Festival preview // @Chris_Nosnibor runs through his pick of the acts to catch at @liveatleedsfest http://t.co/YTDaTkTipF

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Deaf Club @ Rescue Rooms, Nottingham 14/1/2012

by ChristopherMoffatt
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on 16 January 2012 in Live
Rating 9/10

I've never really been one for rituals – or at least not conscious ones – as they're, for me, inextricably linked with the confessed put-on-left-sock-first mindlessness of Premier League footballers. One imagines though that a hefty proportion of gig-goers tend to have some sort of routine that serves them well and allows them the required repose before the frolic and frisson of live music. Purely accidentally, like some sort of knowing alchemist, I've stumbled upon a most magical equation; a routine ritual that ensures no matter how good or bad the band are, how heavy-handed the hurly doormen are or how persistently ennui's banging down the door of your cerebrum, that serenity prevails. For hiding from in-house hostility and waiting impatiently for the gig's commencement, I stuck on my favourite (despite being at this point, unseen) Woody Allen and from that moment – well, I never looked back. The combination of edifying editing, succinct smarts and devastating drollness put one in a splendid mood, and not one of those purposeless, perfunctory good moods but one with the façade of meaning. Of course, I was not asked to review a Woody Allen film tonight, but a Deaf Club gig, however, there's method to the drivel: the reason I tell you this is because if at any point I wax too lyrical, I want you to remember that my brain was not its despondent self and slap me with a wet fish.

Being new to Nottingham's Rescue Rooms in the gigging sense (I've been a few times prior in a standing at the bar and then, when I get drunk enough, dancing dreadfully capacity), I'd no cognisance of procedure. I, therefore, found myself in a one-strong queue at 9.45pm like an over-eager fanboy whose social standing would have plummeted if it hadn't hit its nadir long ago. Upon entering the intimate (yes, that is a euphemism for small) venue I buckled up, reminisced an hour ago, gripped my Jamaican beer and sat staring, waiting, watching, dying for nigh on an hour. Then at last, the support act smugly strode onstage and within seconds, their presumably paid following filled the room in a most irritating manner – think of Woody, think of Woody. Fears of being unduly generous in praise now duly discarded.

Barefooted, hooded and busking out melodies and sentiments that had been expressed by a thousand more people, in a thousand better ways, it was hard to remain anything other than uninterested during this local band's set. Yes, they're young (although not actually that young), callow and new and thus, I should cut them some slack – in fact, I probably would have done had they not proceeded to talk, jump and cackle over Deaf Club's set. Perhaps more disappointing though was their following's dispersal soon after the frontman struck his final, derivative chord: had they not heard Deaf Club? Knowing, as I do, that coarse criticism looks unjust and incongruous unless it insists that it's constructive, I'd like at this point to praise the rhythm section. Is that constructive? Never mind. In case you're familiar with my opinions - and so hold everything I mumble in disregard – and are desperate to hear this band, I find myself unable to recall their moniker. Sorry.

Inconspicuously walking through where the crowd should have been, Deaf Club – comprising Polly Mackey, Paul Bates, Jac Bates, Tom Ryan and Sian Rosier – took to the compact cage with little fanfare before immediately bursting into a scintillating set list.  Uniformly minimal in both dress and dramatics, it's clear the band have confidence in the gravitas and allure of their music and rely not on any superfluous nonsense. Singer Polly Mackey stands guitar in hand, occasionally feeling obliged to peer out beyond her dark fringe to check everyone's as enamoured as they should be. On each side of her, Bates and Roberts remain mostly still – deeply at odds with the moving nature of what they're producing. Beyond the foreground, and yet to be paid equal attention to, Ryan zealously provides robust rhythms without contemplating effort while Rosier maintains her keyboard as stolidly as Candida Doyle did Pulp's.

Anyone familiar with last year's 'Lull' EP will know that such self-confidence is not misplaced; it's an EP with a great sense of sadness, moody melodies, haunting riffs and dual-titled songs (separated by the Fleet Foxean '/'). Unsurprisingly for a band who are, thrillingly, still in their fresh-faced ascendency, Deaf Club showcased Lull in its entirety and, unperturbed by their own astuteness on record, seemingly redefined brilliance with the live outing of each ensuing song. The irrefutable highlight of both 'Lull' and their gig here tonight was 'Forest/Shore' ; introspective, masterfully played, foreshadowing impending doom and with an orgiastic, instrumental sub-climax, it's as affecting a song as you're going to hear anywhere, anytime. 'Postcard' too is worthy of such description, here played with a passion and vehemence that's at times unsettling. Coming at the end of the set it feels like a plea with what their wielding to allow this moment infinity and I too found myself arms akimbo, confronting entropy with anger as it dismissed my request and allowed the passing of time to remain. Preceding the performance's finishing, a group of girls happily congregated in front of the stage in what can only be described as a huddle-cum-dance aimed at and caused by what they were hearing: a suitable and warming way to end a most impressive show. The band then gave their thanks, said their goodbyes and crossed the room to flog t-shirts and CDs in an act ill-befitting their potential.

In conclusion I shan't go over previously made points like in a badly-written essay, but I shall make a concession. Having seen my two picks for 2012 (The Staves and Ren Harvieu) being regurgitated by broadsheet newspapers in the twilight days of last year, I'm rather eager to supersede them. While Deaf Club have a double A-side coming out in February, they're still, I feel, not quite ready for the success that deserves them. They're not quite inchoate, not quite fully-formed but somewhere in between and so I hereby declare them my pick (record release permitting) not of 2012, but 2013.

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