“We’re just popping out for five minutes.” The words of Frankie and The Heartstrings drummer Dave Harper as he grabbed the microphone mid-gig to explain the future of his band’s hugely successful investment. It’s true that, in it’s current form, Pop Recs is dead, however Harpers’ humorous and defiant speech made it clear that it’s not the end.
After many high profile gigs, poetry nights and parent and toddler groups, 50 Fawcett Street closed its doors for the final time. Originally seen as a short term project by Sunderland’s foremost indie rockers, the Record shop come venue was only meant to be around for a two-week trial stint. Instead it quickly became an established part of the community, bringing people together and making a remarkable contribution to Sunderland’s thriving music scene for two years.
This farewell gig was clearly no place for mourning. With a solid lineup of local talent it appeared more as a celebration of Pop Recs many successes.
After a strong opening set from Drifts, Mansions of Glory stepped up and fired out their distortion- heavy riffs. With no reverb in sight, the trio bashed through a set of no-shit, anti-hipster rock tunes. The funny and ever so slightly awkward exchanges between bassist and frontman, gave their performance some charm, but the tracks grew a little tiresome, blasted out at ear bleeding volume.
Newcastle-based Shades have built a hefty reputation for themselves and they tend to live up to it live. Utilising singer, Ziggy Paul’s sharp spoken-word delivery as the spearhead of their tight post-hardcore noise, the five-piece pose an immediate threat to anything twee and indie. They felt a little less intimidating and full-on on this occasion, possibly due to the bittersweet mood of the night. Even so, they still managed to pull-off some pleasing instrumental guitar exchanges and euphoric outros that affirmed their multiple talents.
Over its two year existence, Pop Recs has attracted some big names. The likes of James Bay, The Vaccines, Dutch Uncles and The Charlatans have graced the small, corner stage. Pulled Apart By Horses certainly understood the value and sentiment of the occasion, lending a pre-song tribute to the venue and its achievements. The Leeds heavies held the audience’s attention with tracks from their latest album Blood, as well as material from their first two albums.
Opening with ‘Hot Squash’; a track that could have easily made it onto QOTSA’s Songs for the Deaf, the band laid the foundations for a brash, full-throttle set of high octane rock. Their sound is now defined by crunchy, old school, rock riffage that seems to stray away from previous material’s more messy sensibilities. This more refined sound came off well live, as the band immediately forced the audience from bystanders to participants, frontman Tom Hudson placing his mic in the middle of the crowd and bouncing off people. The evening came to a head when Hudson stormed off before the band’s old favourite and finale ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’, returning with a hard hat, ready for some destruction. Nothing was off limits, as the guitarist ended by smashing his guitar into the ceiling. By the end, it felt like Pop Recs had had a massive clearout, people clutching parts of the venue, CDs, Tapes and Vinyl on sale throughout the gig. It was an emotional and memorable send-off – bring on the re-birth.
Reviewer: Nad Khan
Photographer: Graeme Baty