Wooden Shjips @ The Fleece, Bristol, 10/07/2012

I make sure to get to The Fleece for the Wooden Shjips concert early as I want to catch the two support acts - local bands that are creating waves at the moment and seem to be attracting patronage from the local cognoscenti.

First up are Towns from Weston Super Mare. With their mix of shoegaze and power indie pop with attitude, they have a youthful enthusiasm that is catching. Their set shows signs of a band that, after a couple of releases on Howling Owl Records, are now finding their feet and hitting their stride live. They are entertainers, and with lead man MacLucas' energy and some obvious chemistry between members, they’re hard not to like. Like a rollercoaster tour era Blur before they went mockney, Towns are at a crossroads and I can definitely see bigger things coming their way.

Second up are Scarlet Rascal and the Train Wreck, another local band who bring a bit of swagger to the stage. Frontman Luke Brooks is cocksure with a touch of Jagger/Morrison/Prince to his stage presence. The band are tight and the rhythm section just plain brilliant. Brooks’ stage presence, when it works, is also brilliant, but sometimes it feels too contrived. Their highlight is the fantastic “The Haunting”, which was remixed by Geoff Barrow - it's a great song, with a dub bassline that builds tension perfectly.

Finally we get to see Wooden Shjips, the psych warriors from San Francisco. Essentially they’re a bunch of road worn hippies who instinctively know how to create a groove of drone based riffs that will get the heads watching nodding along. You won’t get fireworks and swagger like the previous two bands but you do get a band who are in synch, a tight band who need no set list or communications other than just looks of reassurance to see when to take songs to the next level.

Looking like ghosts of Western towns telling tales of memories lost; Ripley Johnson’s echo drenched lead lines; souring up and lifting you to another plain; the metronomic repetitive beats hammered out on the sparse drum kit; grooving bass riffs and synth riddled with psych drone washes they are like peyote induced blend of Spacemen 3 and Neil Young. Their performance reaffirms their standing as leaders in the resurgent garage/psych, and while great on record they're just amazing live.

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