(Pic: Rob McCulloch)
In The City 2004 – Various Venues – 19.9.04

Sevan played last years In The City under the moniker V7, now under the guidance of Bruce at Industry People (Simon Webbe’s management company) they’ve changed their name following the arrival of pop acts Vs and V. Reminding us of the epic stadium rock of early U2 they have 2 killer tracks in “Millionaire” and “Passing With Time”. Although slightly hampered without a light show to capture the energy of the band, there’s a potential that with a few more singles this band could make it in years to come.

Over to Square Bar for the War Child In The City event, which featured a eclectic mixture of urban acts alongside the token guitar group. Sadly without virtually any promotion the venue is virtually empty with band members matching punters about 3 to 1. Kicking off the day was a reggae artist that reminded us of Mishka and then a Manchester hip hop collective which showed us that whatever London can do, Manchester does better. It wasn’t until Lush came on that things really livened up. Managed by Devil, who organised the Urban ITC event and is a So Solid Crew associate, the female duo delivered just a 2-song set of hard-edged R&B. The confidence isn’t quite there being just their second gig, but the tunes are in place and the rest will follow in time..

One of the big discussions of the weekend was whether UK Urban Music could compete with the US Artists and if one act proved it, it was Fundamental at the Urban Unsigned Showcase at M2. Reminding us of an older version of B2K, these guys came in choreography perfect, the tunes down and delivered a set that left you breathless from start to end. These guys are going to dwarf every single British Urban success to date.

If the post-Radiohead / Jeff Buckley took things to the nadir with the likes of Keane, then Vib Gyor are set to re-address the balance. Even the fact that the name jars when you try to roll it off the tongue suggests that the band are an all-together different prospect. “Fallen” reminds us of the first time we first heard “Shiver” by Coldplay and yet at the same time they’ve got subtle nuances of Mogwai colliding in the background. “You Wear Me Out” takes Radiohead’s “Exit Music For A Film” and fuses it with Jeff Buckley’s “Grace”. Vib Gyor are a truly special band indeed.

Rob McCulloch is just 18 years old, which means he’d have been just 11 when “The Drugs Don’t Work” was originally released, but the similarities between McCulloch and Richard Ashcroft are undeniable. “Taking Off With You” is a song of monumental proportions and even live without the string section backing him there’s a sense that we’re witnessing the start of something. In the likes of “Let It Go” and Hard To Breathe” has anthems that can connect with the people and although his relaxed demeanour doesn’t suggest it, we’ve just found a songwriter capable of international recognition.

If Offspring were fronted by Melissa Auf Der Maur you’d find something similar to Tat. Similarly while Tat in their recorded form deliver pop gems, the live shows offer a rockier proposition. “Peace, Sex and Tea” rallies against manufactured bands and fabricated acts with a wry smile as the song was written before their ex-drummer left to go and play with Busted. In his place though is ex-Rachel Stamp tubthumper who adds a glam-rock goth hybrid to the mix which include Tim as slacker generation icon and Tatianna up front with her feminine charms, which mask the growl waiting to bellow out with each song.

There’s one question I’m asking throughout Fear Of Music’s set and it whether this band would be signed if they were aged early twenties rather than mid teens. Musically a cross between Placebo, Kinesis and the bands they took influence from (I.e. Sonic Youth, Fugazi etc) they sail through an energetic and explosive set. Previous to the show we’d only heard set closer “The Waltz” (Ed: Blame their manager for that one as we’ve asked for demos to no avail), a song that personally we thought was the worst song in the set, but like the Longcut and Nine Black Alps the band seem to moving as far away from Madchester as they could possibly get. The frontman (or should that be boy) pouts and preens and tussles with his hair, the guitarist thrashes around trying not to smudge the kohl and the bass player looks as if he’s in his own world ignorant to the fact that they’re one of the hottest bands of In The City. And to go back to the original question of whether this band would be signed if they were in their early 20s, the answer is a resounding yes.

Nizlopi end the day with their hip-hop and folk melange. Instantly engaging the audience in a singalong it’s the first time in the day that the band have seen the gig as another gig rather than as an industry showcase. With an album already recorded they know they have the songs to back up the confidence and the duo (one beatbox / double bass player and one acoustic guitar and vocals) playfully mix up the songs with shout outs to ITC and Manchester and end up playing acoustically in the middle of the room while A&R heads let themselves go and realise that they’re here to listen to great music rather than the sound of the cash rolling in. What makes Nizlopi stand out is the bredth of appeal. Listeners to Radio 2 will be inspired by the songs and place them next to Jamie Cullum, Katie Melua and David Gray while they have that slight hip-hop influence which will appeal to the fans of Rae & Christian and Fingathing as well as the more open minded indie kids.

Alex McCann
Photos: Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com

Hip hop folk, punk rock, teenage kicks - is ITC getting more eclectic?
Is Rob McCuloch the noughties answer to Richard Ashcroft?
Fundamental - how much did these guys blow the Urban talent away?
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