The Golden Lion in Todmorden may not sound like the most rock and roll venue in the world, but up in the hills, the pub's landlord and Lou of Dark Matter Promotions are cultivating a gig scene that's packing their upstairs room, bringing bands in from far and wide as well as giving local talent a hometown show that their mates can go to without having to travel to Manchester or Leeds and leave for the last train.
First up are one such local band The Goa Express. We've seen them three or four times now, but something tonight clicks for us. Perhaps it's the fervent local support (that hang around for the other two acts too, something other bands' fans could do well to learn from) or the two new songs that they introduce towards the end that hint at broadening horizons. They have what feels like an innate knack of creating songs that are rich in influences, but which also possess a wealth of their own personalities running through the middle of them. They're no copyists though, the groove and rhythm that their songs swim in are powered by a tide of their own making. Their forthcoming single Kiss Me coupled with GOA set the bar higher than their previous single Reincarnation Of The Lizard Queen as well, the two songs dismissing any sort of easy categorisation into the loose psyche scene they've been shoehorned into. They're a band that you could easily see emerging and blossoming from their cocoon into something spectacular.
The Valkarys are another band with the loosest connections to any sort of scene given they've been plying their trade for over a decade now. Their intriguing set veers from everything from hopefully romantic tunes that wouldn't feel out of place around Belle And Sebastian to darker, slightly unnerving moments. There's two tracks from their most recent release - the title track Since I Was Fifteen and a wonderful Grandma. The magic in what they do is in the way Scott and Sarah share vocals and it's in those moments that they're at their very best. They don't try and overpower you despite them playing tonight as a six-piece where you'd forgive them for throwing everything at their sound in this intimate setting. They finish with a glorious Can't Win For Losing that has the appreciative crowd bellowing for more.
Control Of The Going now feel like they belong headlining gigs. In the past twelve months they've developed before our eyes into a band that's confident in their own skin, slowly building a set of songs, some of which will form the basis of their forthcoming debut album, that we've seen grow like a parent watching their child move from first tentative steps to assured carefree serenity. Their opener Family is a call to wrap arms around to those close to them both personally and musically.
That's the theme that runs through their forty-minute set; the older songs have developed, outgrown their baby clothes and lost their milk teeth and become widescreen in their ambition and celebratory in their own outsider way whilst the new ones are strident and so sure of themselves that they render Control almost unrecognisable from just eighteen months ago. Liam's half-sung half-drawl vocals now feel so expressive and give them a unique twist, particularly on songs like War Crime and Wild Flower and the majestic recent single and introduction to the album She that they finish their set with. It isn't just about the front man though, the rest of the band provide an ever increasingly evocative soundscape that at times simply doesn't need words to make its impression. With new songs still embargoed from being played live as we're told after, this feels like a staging post on a journey that will be an exciting ride.
The Goa Express are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Valkarys are on Facebook and Twitter
Control Of The Going are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.
Dark Matter Promotions are on Facebook and Twitter.
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