The Blinders headlined the opening Saturday in Jimmy's new Liverpool site in the sauna like conditions of the basement venue supported by an impressive list of bands who'd made the journey up the East Lancs in Saytr Play, Déjà Vega, Ryan Jarvis, Dantevilles and Scuttlers.
It's our first visit to Jimmy's in Liverpool, the bigger brother of one of Manchester's favourite gig venues and bars. Having undergone an extensive makeover at the top of Bold St, the constraints of bar space, the shape of the music room and the lack of enough toilets that make the Manchester branch so intimate are resolved here without losing the uniqueness of the place's ethos and there's an impressive attention to detail with aspects of the city merging with the Jimmy's logo. They've clearly invested heavily in the sound and lighting in the basement venue and Déjà Vega test the former right to its limits, whilst, the odd penchant for plunging the room into total darkness for a few seconds apart, the lights really add to the effect of the music on a crowd that gets busier. There's one major problem though which reveals itself as the evening progresses.
Scuttlers are the first band we catch, our first time seeing them and their eight-song set is an impressive one. With two songs - No One Knows The Way and Bringing Me Down - from their debut EP and this year's two singles Lies In The Sky and There's Nothing New - making up half the set, they manage to both maintain a raw edge to the songs whilst still displaying an ear for hooks and melodies that has seen them sell out venues of this size back in Manchester.
With Liam and Kaiden interchanging lead vocals throughout the set, something that will help them out going forward stand them out from the crowd, unreleased songs like One Man Boat and Brain Of Mine show that they've still got plenty of material to back up their confident swagger. A cover of Lipps Inc's Funky Town might be a curveball on paper, but works perfectly alongside their own songs. They get a rapturous response from those braving the early evening heat.
Next up is Ryan Jarvis and this is the first time we've seen him with this band line-up. Gone is the nervous young man of his solo shows and in his place we see a confident front man, living out these songs without the pressure of having to create the soundtrack to them. Songs like Shy Away and Shine For Me might now be a few years old, but they've matured and grown with him as evidenced on last year's re-recordings, whilst Rosie, the title track from that EP, comes with a chorus that's begging to be sung back at full volume.
He introduces his next single Heavy Heart and it feels like a step up again with Josh, Drew and Duncan fleshing out the song and creating a huge confident aura around Ryan that he seems to relish. Finishing with another old favourite Think About It and beaming from cheek to cheek, it feels like Ryan is about to deliver on the promise and talent that was very evident back at his precocious early gigs around 2013. It's been a long time coming, but sometimes the best things are worth waiting for.
Dantevilles are another band who’ve been on a long journey to find themselves. On the third anniversary of them playing at Blossoms’ debut album launch and with a revised line-up it feels like they’re starting over again. Perfect Place and The Fighter remain in the setlist but have a much harder edge to them that characterises where they are right now. They still lock into grooves, intuitive with the feeling as if they’re jamming at points such is the fluidity of newer songs Save Me A Dance and Soundscape.
They suffer technical problems as Conor’s bass packs in and he ends up amongst us searching for someone with a replacement whilst the others jam. It doesn’t put them off their stride when he returns as they conclude with a storming Bloomin’ Flowers as the four of them lose themselves on stage in a rousing finale.
Déjà Vega draw the biggest crowd of the day so far, no surprise given their burgeoning reputation as one of the most blistering and exhilarating bands around and they set about testing Jimmy’s expensive new sound system to its very limits. Whilst their debut album recorded nearly two years ago sits gathering dust on a shelf they’ve moved on. After a scintillating Mr Powder, Jack looking like a man possessed whilst Mike and Tom make it all look so effortless, No Shalom and Where We Are showcase a band prowling the outer limits of their sound with a violent ferocious snarl that threatens to obliterate anything in their path.
Chasing and Eyes Of Steel might be old favourites but they are only recognisable from their recorded versions by forensic evidence that’s threatening to be destroyed by the already searing heat and the moshpit that’s developed. They finish with The Test, a journey that lays any remaining stragglers to waste, a ten minute onslaught that has enough ideas for a lesser band’s career with Jack twiddling pedals to wreak havoc, them stopping dead, bidding us farewell and then hurling one final wrecking ball of guitars, bass and drums at us.
