A lot of artists find it impossible, once acquired, to let go of the big time. Just take a look at the increasingly skeletal Mick Jagger as an example of someone who, despite still being able to put on a show, seems incapable of just stepping back. Bernard Butler had no such problem. The former Suede man has set himself on a path of near obscurity in his new endeavour with former Yummy Fur member Jackie McKeown, as well as Paul Borchers and Igor Volk on bass and drums, playing not for crowds and crowds of people but rather inspiring with their jagged psychedelic a devoted few. Trans aren’t the band that is going to aspire to make the next ‘Live At Wembley’ DVD, but more importantly, they expressed tonight an honest love of making fresh, exciting music.
There are few things which shout post-rock more than a three-piece band of which the guitarist is also armed with a device to loop his various parts as well as a keyboard. And so we were introduced to Plank, who I had bumped into briefly before the gig as we waited for people to be allowed downstairs. The Mancunian trio set about their work in an experimental flurry of Mogwai-esque synths, jagged guitars, a punchy bass line and drums which drove an awkward math-rock beat one minute, Swing the next. These guys know how to create a sense of atmosphere, playing with a sense of honest emotional clarity, but never anything less than totally professional. Those gathered were all nodding or swinging in some respect, whether it be their hips in an attempt to move to the music, or their heads in approval.
The awkward dance attempts at Plank were safely transformed into confident, self-aware jigs as Trans thrust tracks off of their two EP’s, Green and Red, into the audience’s welcoming open arms. Feeling like an in-house jam session, Butler and McKeown fed off of each other like a couple of electricity pylons, the energy flowing between them back and forth in an exciting show of pure musical pleasure. Butler seemed to lose his pace somewhat when a crowd member sarcastically asked ‘why should we stay?’ in retaliation to a story by the band of them clearing a crowd at the Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia last year. It was only temporary however; thirty seconds later, and Trans were back to full steam. Butler and McKeown gave the energy of a couple of teenagers, the maturity of an old professor, and the notion of Trans being a band to make an effort to see live.
With jangly brilliance to be found on tracks such as ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Lights’ up their sleeves, tonight was an evening characterised by free-flowing musical joy from two bands which wear such an approach on their sleeves. It was a subtle reminder that it is indeed the substance, and not the impression, which really counts.