It’s not unusual for fantastic bands to end up in York, playing to an almost empty venue. With the mass of students in the city it seems mainstream house nights and cringe-inducing pop playlists are the only music that flourish, while venues like The Duchess and Fibbers put on fantastic shows with the likes of Scroobius Pip, Miles Kane and Jake Bugg, that no-one turns up to. The problem is there’s no music that characterises our quaint city, there’s no famous York bands touring at the moment; it’s just a stagnant pond of local cover bands and student DJ’s. Hailing from Blackpool, three-piece grunge-meets-pop-punk band Darlia graced The Duchess on Tuesday night, and followed suit by barely attracting an audience. Granted these guys are pretty new on the scene, but having received some serious recognition from NME, The Guardian and Radio 1, I would have hoped to have seen more of a crowd.
The night opened with local rock band Lost Trains. With some ambient guitar riffs and interesting tempo changes, their compelling song-writing made for more than just a standard rock show. On came Bull, looking like they’d just stepped out of a 90’s teen surf flick, these boys flopped their hair around and provided the audience with some lovely guitar-filled sing-a-long chorus’, reminiscent of Ash. The Wilde jumped on stage with a quick change of pace, playing some relatively standard alternative emo-rock. At least we got the chance to see one guy in the audience trying to start a mosh pit on his own.
Then Darlia. It didn’t matter that they had at least two less members than the support bands, these guys belong in front of a crowd and ooze stage presence. Modest frontman Nath Day ended the first ear-wrecking song with a quiet ‘thank you’ and happily went on tuning his guitar while bassist Dave Williams introduced themselves. Their next song, Candyman, opened with a brisk guitar stroke, then Jack Bentham on drums smashed his way in and brought the crowd straight into a grungy headbanger. Nath moved around the stage with composure, casually played a sweet middle-eight then erupted back into another strong chorus line. The song ended and he quietly sipped water while Dave told the audience how much he liked York. “It’s not normally this bad!” replied someone from the audience. I’m beginning to worry it is. At this point there are probably fifteen people in the crowd, one of which is the drunk and determined mosher from earlier.
Next song, ‘Alive in Wonderland’, sees Nath and Dave playing off each other beautifully; keeping the underlying mood dark, while adding accented guitar licks in a higher register. The chorus is reminiscent of the drawn out vocal lines that Oasis are known for, reinforcing the brit-pop influence. After the song, Nath slips back down to fiddle with his amp and re-tune, starting the intro to the next song still on his knees. When the chorus comes, although the crowd is a disappointing size, everyone is excited and involved. Mosher has fallen over again.
The song ends and Dave explains that although the band are ill, they had decided to “grow a pair and do York” anyway.
The characteristic guitar line of ‘Napalm’ rings out and they play well, despite the illness. By the time the song ends our Mosher friend has made such a fool of himself that Nath decides it’s a good idea to invite him on stage for their final song. The Kurt Cobain-esque guitar riff from ‘Queen Of Hearts’ erupts. Struggling with illness, and possibly regretting inviting this kid on stage, they still played hard until the end. It’s fantastic how much variation they can achieve with dynamics, considering there’s only three on stage, Darlia are perfectly capable of getting you dancing in the verse and then slapping you hard in the face with the chorus. The night ended, perhaps a little prematurely, but you can’t blame them for being ill and for no one turning up.