New York rock band Streetlight Circus recently embarked upon their first UK tour. I decided to attend their gig at my local venue Trillians in Newcastle. This decision was based on a recommendation from a friend and fellow Junkyard fan (who also happened to be acting as tour driver and merchandise salesman for the band). It was also an opportunity to catch up with friends that I don’t often get to see.
There was a respectable turn out for a Tuesday night. It is a tough scene in the many ways these days. People are much more easily persuaded to come and see a tribute/covers band live than an original act. It is also difficult to tempt people out on a work night.
I was not too familiar with the band before the gig. However, given that vocalist/bassist David Shaw seems to share an appreciation for a lot of the 80’s bands that I am a fan of, I was hopeful that I would enjoy them.
The Streetlight Circus sound is rooted in classic rock with that sleazy, dirty vibe that I love. I hear an eclectic range of influences; I definitely picked out a lot of KISS. This was especially so vocally and with regards to showmanship. At times, I was reminded of bands like the Almighty and Circus Of Power. “Aint No Love Song” really had a Circus Of Power vibe, but with more melody. What really appealed to me was that although the set was hard driving, no nonsense, in your face rock, there was still a great sense of melody with songs that get stuck in your head.
In spite of it being a small, Tuesday night gig, the band performed like they were playing to a thousand people. By the time we reached the last couple of tracks, all of the crowd had been well and truly won over. They were even persuaded to come and dance in front of the stage. To be honest, I think it would be impossible not to dance or stomp to the anthemic “Ghetto Blaster“, which I am sure will be a live staple for many years to come.
As it turned out, Streetlight Circus were playing another show in North East Of England at The Queen Vic, South Shields on the Friday night. This is a venue which seems to be attracting a variety of good bands and is a venue a lot of my friends praise. As it is pretty much inaccessible via public transport from where I live (and I am terrified of town and city driving), it is a venue I had not yet visited. However, as I had really enjoyed the band in Trillians, I decided to brave the drive to see them again!
The Queen Vic is a surprising venue. It has a good stage size and lighting, with management who seem passionate about supporting original bands. As it was a Friday night, there was a good crowd of regular, local rockers in attendance. I was able to focus more attention on appreciating the band, as due to having to drive, I wasn’t able to indulge in a beer or two!
What struck me at the second gig was the consistent quality of the songs. This made it difficult to pick out individual favourites. That being said, “A Murder of Crows” (I believe this wasn’t played on the Tuesday) is a song I really fell in love with. I actually can’t get the riff out of my head. It was also refreshing that the two cover songs, KISS‘s “Do You Love Me” and Tom Petty‘s “I Need To Know“, didn’t overshadow the original songs.
I have seen a lot of gigs recently and have been disappointed in showmanship in general with new bands. A lot of the bands seem to spend more time making jokes with each other, instead of interacting with and engaging the crowd. No such problem here. We get a high energy performance with the entire band engaging with the crowd. This is exactly what a live experience should be like. Whilst songs and musicianship should take centre stage, to me the live show should be more about a performance and that bond between performers and fans. If I just wanted to hear the songs played, I would stay at home listening to CD’s!
We were treated to a longer set than the Tuesday show. Once again, the crowd were won over and persuaded to step away from the bar to enjoy a dance in front of the stage.
The Queen Vic was the penultimate gig of this tour. The finale was to be The Duck and Drake in Leeds the following night. There were attempts to persuade me that driving to Leeds would be a good idea! As I won’t even drive into the centre of Newcastle, the thought of driving in a strange city centre was terrifying.
Although I am not quite sure how it happened, I did drive to Leeds for the final gig. The Duck and Drake is a peculiar venue, being a small, quaint Victorian pub. It serves pie and peas (a good old fashioned British tradition, not much in evidence these days). There is a small stage located at the front door. First impressions were not that it was not a happening rock venue. Well, it just goes to show that first impressions can be wrong. This venue was the surprise of the three dates.
The local crowd were lively and very appreciative of the band. The drinks were flowing and there was lively banter between the band and crowd. This show definitely had the best overall vibe and energy level out of the nights I attended and was an excellent end to the tour.
I really enjoyed attending these three shows. I have the utmost respect for any bands still plugging away at touring without record label support. I have even more admiration for bands from the rest of Europe, USA etc. who are willing to self-finance tours to come to the UK. We are a small market and it has to very much be a labour of love to come over here to play for those of us who will venture out for unknown bands. Since returning to the rock scene after a hiatus, I have to admit to not being greatly impressed by many new bands. It is therefore a great credit to Streetlight Circus that I was impressed enough to attend three shows. The fact I faced my fear of city driving speaks volumes about just how good they were.
I sincerely hope Streetlight Circus come back to visit us again. It would be great to see them at one of the small rock UK festivals here, where they would perhaps get the opportunity of a bit more exposure.