Caradoc Gayer reviews Scottish band Fatherson's take on Nottingham's Bodega.
Some might consider it a cliché to talk about how small venues can feel more authentic than bigger ones. Nevertheless, the importance of reciprocal feeling between band and audience can’t be denied. The close-quarters Nottingham Bodega is one venue where this is guaranteed to happen. I was there on a Friday night to see Scottish indie-rock band Fatherson. They were touring their fourth LP Normal Fears, a solid addition to their feel-good, singalong discography, which brims with huge guitar riffs constructed to fill rooms. A close quarters venue was likely to enhance the feel-good vibes. I also knew how experienced the band were in live contexts, so was hoping for something energetic and rejuvenating.
''The importance of reciprocal feeling between band and audience can’t be denied''
First on stage were support act Sick Joy, a Brighton three-piece who offered up a high energy sound; jagged guitar riffs were overlaid by the singer, seemingly like Kurt Cobain in a turtleneck, who pulled off some impressive metal screams. They seemed a bold choice of opener for a more major-key oriented band like Fatherson, but the latter band have made some heavier music from time to time. Bands like Amber Run, who are on the same label as Fatherson, have also flirted with hard rock. It was nice, therefore, to see Fatherson following suit, and being adventurous with what kind of evening they were going to provide.
The three band members came on afterwards, and jumped straight into the lead Normal Fears single, the ridiculously catchy Dive. Lead singer Ross Leighton’s vocals sounded wonderful, albeit slightly swamped by the guitars: the Achilles heel of performing in a smaller venue. Nevertheless, the song’s fizzing guitars, danceable drum beat, and explosive chorus seemed like a lovely way to open the set.
Still, it might have been nice to hear Ross better, as some of their recent tunes, like Normal People (inspired by the eponymous TV show), have some poignant lyrical content that would have enhanced the communal, feel-good-vibes the band were shooting for. Regardless, the synergy and personability of the band mainly made up for the inaudibility of any lyrical hooks. The groovier, grunge-influenced songs like Charm School saw Ross and bassist Marc Strain dancing forwards and backwards across the stage, whilst drummer Greg Walkinshaw retained a grin on his face through the entire show.
Other tunes like Always, saw the lighting person stepping their game up, and Ross became majestically silhouetted against flashing red and blue whilst he played guitar. He complimented the lighting afterwards, which was always nice to see. His other addresses of the crowd were endearing, like his two different conversations with chatty guy in the front row, who first yelled ''that was fucking sick lads'', and later requested Making Waves, which sadly wasn’t on the bands setlist. Later, Ross described how he’d fractured his arm the other week, as he and Marc, on tour in St Albans, had gone on a drunken adventure with a shopping trolley in a Tesco car park. Stories like that are always suitable to tell in a student city.
''The band tended to almost exactly replicate the studio versions of their songs''
The joyousness of the set remained high with songs like Cat Stevens, and the more laidback and synthy The End of the World. What I would have liked, however, was a little more spontaneity. The band tended to almost exactly replicate the studio versions of their songs: the huge guitar textures could have been experimented with a bit more. I’ve seen indie pop bands, like Fatherson, extend song outros, reinterpret their music in a heavier, metal style, or play around with their guitar effects, to get some new timbres out of their instruments. A few more surprises might have been nice.
Nevertheless, as the set drew to a close, and the band played one of my personal favourites, the stratospheric Better Friend, I couldn’t deny that the band had delivered on what they promised. It had been lovely to start my weekend: a healthy dose of widescreen indie pop-rock, from which I couldn’t help but absorb the, sometimes cheesy, but well-needed positivity.
Edited by: Amrit Virdi