"Manchester was never very far away in their music, but somehow that’s not really a problem with Calvin Party, because their overwhelming saving grace is that they are out to entertain, empathise and connect. "
Round the Hoorn with Calvin Party.
Sub 071, Leiden 29/05/08
If it’s a Thursday night, then you know that Holland’s greatest squat venue will be bringing new and interesting sounds to the ears of the Hip. And us. Alerted - both by the Subbers and Manchester Music’s Cath Aubergine - to the fact that Manchester’s finest exponents of folk rock grumble, Calvin Party were playing, we got down there early doors to find a weary band ready to sip a swift half. Calvin Party have been on the road in Europe, playing the places off the beaten track. Places I didn’t know existed. And now they came face to face with a converted lumber room and a stage that must be the smallest in Holland. Still they are nothing if not troopers, and tonight’s show was going to be good with Brussels’ Guernica headlining. Hell, both bands had even brought small, but significant travelling armies of Dutch fans, in CP’s case the Dutch band Cradle who they had played with at Ridderkerk and Nieuwenkerk. Dedication’s what you need…
Calvin Party’s muse is built on the twin strengths of a magnificently expressive, forceful rhythm section and singer John’s rants, which veer from the heartfelt and charming to full on, pop-eyed remonstrations. Manchester was never very far away in their music, but somehow that’s not really a problem with Calvin Party, because their overwhelming saving grace is that they are out to entertain, empathise and connect. It’s all about having a good time, even if only for 20 minutes. The songs might proclaim the evils of the world (or John’s world), but you’d never guess the way the band (okay, John) bounces around on stage. Actually bouncing about is a perilous business in Sub071 as you’re likely to come into contact with the other 30 people squeezed into the room. Still, John and co-singer Kerry managed to pull it off, allowing the rest of the band to create a bubbling, mercurial soundtrack. A victory then, but a close-run thing given the odd technical moment.
One look at Guernica nearly had me leaving. Skinny jeans, guitars at waist level, and phoney Yank-isms for banter. Is this what youth has come to? Lads, unless it’s a ‘peer group ironic in-joke de rigeur’, you’re too good for American accents. It sounds shit. Which, luckily, isn’t a criticism you could apply to their music. After a worrying early moment of guitar noodling, Guernica tore into a set as powerful as I’ve heard from a band in many a moon. Quite simply some of their pyrotechnics were stunning. Their music, as diametrically opposed to Calvin Party’s as it’s possible to be; (all well groomed head to CP’s messy heart) deserves a bigger stage. This lot should be massive. Afterwards, it was beer o clock time; football history and the (self proclaimed) laziest barman in the world served to illuminate a rather Bohemian ending to a fab night.
Patronaat café, Haarlem 31/05/08
After a day best described as a write-off, Saturday dawned bright with the prospect of seeing Calvin Party play Holland’s most beautiful but chronically broke venue, the Patronaat. Luckily the café gigs are free so a big audience was pretty much guaranteed. And after storming gig in Hoorn (by all accounts the locals went wild) Manchester’s finest folk-punk grumblers are knackered but determined. The Paper Chase (compared in a free hype ‘zine to Pavement the ‘Youth and a slew of other American names) are headlining, so the prospect of a good night’s entertainment seemed assured. What really put the icing on the cake was the fact that the deejay wasn’t some awful young shaver intent on playing the Feeling, but a chap ripened in years and wisdom who insisted on playing the Feelies, the Fall, Clinic, Nuggets bits, the Monks, Pere Ubu and any other 60s style sub-noise that he felt fit to. Time went by very pleasantly indeed.
As I rather enthusiastically exclaimed “the fucker’s got Dub Housing” to the non-comprendo stares of the Young & Beautiful, Calvin Party went into action. A rockier, harder hitting set than Leiden’s, the sound was clean, verging on white noise at times. Eight Days’ sub-Fall rumble could have carried on for at least another hour as far as I was concerned, so intent were the band on registering the tune inside everyone’s subconscious. And it’s funny how Calvin Party make friends with their heart-on-sleeve quest to entertain. A posse of Croatian visitors instantly warmed to them, one young man going as far as to say that they were better than the Wedding Present in their prime. On this form it was hard to disagree.
More great 60s garage (and a lot of spilt drink) meant that Incendiary was in prime fettle for The Paper Chase. But wisdom has to be gained the hard way in this life of ours: not only were the Paper Chase astonishingly loud, they were also painfully, decrepitly bad with it. Smug work-out followed smug angsty work-out; layers upon layers of mind-numbing annoyance sedated themselves in the minds of Team Incendiary. The band produced angst in every one of its hateful aspects a million, zillion times. Long, seemingly never-ending acres of tuneless wailings assaulted the audience in a veritable blitzkrieg of middle-clarse wankerdom. Added to this inconvenience was the flash flood that erupted outside, meaning that standing outside was effectively ruled out. Bugger. Still, like minded souls cowered in the doorway, watching the spectacular lightning outside, trying to forget the incoherent gnashing behind them. Truly the sound of a thousand squeezed spots.
After this it was time for Bedfordshire. John (via the medium of drink) made friends with our new Croatian chums, hopefully sealing a gig in that neck of the woods in the near future. Let’s hope so. Calvin Party are an institution built on making friends and you can’t have better than that.
Words: Richard Foster
Pics: Mariska van den Hoven, & courtesy of Calvin Party