HMV Blackpool Christmas Party 2014 @ Top Of The Tower

Party at the Top of the Tower 2014 by Jill Reidy

Photographing a gig at the top of The Tower on one of the coldest, windiest nights of the year was not sounding too appealing as we were led by a succession of well insulated security folk through a maze of passages and into the lift which would take us up to our venue. At first glance, the area itself was hardly inspiring, but then I’m probably not the best qualified to judge whether a space is right for two young aspiring bands, who have been given the honour of playing at the top of Britain’s most famous tower. This certainly seems an unusual venue, laid out as it is around a central double lift system, so it was with some relief that as the audience started to trickle in around 7.30pm, and the narrow corridors filled with people, the atmosphere began to buzz with low-key anticipation. And rightly so. After about an hour of sound checks and rehearsals, whilst the audience warmed up, both physically and metaphorically, the first band, The Assist, launched into a lively set.

Fortuitously, well-known local artist and ex Radio Caroline DJ, Robin Ross, was on hand to give me his expert opinion, in his own inimitable way.

“Having heard the Brummie twang and met a group of characters in the lift discussing football and ‘Villa’, I was a touch surprised to discover they are The Assist, the opening act playing the HMV Christmas Party, which despite hyperthermia is the hottest ticket in town. This Walsall four piece deliver sing along lyrics. Fronted by a vocalist with serious attitude and a cardigan to die for, this man has serious stage presence. Well rehearsed, classic Indie pop delivered with vibrancy, and after playing Glasgow, Sheffield and coming back to Blackpool, already on the BBC’s radar…this is a band to watch.”

A recent review of the band seems to back up Robin’s assessment, ‘…energetic guitar riffs, funky basslines and punchy drums… create singalong anthems and in your face upbeat melodies. There’s not really any room to argue with their self-assured, to-the-point sound and, as such, it’s no surprise that their debut single wound up in the iTunes Alternative chart or that they’ve had support slots with Happy Mondays, The 1975 and Reverend and The Makers.’

The set finished to loud applause from an ever shifting audience, moving between the bar and the makeshift stage at opposite sides of The Tower. By this time, the numbers were large enough to give this industrial style venue a pleasing intimacy.

After some long remixes of Pet Shop Boys and Frankie Says from D.J. Neil it was time for local band, The Lost Archives, to make an appearance. The audience shifted forward as the vocals burst forth. The friendly young girl I’d met in the lift gave it her all, belting out songs with enthusiasm and attitude. Even I, two generations removed from these performers, found myself swept along with the power of the sound. It was certainly music to warm up by.

Once again, I asked Robin what he thought: “It has to be said these musicians throw themselves into their live set. With a vocalist who believes in audience communication and driving riffs, this is a band who will not be ignored. It’s powerful, loud, one not to be forgotten.” Succinctly put, expertly and neatly summing up my own feelings.

From a cold start the evening had warmed up nicely. Two up-and-coming bands had performed to a mixture of friends, relatives and music aficionados. I’m not quite sure which category Dawn Mander and I came into as Two Old Birds but there was no doubt that we’d both thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and got a few shots to boot. As we packed up our equipment and descended in the lift I was reminded of a quote by Haruki Murakami I’d once heard, ‘Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.’

I thought it was pretty apt for our recent experience.

Images by Jill Reidy of Two Old Birds Photography and Kirsty McEvoy Photography.

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