The Brixton JAMM is an oddity as a venue. Set on a scruffy part of the Brixton Road, this former large pub, like a nearby estate of once grand and expensive houses which one has to walk through from the Stockwell tube station to get there, hints at former glories. It has, however, fallen on hard times. Its upstairs has been boarded up and downstairs only one stuffy room has been kept open. In between sets, the audience pours out onto the concrete waste ground of its former beer garden, as a down-and-out, his body gnarled by what looks like a stroke, drifts amongst the members of the crowd begging for spare change for beer.

“Five pounds for five bands,” says a cheery Amelia Fletcher at the beginning of her band Tender Trap’s set. “That’s not bad, is it?” It is true. The down-at-heel ambience of the venue also sort of suits the underground and small cult status of a lot of the indie pop bands on the bill.

This Thursday evening gig, which has been organised by the How Does It Feel to Be Loved? club night and label, is a precursor for the three day Indietracks Festival which will be taking place in Derbyshire that weekend. All five of the bands on the bill have played there in the past or will be playing there over the next few days. It is also a benefit to help pay for the air fares and expenses of the second act of the bill, Antarctica Takes It!, who are from Oakland in California.

Before them, however, there are the Pocketbooks. The five-piece local act is centred around the boy-girl harmonies of Emma Hall and keyboardist Andy Hudson. Hall spends much of the early part of the set singing the lyrics from a pocket book. While the first half of their half hour slot focuses on new songs from a forthcoming second album, its latter part includes songs from their debut album, ‘Flight Paths’ of last year and also their 2007 first single, ‘Cross That Path’. Much of the Pocketbooks’ dreamy, slightly melancholic music and tales of love having gone sour hark back to the lost late 80’s/early 90’s era of Sarah Records. While their music is as a result not particularly remarkable or original, they make for a decent and solid half-an-hour of music.

Antarctica Takes It! make up for in exuberance what the Pocketbooks perhaps lack. The group, which is led by guitarist and vocalist Dylan McKeever and who have just released their second album ‘Constellations’ on How Does It Feel, are certainly lively. Keyboardist Tyler Martin, his shaggy locks bouncing around in the air, leaps about like an excitable puppy, not really hitting much in the way of notes. Perpetually grinning second vocalist Maria Schoettler tells a long-winded story about being stalked and admits that the rest of the band has tried to ban her from on-stage banter. They are over upbeat and too twee for this reviewer, but go down well with a large section of the audience who flock around the merchandise stall for copies of ‘Constellations’ as soon as their set is over.

Betty and the Werewolves, who have just released an album, ‘Tea Time Favourites’, on Damaged Goods, are much grittier. The London/Cambridge-based group, which consists of three girls, Laura McMahon (vocals/bass), Emily Bennett (guitar voice), and Helen Short (guitar/keyboards) and one boy, Doug McMahon (drums), swap 60’s girl group harmonies with discordant Sonic Youth guitars. Helen much to the amusement of McMahon breaks two strings on her guitar within ten minutes and has to borrow one of Antarctica Takes It!’s guitars to finish their sugar-voiced, but abrasive-sounding set.

Brighton noise pop quintet Shrag are less chaotic than Betty and the Werewolves, but similarly fiery. The most diverse of the five acts on show tonight, their music runs a tight gauntlet of sound from stuttering electro-pop to Fall-type post-punk. The group, which consists of Helen King (vocals, keyboards), Stephanie Goodman (keyboards, vocals), Leigh Anne Walter (drums, vocals) and Bob Brown (bass, vocals), like the Pocketbooks, have a second album out shortly and are an exuberant force on stage. King’s slightly smutty lyrics tell with sparkling, spiky wit and intelligence particularly on set highlight, ‘Talk to the Left’, of sexual encounters and romantic liaisons having gone wrong.

Lastly twenty minutes later than billed there is Tender Trap. The group have recently expanded to a five-piece with the induction of Elizabeth Morris (guitar, vocals) from rising indie pop group ‘Allo Darling and Katrina Dixon (drums) into the original line-up of Amelia Fletcher (vocals), Rob Pursey (guitar) and John Stanley (bass). Their music, like that of Betty and the Werewolves who Tender Trap have openly championed, has the same ramshackle, buzzsaw guitar sound of Fletcher’s previous 80’soutfitss, Tallulah Gosh and Heavenly. On songs, like ‘Girls With Guns’ from their third and latest album, ‘Dansette Dansette’, they share a similar sharp feminism to Shrag. Morris and the exuberant Fletcher trade snappy vocal harmonies throughout. Dixon, dressed in a long flowing robe, pounds her drums stand-up and showman Pursey finishes the set with his guitar wrapped around the back of his head. It is a strong end to what has in the main been a good night.

Tonight’s show proves, for those unlucky enough not to have been able to make Indietracks this year, that the often under-rated indiepop genre is continuing to expand.















Related Links:


http://tendertrapband.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Fletcher
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tender_Trap


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