Slow Readers Club
Hebden Bridge Trades Club
Sunday 19th September 2021
Some bands explode onto the scene riding a media hype, and others like Slow Readers Club just keep plugging away, moving up venue size every year from 200 capacity ones like this one, to selling out a hometown gig at Manchester Apollo.
Tonight they were going back to their roots playing in support of the Music Venue Trust who raised millions to support small venues to survive lockdown when they couldn’t put bands on. It’s part of a series of ‘Passport: Back to our roots’ gigs where bands like Elbow (who sell out much bigger gigs) volunteer to take a trip down memory lane to their roots to raise some much needed cash. Tonight’s crowd could hardly believe their luck that Slow Readers Club were back in a small venue. It made for a really relaxed atmosphere as despite the fact the tickets were allocated through a prize draw that raised £137,000 for venues there was a number of their hardcore fans who seem to have found their way down the front as their trademark raucous chants of “readers” rang out at regular intervals.
It’s fair to say that Slow Readers Club offer a pretty intense post-punk, almost goth, sound, but they weren’t up their own backsides responding to the regular banter from the faithful with good humour. Frontman Aaron Starkie even noted that one of the long-time fans had used lockdown to finally learn how to clap in time. You Opened Up My Heart sums up Slow Readers Club as Starkie belts out intense often dystopian lyrics as he effortlessly showed off his range from deep growls to falsetto over Kurtis Starkie’s chiming guitar that is reminiscent of The Edge when he was a trailblazing axeman. It’s all locked down by the rock solid rhythm section of James Ryan and David Whitworth pounding away at his kit.
Aaron is one of those frontmen who doesn’t need to climb the speaker stacks to get your attention. He is strangely magnetic, sometimes just jogging on the spot to the music, or offering a wide range of chopping hand movements that punctuate the tunes. Problem Child from their fourth album Joy Of The Return is as near as they get to a commercial sound and shows why the album went top 10. Starkie was in hand gesture overload on Killing Me from the same album, and he really went for it jumping up and down during Forever in Your Debt.
It has become a constant theme for bands getting back on the road to be touched and humbled that people are coming back out despite the risks. Slow Readers Club were no different as Starkie remarked they were grateful people hadn’t forgotten them, but when you are only inches away from your favourite band it is hardly an inconvenience.
On Block Out The Sun Starkie picked out the opening chords on a keyboard before the band launched in. This could be an area they might explore to give their sound some more light and shade as it really worked. The relaxed feel of the night continued as Starkie introduced Feet on Fire as a rare chance to dance, taken up with various degrees of gusto. As was the invitation to sing along to I Saw a Ghost as Starkie just held out the mic as the hardcore fans did the hard work on the chorus.
More lyrically upbeat new single Tell No Lies made its live debut and is another one that features synths, only reinforcing the thought that it’s an addition to their sound that needs more exploration. Finally, they returned to what they do best smashing out old favourites On the TV and Lunatic, which finished off a tight and powerful set.
Full credit to Slow Readers Club for answering the call to back music venues, because they know only too well the road to selling out Manchester Apollo starts with bands learning their trade in smaller places like this.
Photos by JP Brown
Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.