The Mutts gig crawl at Basketmakers Arms, Hector's House and Pressure Point, all in Brighton, 24 August 2006
Being a Brighton resident for over four years and an avid music fan I have often seen the local band The Mutts. Brighton is a great place for nurturing musical talent and hosts some of the best small live venues in the country. This band is loved by the rock and roll loving residents, so when they announced a gig crawl you knew there were going to be a fair few takers. In Brighton you get quite a mix of people from artists, musicians, writers and actors. People tend to move to Brighton as they feel it's the only place they feel they truly fit.
The first port of call was The Basket makers a great pub in the heart of Brighton which is tucked away in a side street out of sight. This was the scene for The Mutts acoustic session, having seen this band a few times before I was very intrigued by this as they always play loud, hard and fast. The pub was absolutely heaving with people, and they were milling about looking for the best vantage point to see the band. The Mutts started with a song called Sick and everything was chilled out and relaxed. The set was very bluesy and a great opener for what was building up to be a great night. Chris Murtagh drawled his usually load and powerful vocals over the sound of acoustic guitar. I was wondering how this was all going to work and it worked really well. The crowd were encouraged to clap to bolster the percussion and the audience duly obliged obviously enjoying the moment. The Basket makers is not a place were many bands play due to its size and the temperature inside started to rise. Some enlightened souls had opted to watch the set outside from the window, both enjoying the music and also keeping cool. Halfway through the set Chris stood up and although he couldn't strut around he managed to cajole the audience into getting into the swing of things. Come and join us at Hectors House. Implored Chris at the end of the set, to which the pub emptied in record time leaving just a few bemused locals.
Hectors House is a favourite amongst the large student population in Brighton and has great air conditioning. The gig crawl could have been a logistic nightmare with all the people who had turned out to see this performance, but as Hectors House filled to bursting it looked like it was going to be a great night
The first act up was Teasing Lulu and this was a fitting band to initiate the first electrified act of the night as the frenetic drums of Jason Adelinia broke the audience from their conversations with a bullet like roar similar to the Clash's Topper Headon. Lucy Daltons vocals complimented the thrashing roar of the guitars not to different to how Pauline Murray used to lead her band Penetration, yet also keeping with a harmonious sound much like Justine Frischmann of Elastica. This band well and truly got the audience in the mood for The Mutts first electric performance of the night.
No sooner had Teasing Lulu left the stage did the band of the night The Mutts enter the stage. Anybody who has seen The Mutts before will know that this band like to play hard and fast and the anticipation in the air was like nothing I had seen for a local band playing in a pub. The audience stretched all the way back to the far wall and some people were using the chairs and tables to help themselves get a better view of this band. The Mutts broke into a set of their best and gutsy tunes all delivered with impeccable vocals from the ever charismatic front man Chris now able to strut his stuff. The great thing about The Mutts is they like to play load without creating a mess of a noise, this is helped by the assured guitar playing of Bryan Shore allowing the band to push the boundaries without descending into chaos. The band have been likened to The Ramones which is easy to see why as they have a very raw sound but I always feel reminded of The New York Dolls as there always seems to be a certain harmonious quality to Chris' voice. Every now and again it softens only to tear into another of his famous angry drawls. I can never listen to The Ramones for too long as it becomes quite painful on the ear, but I find The Mutts have a certain quality which allows them to use a bit of variety. The interaction with the front man and the audience also helps. The drumming may be a bit chaotic but what he lacks in creative ability he makes up for in pure effort. Sam Burgess must also be given top marks for keeping it all tight. As the band finished their set the invite to join them at The Pressure Point was never going to be turned down by a crowd who by now where baying for more of the same.
The Pressure Point is a great venue for up and coming bands as it gives them that real feeling of playing their own gig that pubs can't. The sound is usually good and it has that atmosphere of a concert hall yet still retaining that personal feel that all music lovers can't get enough of.
The first band on were The Lodge and to be fair I felt a bit sorry for them as most people in the crowd were here to see the finale of The Mutts gig crawl and these guys went down like a sandwich filler. They had a good sound and some well crafted songs but the audience didn't really seem up for it. I over heard one person say that they thought the lead singer was the worst front man ever, which I thought a bit harsh (check out The Kooks). The band did their best though and batted out a fine sounding set. The bass guitarist reminded me somewhat of Russell Brand and jumped about the stage like Pete Townshend which was all keeping with their hard edged sound. To be honest though we were all waiting for The Mutts finale and when The Lodge finished their set you could almost sense the excitement and anticipation in the air as everyone found their positions and waited patiently for the set to begin and draw a close to what has so far been a great night.
The Mutts entered the stage to a heroes welcome and they looked to be loving every minute of it. Chris was on top form as he strutted the stage like a young Mick Jagger, this guy is made for the stage and his charisma is infectious. There are not many singers who can keep up a performance like that for three consecutive gigs played one after the other without in some way faltering but this guy could do it. The rest of the band was on top form as well, now they had a bigger stage they were able to end the night with a fantastic show. The Mutts are a band who like to play loud, you can tell they enjoy it the enthusiasm was culpable, these tunes work well at high tempo and Chris' stage presence grew with stature throughout the night. Bryan played his guitar with passion as did Sam Burgess with the bass. The other star of the show was the drummer Jake Sweetman who played as though this was the main stage at Glastonbury or even Wembley Stadium. The set had all the great tunes from earlier in the night with 'Let Me See Your Face' being for me the stand out track. The crowd were again invited to clap along with the percussion, although with the sound this loud it was almost impossible to hear. Chris asked for the lights to be raised so he could view the audience and he must have been impressed by the size of the turnout. The band received great applause when they left the stage and well deserved it was too. They finished the night off with an encore and left the stage totally triumphant. Everyone really enjoyed themselves. Chris sauntered off to the bar to talk to the crowd which is always good to see and the drummer was carried off aloft the guitarists back in good rock and roll style (Liam Gallagher would have been impressed). The Mutts are a great band but to become a truly outstanding band they may have to take a few risks later on down the line, but for tonight they were the best band by far in Brighton and I don't think anyone who was there would have disagreed with that.
Words: Neil McLennan
Photos: Justin Evans
More The Mutts gig crawl photos, Brighton, 24 August 2006
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