I’ve rarely – if ever – anticipated a gig that was so small in size with such enthusiasm. But the prospect of seeing NME darlings Moats on their first headline tour, in the back room of beloved Maguire’s Pizza Bar, was one that was palpably exciting. The gig on paper had so much to offer; Moats’ new Rough EP’s imminent release spelled a preview of new material; a host of support acts all fielding new tracks contributing to that resurgence of UK guitar music we keep hearing about; and of course, generously cheap pizza slices and beer deals. A night promising great volume in both quality and, well…noise.
And start loudly it did, in the form of locally infamous, The Sneaky Nixons. Having reviewed their new single, ‘Baby Do What You Got To’, earlier in the day, I was unsurprised to see the band continue with steadfast intensity, despite a few early issues with levels. Loudness appeared to be the resolve, and a snapped string was testament to their collective fervour, though perhaps not quite living up to their reputation for guitar-based conflagrations. New single ‘Baby Do….’ was the highlight of a set where usual setbacks were unusually accommodated as commonplace, owing to a band whose whole image is built on a callous disregard for seemingly everything – which is no bad thing.
More Merseyside talent came forward as Vynce were next to take to the stage. In the knowing hands of KYC Management, this was a great opportunity to see a band whose name is on the rise. Considerably cleaner in sound than The Nixons, they were quick to show off two new tracks from their debut EP, Waves. A combination of a few factors; a move upwards in octaves, with some jumpy guitar riffs and an altogether more frenetic sound usually found in pop-punk, saw the crowd increase in their interaction, as well as number.
By the time tour buddies Flesh emerged, people had finished their pizzas (or just carried them through) and the room had a nice buzz. Immediately addressing the one metre gap between band and audience, the fourth wall was broken and a troupe vintage in style and sound, crashed into their set. Never taking themselves too seriously, in-jokes between the band intersected most songs, and the speculative dancing from a bassist uncomfortable with standing in one spot was great entertainment in itself. No that you’d need it – the music output was at it’s highest peak of the night so far and the raw 90’s feel to everything they did seemed as authentic as anything that had preceded it. A great set from a collective to keep an eye on in the future.
The very fact Moats had to force their way onto the stage is testament as to how many people had crushed into Maguires’ back room. The band, who have in the past shared a Texas stage with the likes of St Vincent, enjoy a large and devoted local following, who were more than comfortable positioned within touching distance of the band. It must be said, the weird sweaty pizza-box surroundings suited Moats’ own obscure combination of hyperactivity and darkly reflective indie-rock, and the opening riffs to Smoke steadily laid foundations for later thrashing.
This promised intensity duly arrived in the form of most recent single Brace, where tortured guitars shout down a barrage of monstrous drums; a track that moulds ostensibly ugly aesthetics into something raw and unwaveringly powerful. Lead-singer Matt Duncan, in an act mirroring the callous disregard for self-preservation mused upon in his opening lines (“Don’t talk about myself too often”) deciding to venture into the crowd for the majority of the song.
But of course, tonight was as much about the new, as it was about Moats’ existing credentials. Brace came sandwiched between two new tracks, Bacteria and Movements. Both eye catching, in Moats’ characteristically bare and introverted kind of way. Bacteria in particular swaps the condensed, visceral rage of it’s neighbour for a melancholy, beautifully composed backdrop. The latter end of the set saw a return to the familiar, both in track names and in the severity with which drummer Nath abused his equipment. Hungry’s riotous evolution provoked loss of shirts, before leading into the band’s frequent send off, Flicker/Castaway.
Though Castaway – throbbing and writhing at the will of Pyrah’s guitar-scapes and Duncan’s age defyingly soulful voice – would usually satisfy even the most needy of audiences, this show was a homecoming, and there was one omission that the locals wanted to see addressed. Most of the band remained on stage, beckoning Duncan – the only one to have left – back with the introduction to crowd favourite, Toothache. In all fairness he didn’t stay for long, taking a moment to grab a mic, and then descending into the crowd for the duration of the track.
The encore itself encapsulated the set as a whole; in equal parts ridiculous and fun as it was a mightily intense coming of age. Moats’ willingness to squeeze the rawest of emotions into everything they do is endearing them to a quickly rising number of fans. The imminent release of their Rough EP places them at the forefront of Liverpool’s most exciting musical endeavours – and by the evidence of tonight, deservedly so.