The Virginmarys Album Launch Show @ The Deaf Institute
Macclesfield rockers launch Divides to a sold out crowd Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin
As the sun makes a rare appearance over the streets of Mancunia this Sunday evening, people lazing on the grass of Gartside Gardens and outside The Deaf Institute’s grand, stone structure on Grosvenor Street, the diversity of people that descend upon the venue tonight is telling. From young indie kids to older blues rock loving types and much inbetween, The Virginmarys album launch show shows just how many types of people their working class, down-to-earth rock music has touched in their seven plus years as a band.
It generates a pleasant atmosphere – it feels like an event and not just another live show – and Leeds quintet Fizzy Blood are happy to ride on that. Capitalising their chance to roll out their blend of poppy hooks, flavoured by a punkish drive and an indie rock pop, to potential converts, they play with unfaltering energy. January Sun, pinned by a swaggering, swinging riff that sounds like The Stooges on a lazy Sunday morning and peppered with a lead guitar that flirts with Eastern tones, it’s simple but effective stuff. Yet, my innate cynic feels like it is nothing overtly fresh, nothing to really stop you in your tracks, prick your ears and take notice. It’s easily digestible thanks to its familiarity, but, as far as personal taste goes, that is more of a hindrance than an asset. Visually however, they are entertaining and the vigour with which they play makes it an enjoyable set nevertheless.
Yet, that feeling of straightforwardness boils over onto the headliner’s set. The Virginmarys, with so many family members and close friends in attendance tonight, including Sophie Stark, the model for the cover of new album, Divides, get a heroes welcome as they arrive on stage. Matt Rose’s loose, rumbling bass opens the foray, with drummer Danny Dolan, as per usual, standing before his kit and hammers his toms with a menace. The first overdriven chords of Push The Pedal begin to groan like the starting of an engine and brining to mind early, primitive Nirvana. It’s chorus is lofty – simplistic but memorable – and Portrait of Red, which makes an early appearance, is equally as effective, getting the crowd in full voice, the floor beginning to shake under bouncing shoes.
As the set continues though, a sense of déjà vu begins to creep in. The more of their tough, thumping songs about love and life they dish out, the more formulaic they all start to sound. Apart from a few exceptions, including Divides lead single For You My Love, which palpitates with surging importance and the gruff indie anthem Just A Ride which unites the room, you get the sense that the band has found itself a niche, a sound to call their own that people love, and are simply keeping within those confines. This is neither an insult nor a compliment; you only need to look at bands like AC/DC, Status Quo and Slayer to see that musical repetitiveness and consistency can be the foundation for a long, successful and oft-lauded career. For myself however, I was still feeling a little hungry as Bang Bang Bang closed proceedings. While this one trick pony may very well pull off such a trick with esteem, I wanted a little more adventurism in their music, a little more surprise; the odd left turn to hold your attention and stop their angst driven rock becoming too monotonous. I just wish the band would begin to explore some more musical dimensions, but as I stand at the back of a room full of people having a genuinely belting time, you can’t argue that their linearism isn’t exactly working. And credit where it’s due, The Virginmarys do what they do pretty well.