Dog Is Dead, Kappa Gamma, Kagoule – Nottingham Rock City, Saturday December 17.
Becoming only the second Nottingham act ever to play a full headline show at Rock City, Dog Is Dead returned to their home town on Saturday night, topping an all-local bill and facing a packed house. It was a perfect way for the band to end their year, which has seen them signing to a major label, gaining national radio play and press attention, playing larger venues and festival stages (including a riotously well-received set at Splendour over the summer), appearing on E4’s Skins, and releasing plenty of fine music along the way.
Stepping in to fill the gap left by Tribes, who pulled out of the gig due to an injury, Kagoule opened the show in impressive style, visibly growing in confidence throughout their set. The vintage Sonic Youth t-shirt worn by singer Cai Burns gave you a clue where their influences lay, as the trio drew on elements from early Nineties grunge and shoegaze, mixing them with a modern sensibility and a youthful approach. Still only in their mid-teens, the band made good on the promise of their debut EP Son, adapting to their new surroundings with commendable maturity.
Kappa Gamma were up next, their slot on the bill secured by winning a competition in which local music experts, the voting public – and finally Dog Is Dead themselves – selected the act which they felt most deserved a place on the Rock City stage. The band also claim Bruce Forsyth as one of their biggest supporters – and while this might have come as a surprise to Brucie himself, who was more focussed on hosting the Strictly Come Dancing final than cheering on a Nottingham indie band, a generous supply of Forsyth face masks helped to perpetuate the illusion.
Kappa Gamma’s complex, powerful math-rock made them the ideal warm-up act, and the crowd responded with heart-warming enthusiasm, moshing furiously and cheering them to the rafters. Barely known at the start of the year, they will have won many new fans, and a bright future surely awaits them in 2012.
By the time that Dog Is Dead took to the stage, anticipation had reached fever pitch, and the band were duly greeted like homecoming heroes. Opening with their third single River Jordan, the set mixed familiar favourites with some brand new tracks, which offered a taster for the forthcoming debut album.
This was also Nottingham’s first chance to welcome new drummer Dan Harvey to the band, following Lawrence Libor’s departure in August. The sole non-native musician on the bill – he’s a Doncaster lad – Dan’s delight was clear for all to see.
That aside, all the familiar elements of the Dog Is Dead sound were in place: Trev’s sax, Joss’s keyboards, Rob’s calmly commanding vocals, those soaring, almost church-like five-part harmonies, the chiming guitar runs, the insistent melodies, and the anthemic choruses.
Of the older songs, Young was the inevitable mid-set highlight, its chanted refrain (“Hold your breath and count to ten, we’re losing touch, we’re losing friends”) bellowed back at the band by the whole room. The current single (Hands Down) and its B-side (Burial Ground) closed the main set, leaving us in no doubt as to the encore.
As the opening bars of Glockenspiel Song rang out, Rock City erupted into full-on delirium. Fists pumped the air, heels pounded the floor, and a thousand voices belted out the lines that adorn the back of the new t-shirts: “We are a mess, we are failures, and we love it!”
“If the bells don’t ring in our home town”, sang Rob Milton, “they’re just cheats and liars”. The next time that the lads headline Rock City, perhaps we should be putting St Mary’s Church on standby. In the meantime, let’s congratulate Dog Is Dead on a remarkable year, and wish them every success for the year to come.