Ah, back in Henry’s on a weekday night. That sweet’n’sour waft from the Chinese restaurant upstairs; the cheap snake-light that probably came from Woolworths round the corner; the timeless pile of debris stage-left, including what looks like a rider of Tesco orange juice and packaged sandwiches. It truly is the last word in no frills venues, but it has a knack for hosting some of the best nights of emerging bands in Edinburgh – tonight being a case in point.
The first act of an evening when technical prowess takes precedence over conventional songsmithery is Jacob Fynch. You have to admire them for their uncompromising attitude alone: they sound like this is the only way they could make music and no-one – record label scout included – would dare mould them into a more palatable shape. The truth is, they are a highly competent three-piece who shuffle between hardcore punk, math rock and rabid experimentalism, but refuse to lower themselves to the level of conventional song structure. That said, every song has something to offer, be it the frankly sensational drumming or the loud-quiet guitar-play. Personal bias disclaimer: I have a low tolerance for screaming in any context, especially musical, and this band resort to it quite a lot. If they actually sang more, or recruited someone who could, they would have the bare bones of a very exciting band.
All the way from Nantes, France (a very cool city – I stopped for a couple of nights there once) come Papier Tigre, another trio of single-minded musicians. One brave punter greets them with ‘Bienvenue à Ecosse’ but is tersely corrected by the singer: ‘Bienvenue en Ecosse’. Close, but no Gauloise. Papier Tigre launch into a tireless barrage of minimal, bass-less, English-language, monochrome No-Wave. It’s energetic and highly watchable, with the singer nonchalantly ignoring the so-called Fourth Wall and walking among the audience, even taking a sip of the Jacob Flynch drummer’s Guinness on his travels. Papier Tigre easily upstage their own MySpace material, and manage to draw smiles and toe-tapping from the audience of les etrangers. I like them a lot, and judging by tonight’s performance they look like a band on the verge of a breakthrough. Not such an everyday occurrence by our Gallic brethren in the guitar stakes.
An impenetrable throng amasses from nowhere for tonight’s headliners and contenders for band-with-a-name-that-sounds-most-like-a-Japanese-cartoon, Super Adventure Club [annoyingly, no music on their MySpace]. I clearly haven’t read the script on this girl-boy-boy trio: there is even the occasional punching of air and mouthing of lyrics in evidence, such as you’re more likely to see at the Barrowland or Corn Exchange. It’s nigh impossible to do justice to Super Adventure Club in words – their style is so frenetic and all-encompassing. What I can say is that they are dangerously talented and uncannily in-synch no matter the demands of the song, and it doesn’t take long to see what the grass-roots fuss is all about. After sound problems mire the start, they instantly fire through the gears to dizzyingly complex renditions of their experimental rock. Just the fact that such an outrageously accomplished band have slipped under the radar and are still playing venues like Henry’s goes to show how slow the media can be to react – and how attuned the public can occasionally be – to undiscovered quality.