We hold our head in our hands when ‘Gay Bar’ by Electric Six booms through the beer stained speakers.
SevenStreets has somehow wound up at K3 of The Krazy House, and we’re watching loads of crazy students finding the song ‘ironic’, slapping bums and pretending to snog and act out other lager-loosened inhibitions.
We’re the only ones not dancing though. Instead we’re trying to loudly regale a story to the tired barmaid who obviously doesn’t want to be there. We’re friends with a local band who recently supported Electric Six, we tell her. We think she spits in our drinks. But we continue…
Matchstickmen are a rag-tag bunch. The five-piece, like many bands before them, have taken a while to settle on their line up since the band’s inception in 2005. But now there’s a definite forward propulsion to their manoeuvres. Their latest single, Throwing Stones, is available to buy on iTunes, and they drink in much better places than The Krazy House.
Fronted by one of the city’s fuller-throttle vocalists, Lewis Wright, Matchstickmen purvey a bluesy rock’n’roll stew reminiscent of Train and Counting Crows. It’s a no-nonsense set spiked with guitars, harmonica and a pounding rhythm section.
All the more reason why a support slot with flamboyant nu rock noodlers, Electric Six mightn’t seem the most astute of arranged marriages.
“We had our first ‘peek-behind-the-curtain’ moment when we were waiting to go on before Electric Six, and realised that there were a shit load of people waiting at the front,” recalls guitarist Peter Donnelly, “It was scary, but it definitely gets the adrenalin pumping.”
Donnelly’s witnessed two different visions of stardom when warming up for headliners recently: “Electric Six were cool to support because they brought in a huge crowd and they had some incredibly eccentric mannerisms, as you’d expect from them.”
It was a world of difference from when they supported eighties rockers, Skin.
“Those guys were so laid back,” Donnelly says. “They were just sitting off on the stairs of the O2 Academy and kept saying ‘Hi’ to us. They even asked if our singer wanted to get on stage with them and sing a duet!”
But, if pushed, Donnelly admits that it was the ‘High Voltage’ Detroit collective who provided the most memorable highlights of their support-slot CV.
“The Electric Six fans were cool. I remember a few people at the front wearing luminous face paint. They loved it when we covered Madonna’s Material Girl, naturally.”
It’s a common occurrence – touring bands shacking up with local talent for a quick one night stand. But, SevenStreets wonders, how do they feel in the morning?
“It’s a great experience for an unsigned band to get a taste of what might be down the road for them,” Donnelly admits.
What’s that, we wonder? Backstage PR goons and knicker-flinging groupies?
“Surprisingly there was no one but the roadie crew at the Electric Six gig,” he says.
“When we supported Skin there was this funny guy who kept riding around the O2 Academy on a bike during their sound check. Great way to pass the time I suppose…”
For Matchstickmen, and a host of gigging local bands, the coveted support slot is a surefire way to get noticed, air your songs in front of a decent-sized crowd, and hone those all-important stage craft skills. But it comes at a price: let’s face it, isn’t the support act just a soundtrack to fill the time you’re queuing at the bar in the O2?
For some, probably. But when Wright bellows out Matchstickmen’s particular brand of stadium-friendly rock, the crowd are left with no choice – this is a band that demands attention. And when those plastic bottles of piss start showering iridescent arcs during a support act’s slot, you get the distinct feeling – this is a band that knows where it’s going. For an O2 audience it’s the ultimate mark of respect – they don’t waste their bodily fluids on just anybody. Matchstickmen have earned it every time they’ve played. They’ve probably still got the stains.
“Some people think they’re above taking on support slots. We think they’re just scared. It’s a tough job, but it’s the best possible experience you can get. It’s easy to please your mates. Not so easy to win over a room full of strangers. So we’re continuing to find support slots for big bands. It’s the best way to find a new audience,” Donnelly says. “It always means we get a great gig with a massive crowd. In between all that we’re recording our debut album whilst promoting our single.”
If they were in social media, we guess they’d call it crowdsourcing. Until the day when local bands are supporting Matchstickmen, that is…
“Yeah, ultimately, that’s the point of doing these gigs. Although we’ll always be very happy to support Wolfmother, if they’re reading this…” says Peter.
By this time, Gay Bar has given way to the Baywatch theme. We put our fingers in our ears and head on over to Popworld instead. It’s a forward propulsion of sorts.