The Shipping Forecast looks rather sparse as support band Sisters play an energetic set on a Thursday night. There’s J Mascis-style shredding, boy-girl vocal interplay and not many people in the crowd. But the three-piece are, for want of a better cliché, one for the future. A post-gig listen to new single Hush Hush reveals their ear for melody and as I’ve said: J Mascis, energy, all bodes well.
By the time Big Deal take to the stage the venue is filling out, a bit. A lot’s changed since I last saw the band play a headline show way back in 2011: they have two new live members, percussion and a new album, June Gloom, featuring this full band aesthetic. What’s impressive about Big Deal’s performance is the shift from their distinctive first album sound and live performance (two guitars, awkward shared glances, general feeling they’ve written the songs about each other) to a full live setup hasn’t left them feeling unoriginal and generic among the sea of ‘nineties-revival’ bands. The way full-time members Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood play off one another, both vocally and with their respective six strings, goes part way to explaining this. The potential of boy/girl vocals are really realised and their guitar playing complements each other just as well on two electrics as it did on the debut’s electric/acoustic mix.
When I first heard Teradactol off the new record I was genuinely surprised that they’d written something borderline-heavy, after seeing them play as a two-piece it seemed a million miles away from the fragile, almost twee, aesthetic of debut album songs like Homework and Cool Like Kurt. Yet the band sounded strong and full throughout; I’m not much of an audiophile, but serious kudos to whoever does Big Deal’s sound and Alice and Kacey’s for their choice in guitar pedals. Songs from the sophomore effort June Gloom were energetic and filled The Shipping Forecast’s basement where attendance did not. What was perhaps even more pleasing was seeing first album songs reworked with a rhythm section, the highlight of the set for me came with closer Talk, sped up and transformed from a downbeat, slow-burner from the debut album to a lively, grungey track, teasing out the pop song from the original’s melody.
Talk brings the shortish (as acknowledged by one heckler) set to a close and a murmur of approval follows the enthusiastic applause and calls for an encore that never comes. Yes, Big Deal probably deserve a bigger crowd. And yes, that sentence probably deserves a godawful joke about a band called Big Deal playing to a smaller crowd than what they deserve. And yes, I probably deserve a pat on the back for writing a review of a gig featuring three female musicians and not mentioning how any of them look, probably not (seriously people, stop doing that). But for now we can just appreciate Big Deal as a great live band, regardless of who’s around to appreciate it, I’ve probably exaggerated the attendance anyway.