Night & Day Café, Manchester
Popular music these days can often have a Groundhog Day feel about it. Once the ‘90s infatuation with the ‘60s was over along came the ‘00s obsession with late ‘70s post punk, ‘80s synth-pop and then late ‘80s/early ‘90s rave. It can feel these days that each movement such as nu-rave or indie is actually just a regurgitation and repetition of a previous movement and when it’s over it comes back. With that in mind we come to tonight’s headliners, Yuck, at Manchester’s uber-trendy Northern Quarter hangout Night & Day Café. The route that Yuck have gone for in this era of wearing your influence on your sleeve is to resurrect the sound of 1980s American alt-rock such as Sonic Youth and The Pixies, and they do it rather well.
Back during the aforementioned ‘00s ‘indie-darlings/next big things’ scene a group called Cajun Dance Party were making all the right moves and Camden Town was swinging to their tight grooves, but as with many of these new kids on the block types, Cajun Dance Party folded before Libertines-esque stardom arrived. Out of this rabble singer Danny and bassist Max (now plying his trade as a guitarist) have teamed up with a female bassist from Hiroshima called Mariko and Johnny, a drummer from New Jersey who stands at roughly Peter Crouch height, Martin Johnson breadth and sports the kind of ‘fro that Don King would be proud of.
All the talk amongst the fag-smoking crowd outside the rather tiny Night & Day, before Yuck take to the stage, is of this burgeoning (or rather revivalist) sound with the support act, Fanzine, having just finished their set of Teenage Fanclub/R.E.M. hybrid noise. The all knowing cool-kids are all ready and waiting for Yuck to come on and do something similar, but hopefully better. After extinguishing a cancer stick I decide to join the massive queue for the bar, hoping to be served an ice-cold Red Stripe before the band jump on the stage. Beer in hand (20 minutes later, God crowds are awful) I perch up near the sound desk (placed right next to the dance floor) and, with that, on come Yuck to rapturous applause.
Sandwiched in between all manner of fashionable indie-types sweating over each other and spilling lager, I am forced to join in to the dancing as set-opener and single Holing Out comes flying out of the P.A. like some kind of distorted, yet oh-so-clear menace. As clear as day Danny’s voice sounds more Seattle than North London (his hometown) with backing vocals from Max, who, after an electrified version of usually acoustic number Suicide Policeman, hails Fanzine as “amaaazzziiing”, as if trying to capture the rhetoric of the Facebook generation crowd in here in some kind of verbal abridge, only without being ironic.
As the set moves through good tracks from the new eponymous album release, such as Stutter and Rose Gives a Lily, the soundscape of this group in a live setting dawns upon me as being fuzzbox freak-outs with a touch of that shoegaze appeal which may never have left Danny and Max from their days in Cajun Dance Party. Mariko ably chugs her bass through the tracks and Johnny, hair and all, crashes away at the skins like a thing possessed. By now much of the crowd are drunk, which is helping the atmosphere no-end and I, with a fresh beer in hand, am starting to have a whale of a time.
Set closer Rubber comes around quicker than one of tonight’s crowd-members to an Oxfam shop on a Saturday, but then refuses to end for a while, which should come as no surprise given that it clocks in at a rather voracious 7 minutes and 14 seconds as the album’s closer. The last three minutes of this see Night & Day filled with feedback, fuzz and wah as the band decide to rock-out and provide a rather exhilarating climax to a show which may well lack in terms of originality, but in sheer force-of-presence and style has it all. Yuck thank their adoring public as they step off stage, and, having earlier announced that they “only play London, America and Manchester, ‘coz Manchester’s so fucking cooool”, I think they may well have won a few friends amongst the Manchester gig-going crowd which is not exactly known for its self-deprecating stance on its ‘coolness’, or its music scene. Sweat wiped off a completely un-furrowed brow I dive in a taxi happy with what was a very good evening’s entertainment from a group that may yet prove an unerring force in 2011 (or whatever year this is).