Kick Out #4: Deja Vega, Uncle Jane, Gardenback, KingFast, 81 Renshaw St, 16/03/2018

As the title suggests this is the fourth in a series of nights that take the tired formula of an open mic night and turn it into vital bite sized chunks of carefully curated class acts. While each set is vastly different, tonight they each compliment the other and build up momentum like a finely tuned playlist.

DJ Donno debuts tonight playing some great tunes between turns but he hardly has time to turn around himself as each of the guests are up and ready in bullet time, adding to the urgency of the night, something that sets it aside from similar showcases. Big thanks for a blast of 808 State half way through proceedings, eclectic doesn’t come close.

First up is Belfast-born Liverpool resident KingFast, winner of the MerseyRail Sound Station prize last year and its easy to see why. Not unlike Jalen N’gonda, another long-staying visitor to Liverpool, his soulful voice and effortlessly retro guitar vibe is a welcome presence in a genre that is by and large over produced and plastic. Making liberal use of the echo pedal to back himself, KingFast has charm and grace and starts the cold night off with a pure burst of summer.

The pairing up of “Never Felt This Way Before” and “Feel The Love” see this rising star loving what he does and channelling heroes on every word. He takes to the piano for “Under My Skin” and goes into full Stevie Wonder mode. A cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs” goes down a storm and mixes in the chorus from Craig David’s “7Days” like it was meant to be there.

Oldham’s Gardenback return to Kick Out after a great response last time. Its easy to fill a review with comparisons and whilst avoiding that cliché its difficult not to go down that path when they wear their influences so brightly on their sleeve. This is no bad thing in their case.

With an intro that disappointingly sounded like they were launching into a cover of OCS’s “Riverboat Song“, everything turns into Tago Mago lite Can and is all the better for it. From that point on its pure joy all the way.
Lyrics about motorways and dark as hell basslines can’t help to raise the spirit of Joy Division and new track “Bulldog” shows perhaps the real Gardenback, despite maintaining decades of musical heritage like a musical version of a bag of Rowntree’s Randoms.

Health and Well Being” is a beautiful thing, created from a wall of driving guitars and killer drums that sound nothing like a three piece from Oldham should. “Sweetness“, a highlight in this explosive set sounds like one of those belter B Sides by Blur that called on Barrett era Floyd for Brownie points, Gardenback repay the favour.

Whilst “Bury Me” resembles a typical downbeat album closer, there is a sense that this may be the first wrong foot in an otherwise impeccable set, but no, it redeems itself as a classy composition and a perfect place to exit. Gardenback are a band I want to listen to a lot more.

The same can be said for the brilliant Uncle Jane, who unfortunately suffer as Gardenback’s entourage have left the room and only a handful stick around – more fool them.

The notable thing about this Liverpool band who are painfully young for their mature output, is that they look nothing like they sound. Vocalist tousle-haired Jack, dressed in black beret and high waistband slacks conjurs up romantic notions of the Parisian Leftbank, but the surfin’ guitars that immediately kick in take us to a very different place.
Providing convenient links between The Cramps, Gun Club and The Fall, I couldn’t get enough of Uncle Jane.

Another three piece who work together so tightly that there is no room for any improvisation, just sharp driving sonic attacks with an ever-present rockabilly spirit. The actual songs and vocals are uncannily akin to the disgustingly ignored Soft Pack, whose self-titled debut album should be required listening to all your friends.

Sadly, the empty room is having an effect on the enjoyment of the band, its in their eyes, and in the closing statement of “Thank you, That was shit.” It was far from it. The Beatles have played to smaller crowds. Think Sex Pistols at The Free Trade Hall lads. Get over it. A boss boss set.

The room fills again for Manchester headliners Deja Vega. In act of Extreme Noise Terror in a very small room, there are points when many ear drums could have exploded in harmony. Another band who look nothing like they sound with a modish bassist, Mike Newton in the mould of a young Steve Diggle and smart shirts adorning Jack Fearon (vocals/ lead guitar) and drummer Tom Webster.

Singles like “Friends in High Places” clearly put the band in the world of hard rock but with stylings akin to bands like Soundtrack of our Lives in the “at odds” crafting and delivery of the lyrics, however in this tiny venue its easier to just enjoy the total aural assault.

Webster dominates centre stage and it’s difficult to recall a more primal yet metronomic display of drumming, totally hypnotic, completely mental. Guitar patterns are up there with Motorhead and Deja Vega are in the same league as contemporaries Mugstar and Sex Swing for sheer manic energy.

The joy is seeing a grey-haired man dancing in circles with the young Kingfast, whilst a very hairy Deja Vega fan partakes in some highly impressive solo headbanging / pogoing. The atmosphere has very much returned to the room and its all got a bit surreal. The final song tonight is a screaming, expletive spitting exercise in venom, punctuated by expert twiddling of pedals and wah wahs. We are completely lost in the beauty of it all and then it’s over.

Kick Out have provided yet another irresistible night of music, bringing almost bi-polar cultures together in sweet harmony, can’t wait for the next one. Cheers lads.

Words by Del Pike, photography by Richard Yates.

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