Pigeon Wigs’ denim-dungareed drummer has his priorities straight. There’s no way their set is starting – supporting The Bug Club last Thursday in Newport – until he’s returned from the bar armed with a foaming pint of between-song refreshment. And rightly so, as the Clwb Music signees proceed to freewheel rapidly through good-time 70s rock‘n’roll, rollicking rockabilly and bright-eyed power pop, ensuring that the sticksman earns his corn. The refusal to take themselves too seriously serves them well and before long there are smiles off stage as well as on.
Opportunities to play in Caldicot being somewhat limited, tonight’s show at Newport’s Le Pub is about as close as The Bug Club get to home turf. Since lockdown lifted, the trio have been away around the country honing their art and now they’re back – leaner and keener than ever.
Behind the drums, Dan Matthew keeps steady time, treading water before bursting into flurries of hyperactivity. Stage right, Sam Willmett is a master of the brilliantly messy guitar solo, full of feeling and invention rather than stultifying, tedious technical proficiency. And stage left is Tilly Harris, who struts and bobs on bass like Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth auditioning for a vacancy in AC/DC.
If there’s one single take-home lesson, it’s that The Bug Club can write a cracking little song, hook-filled gems pitched somewhere between gonzo garage and bedroom indie. The evidence is legion: opener and debut single We Don’t Need Room For Lovin’, My Baby Loves Rock & Roll Music, each of the individual segments of Intelectuals [sic], the trio of tracks that form what they’re calling (with tongue in cheek) the “classic rock section” of the set.
As that might suggest, they have a sense of humour – both sharply sardonic (new 6Music-backed single It’s Art) and wry (If My Mother Thinks I’m Happy, a bittersweet anthem for millennials drifting through life). And they’re ego-free and self-deprecating too, with Harris introducing Jonathan’s Gone as “our token shit one”. Inevitably, it’s not shit at all.
Le Pub’s layout – with no exit from the stage except through the crowd – means that the evening threatens to descend into a hostage situation, the band unable to leave until we finally stop baying for more. But finally, after more unorthodox guitar wrangling and drum solos, the gig comes to an end. The Bug Club appear to be on a mission to play every single festival in existence this summer but will be returning to Le Pub in October, on the day that their album Green Dream In F# is released. It’ll be a party not to be missed.
Le Public Space, Newport, Thurs 21 July
words and photos BEN WOOLHEAD
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