“I think that I’m going to get quite drunk through this gig,” declared vocalist and guitarist, Phil Etheridge, thankfully still somewhat lucid at this point. Beginning as Neon Twang in 2001, the band lacked recognition until 2007, when The Twang released debut single, ‘Wide Awake’ into an industry saturated by regional indie rock. Dance and rap influences set them apart until media interest dwindled and negative publicity saw them fall as quickly as they had risen. However, after a couple of successful records and a sound that they are constantly refining, the band is back for a series of intimate performances in anticipation of upcoming fourth album, NEONTWANG.
Initially mistaking Towns for tech guys as they fiddled with mic stands, I was understandably taken aback when vocalist James MacLucas pulled out a maraca and began without introduction. I felt for the Bristol four-piece: it can’t be easy performing to an audience the size of a primary school class. Their competent but fairly generic indie rock with moments of heavier, atmospheric guitar, wasn’t enough to persuade this small audience, although new single, ‘Young at Heart’ managed to get one or two people breaking into a slight side-step or tentative hand-in-air. After no interaction with his audience, MacLucas delivered the words, “Be kind to one another,” like a sort of pubescent Gandhi before their final song.
The space filled dramatically post-Towns, and The Twang began with relaxed professionalism. Neither vocalist (Phil Etheridge or Martin Saunders) was attached to a guitar, allowing them the freedom to interact with their appreciative crowd. Saunders’ softer harmonies were complimented by melodic guitar work, and contrasted with Etheridge’s punchy, staccato rap influences. Starting off with ‘Step away’ and ‘Sucker for the Sun’ from forthcoming album, expected 10th March, the Birmingham five-piece showed what we could expect from NEONTWANG, by doing what they do best and dripping in influences from The Streets to The Stone Roses and The Cribs, as well as revisiting their dance roots.
‘Barney Rubble’ was a favorite with the exuberant crowd and the soft resonance of new band member, Tom Greaves’ acoustic guitar, complimented Sanders’ delicate backing vocals. ‘Paradise’s punchy drum beat was aided by Ash Sheehan’s selection of percussive instruments adding colour and cutting through the bass sound. Despite Etheridge “regretting that large bowl of chili con carne” prior to the performance, ‘Either Way’, highlighted Etheridge’s regional accent and ‘Two Lovers’ showcased his storytelling talent. The band attacked ‘Wide Awake’ with refreshed vigour thanks to the news that, “Man U have lost 2-0!” from a particularly vocal audience member. After a ‘cigarette break’ they returned for an encore of ‘The Wobble’, a pre-release from the forthcoming album, embracing ‘90s dance sounds. It’s fair to say that what The Twang continue to do, cannot possibly be described as groundbreaking or profound, but it’s the kind of thing you can’t help but enjoy, and there’s nothing wrong with that!By Katie Barclay