It’s a tough act for Saytr Play to follow, but Fred’s showmanship has the front row of the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Almost glam rock in parts their songs are made for audience participation and even though many here might be unfamiliar with the likes of VCR and Honest Man they get the crowd going. Whilst Fred’s antics, including Jimmy’s first crowd surf, might grab the attention, it’d be remiss not to mention how the band create the tapestry for him to perform, the big uplifting entrances to the choruses in particular.
They cut two of the eight songs from the set, citing technical issues, but there’s still time for their debut single Mother’s Milk which creates a bounding moshpit for those whose energy hasn’t been totally sapped by the heat, recent single Bang Average and its follow-up Second Hand Emotion which seems set to accelerate their upward trajectory. You know what you’re getting with Saytr Play and the momentum behind them seems to be becoming unstoppable.
As the basement fills up for the headliners, an intro tape booms out painting an apocalyptic picture of the hell the world is turning into and by now the basement is now hotter than the gates of Hades with little respite. The Blinders enter the arena and launch into Gotta Get Through and the crowd explodes into life like we’re going into a battle for our very existence. L’État C’est Moi is a rousing call to arms, to challenge those that seek to push us down. Thomas and Charlie perch precariously over the front rows on the monitors, joining us in union as we melt together with the mantra “I’ve got divine right” ringing in our ears.
With Columbia’s promotional phase drawing to a close, Forty Days And Forty Nights gives us an enticing glimpse at phase two of The Blinders. We’re just two songs in but Thomas’s face paint has gone, perhaps a portent for the band’s next steps. Forty Days has an urgency to it, lyrics spat out like a machine gun stream of consciousness before the guitars and drums crash in. Hate Song rumbles its way in and keeps the brave souls down the front who haven’t succumbed and left for the sides or upstairs for air moving. Free The Slave, ICB Blues and Where No Man Comes turn the heat up even more and you can see it starting to visibly take its toll on the band although there’s no question of them stopping as their crew start water runs for both them and the front rows.
Another new song The Writer feels like a pause for breath, not that there’s much air left in the room. We wipe our forehead with our arm and wonder at the futility of it given everyone has sweat pouring out of every pore. Down the front the crowd go down and pick themselves up, the self-policing quite admirable given the raucous nature of their shows and the lack of barriers and security down there.
Rat In A Cage follows and you start to sense the heat is starting to really have an impact, both on the crowd who seem to have shrunk in number as some more have escaped and on the band. Charlie pours water on himself before handing the rest to the crowd, Thomas is towelled down by a crew member and you’d have forgiven them for stopping there and then. But this is rock and roll and they plough on, somehow managing to retain the intensity in a third new song called Rage, a militant fireball of Brave New World and a scintillating Ramona Flowers.
We consider leaving at this point as it feels like even our eyeballs are sweating, but the band have one last surge before they go. Et Tu and Brutus feel like the last throes of the Roman Empire, the crew dispensing water while security fiddles as we burn, the band expunging the last remnants of energy they have left, defying the conditions to give us their all. It’s almost a relief though as they finish as they look totally spent as they depart, having left everything on stage and reportedly needing medical assistance afterwards.
It's a real shame that the heat issue has such an overwhelming impact on the evening, because as we stated earlier Jimmy's Liverpool is otherwise a seriously impressive set-up. With the brothers' reputation for addressing issues with the Manchester venue swiftly and appropriately when it first launched - and they've issued a statement here promising immediate remedial actions - we've no doubt it's just teething troubles. Once that's dealt with, and if they deliver on their explicit promises to support local artists and embrace diversity in their line-ups, it has all the signs of becoming as iconic as its little brother and a much-needed boost to the Liverpool live music scene.
The Blinders play Blackburn Night At The Museum (acoustic - August 8), Beautiful Days Festival (18), Bingley Weekender (31), Blackburn Confessional Festival (September 6), London Gunnersbury (7), Amsterdam Paradiso Indiestad (19), Portsmouth Dials Festival (October 5), Manchester Neighbourhood Festival (12), Cardiff Shimmer Sounds Festival (November 16) and Birmingham Shimmer Sounds Festival (17).
Their Live At The Ritz album is available to pre-order.
The Blinders' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Our recent interview with them can be found here.
Saytr Play are on Facebook and Twitter.
Déjà Vega are on Facebook and Twitter. They headline Manchester Gullivers on October 4.
Ryan Jarvis is on Facebook and Twitter.
Dantevilles are on Facebook and Twitter.
Scuttlers are on Facebook and Twitter.