Review by Jonny Paylor
Harrogate’s live music scene receive an overdue injection of excitement and energy in the form of Leeds DIY scene’s Cowtown at Major Tom’s Social.
The gig re-launched the iconic Harrogate indie not-for-profit music night ‘Charm’, back for the first time in seven years, with founders Graham Chalmers, James Littlewood and the original team of Charm collaborators all coming together to make what was a very special night for the town and easily one of the best live music nights I’ve been to in Harrogate.
As a regular gig goer at the legendary Brudenell Social Club in Leeds I was already familiar with the high energy punky-pop sounds of Cowtown, but it was a welcome surprise to see the announcement of such a band playing a little closer to home in Harrogate.
This was the sort of live music event I think the town has really needed and I’d hoped would happen for some years.
‘Dynamic over-stimulated indie rock’, ‘variant mutant pop’, ‘noisy party fun’, ‘oddball post-punk’ - these are all words that have been used to describe the band over the eight+ years they’ve been playing and recording together, yet it’s only when you hear the unique combination of quirky rock and pop that this thtee-piece produce live that you really begin to understand what is really meant by these descriptions.
Keyboardist Hilary Knott’s playful pop tunes played out on a retro Korg microkorg synthesizer were reminiscent of the groundbreaking digital sounds of an early 80s Devo.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Jon Nash (also known as the drummer from fellow Leeds band Hookworms) played fun and irregular rhythms, drawing inspiration from bands like Thee Oh Sees by combining legendary ‘space echo’ style reverb (particularly in the band’s latest single Castle Greyscale one of my favourite tracks which they performed at this gig). Drummer Dave Shields thrashed out prominently with an incredibly catchy beat that kept everything together perfectly
Combined, the group were fast-paced and full of energy, producing a sound that you just couldn’t resist dancing to.
Supporting Cowtown was Harrogate’s very own Dan Webster of The Birdman Rallies, enticing the audience with a charming and pleasant acoustic solo set that kept us delightfully dazed throughout as we listened to tracks from his band’s latest album ‘Real River’.
Projected onto the band, walls and ceiling were the interesting and trippy visuals of VJ Quadrod, which were fittingly mixed to the music live and added to the atmosphere of the already quirky bar that is Major Toms with its excellent retro decor.
As always, there was a great selection of craft ales and pizza on offer at the bar, making this the perfect venue for such an event and one which the town is very lucky to have.
In between the acts played a Charm collaborative playlist which, much to my surprise, included a fantastic mix of alternative music including the likes of The Fall, Captain Beefheart, Hookworms, Neu!, St Vincent, Palma Violets and many others that you simply would not hear anywhere else in Harrogate and would expect to see in the newly released vinyl charts or hear played on radio stations like BBC 6 Music.
Promoters ‘Charm’ certainly lived up to their name with this excellent gig, one which pulled in a great crowd of like-minded alternative music appreciators of all ages on what would otherwise have been a boring Thursday night for Harrogate, showing a healthy appetite for similar future events. I can’t wait to see what Charm might bring us next!