Originally published in the Nottingham Post.
It’s the first night of the tour, and Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs have only made it to the venue in the nick of time. Within minutes of their arrival, they’re into the first song of their support set, lined up along a low stage that is all width and little depth. Centre partings and all-black outfits predominate, save for a trend-bucking keyboardist in a figure-hugging floral scoop-neck.
Viewed in a certain light, and at a certain angle, Boyer bears a fleeting resemblance to a young Ray Davies. His dour, faintly vexed demeanour is shared by the rest of the band, none of whom seem to be having much of a good time.
This is a shame, as the songs themselves are far from dour. Sometimes they spin off halfway through, into psych/space-rock territory. When this happens, it works very well indeed. At other times, particularly towards the end, the playing inches towards Quo/Creedence-style boogie. This is also pretty effective. If the players ever manage to break through their collective self-consciousness, it could be doubly effective.
It’s harder to gauge the stage presence of the headliners, as Splashh are practically invisible to all but the front row, illuminated only by the groovy Spankys light panels behind them. Happily, their sound is so immersive, and their playing so focussed and cohesive, that you can live without the visual distraction.
They’re significantly more echo-drenched on stage than on record, which does help to blur some perilously weedy vocals. Sonically, this is the rough equivalent of those last few mouthfuls of a Sunday roast dinner, when all the elements on your plate have fused into one flavoursome whole. This is, of course, the best bit of the whole dinner, so it’s a neat trick to extend the sensation over a full set.
There’s a lot of wanting going on in Splashh songs. On Vacation, they “wanna go where nobody knows”. On Need It, singer Sasha Carlson is itching for escape: “I wanna ride away, I’m leaving today, I want it today.” And then there’s recent single All I Wanna Do, whose title should be self-explanatory. Performed immaculately, it’s possibly the highlight of the set. There are also some new songs, including the episodic Peanut Butter And Jelly, which builds its energy by switching between radically different tempos.
A super-extended reworking of Need It ends the set. “We’ll try to keep it going for as long as we can”, they promise – and true to their word, a two-chord bass and drum breakdown gradually soars off into the stratosphere, boosted by abstract guitar textures and jet-plane-taking-off synth rumbles. Having spent the song talking about their need for escape, it’s almost as if they have managed to construct their own getaway. What better way to end a set, and start a tour?
“I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie, to the hip hip hop, you don’t stop the rock…” It wasn’t quite the first rap record ever made – the Fatback Band beat them to it by a month – but the Sugarhill Gang can legitimately claim to being the first hip hop act off the blocks, with their 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight”.
Those historic, genre-christening first lines were delivered by Wonder Mike, who joined fellow original member Master Gee and relative newcomer Hendogg on stage at Spanky Van Dykes last night, for an hour long set that brought some of the flavour of those original Bronx block parties to a new generation of fans.
Keeping it strictly old school, the trio of MCs energised the crowd with their fast-flowing rhymes, taking us through their back catalogue (8th Wonder, Apache) and paying tribute to Grandmaster Flash with a couple of verses from The Message.
Audience participation was repeatedly sought, and enthusiastically given. The ladies in the house were given ample opportunity to say “oww”, and hands were duly waved in the air, like we just didn’t care. All the time-honoured rituals were observed, and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“Hotel, motel, holiday inn…” Closing the show with their breakthrough hit, the Sugarhill Gang milked us for every last drop of sweat. The final verses were delivered acapella, with human beatboxing provided by their burly DJ. Peace signs flashed around the room, before hip hop’s founding fathers disappeared into the glad-handing throng.