat White Family vibe, yet there is something charming and quite novel about it. Despite his winks and periods of confrontational staring into the audience, you do feel like you’re in on the joke.

Sports Team

Percussionist Ben Mack aside - he saunters around the stage in an alienating manner, though by now you know it is all part of the act - this is clearly a band who love what they do. Their sound reverberates between frequencies both sluggish and vibrant, peppered with offbeat lyrics like “you mocked my haircut again, so I got some scissors and cut it off, and now I can’t go out in public, I look like a suburban monk”. ‘Kutcher’ shows this band at their most outlandish – an acerbic flash-in-the-pan track that certainly cements their appeal with this Rock City crowd.

Next up are The Orielles, an emerging four-piece hailing from Halifax. Their dreamy brand of indie has infatuated me recently; think Sonic Youth go to the disco. By this point, the audience is growing, with lots of folks eager to hear The Orielles’ DIY sound for themselves. Sisters Esme and Sid Hand-Halford are joined by Henry Carlyle Wade and new addition Alex Stephens, and they unveil a selection of tracks from their debut album ‘Silver Dollar Moment’ with charisma and allure.

You get the feeling that this band are destined for big things. Their combination of irreverent lyrics and energetic riffs creates a sound that flits between sharpness and haziness; either way, it’s seriously infectious. Esme’s voice is sweet without being saccharine, harmoniously levitating above their post-punk inspired guitar riffs and bass lines. At times, and particularly on ‘48 Percent’ and ‘Let Your Dogtooth Grow’, it is utterly ethereal.

They close with ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’, a seminal eight-and-a-half minute banger that would be quite at home on Daydream Nation. It is clearly their pride and joy, and with good reason. They deliver it in a manner impressive enough to mark them as one of the UK’s most exciting emerging bands. Thanks to The Orielles, it is with a real swing in our hips that we await the night’s headline act.

The Orielles

In my experience, listening to The Magic Gang resembles the feeling of being warmly jostled in a crowd of friends at a late summer festival, cider in hand. With a sound as breezy as a Brighton beach scene, but with enough choppy distortion to keep things gripping, this indie quartet have been making waves since the release of their first EP ‘No Fun/Alright’ back in 2015. Their bold anthems laced with vigorous riffs and jazzy bass lines truly transport you to a higher plane. This capability has seen them amass a sizable and dedicated following since the release of their debut self-titled album earlier this year.

Known for their spirited live performances, Paeris Giles, Jack Kaye, Kristian Smith and Gus Taylor are greeted onto the Rock City stage by a colossal and electric audience, and what ensues is nothing short of rapturous. Their uncompromising energy is matched by the crowd, who know virtually every word, and sing along feverishly. Each song is interspersed with bouts of disarmingly modest chat, and a genuine exuberance about Nottingham; they recall their first ever sold-out show at The Bodega, and dub Rock City “one of the best venues in the country”. Naturally, this flirtation works a treat on the already enamoured crowd, and the set swiftly transforms into a seriously special show.

While ‘All This Way’ and ‘Jasmine’ are particular highlights, the quality of their performance is unwavering. Rippling through every song is the band’s signature trio of vocal harmonies; it’s here where the influence of sixties surf rock really glistens. They close with ‘All That I Want Is You’, a homage to Beach Boy extraordinaire Brian Wilson, and their closing exclamation of “Nottingham, you are just the loudest crowd” provokes utter euphoria. While they are surely set to be gracing some of the biggest stages around in no time, I reckon these boys will be back in town.

The Magic Gang, The Orielles, Sports Team played Rock City on Saturday 29 September.

Rock City website

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