Rustling through empty bottles of gin, each one representing a brilliant night at Paper Dress, memories swirling in the dregs, comes a piece fishing out the starry-eyed and wonderful gig moments from the past year and a half of running our club.
It began in September 2013 with Just Handshakes (and their pet bulldog which had to be taken on the bus and dropped off with a babysitter after soundcheck). Hopping onto the shop window stage, they made us dry at the lips and wet at the thighs with a swirling dreampop sound.
It was Colour Me Wednesday who opened the first run proper though in September, playing a brilliant set of shimmering, lyrical and left-leaning girl gang Pop. Ukulele maestros and vintage tweecore fashion aficionados The Bobby McGees followed that night. It was the first time I’d seen them since they played songs from the best swing jazz album that’s never been released to a gentile West London jazz dancing audience, setting bourgeois teeth chattering with the claim that their lyrics are “all about shagging and taking drugs”. They were as brilliant here as they were then, minus the brass section, blasting out ‘L.O.V.E’, ‘Debbie Does Drugs’, ‘The Girl in the Record Shop’ and other classics whilst Jimmy impregnated the entire front row with his hip-shaking dance routine.
Another that stands out from late last year is Flowers, conquering the cold winter night with Rachel’s heart-wrenching vocals riding the band’s piercing, chopping guitar and drum riffs, making for songs that leap deep into the heart and demand to be played again and again. That night Chorusgirl, playing their first ever gig, also did a set that charmed and swayed the gathered early drinkers with its rolling Pop fizz and jangle. Flowers have since jumped into the stratosphere with a blindingly beautiful LP released through Fortuna Pop! and a support slot on the recent Wedding Present tour. While you can currently catch Chorusgirl blazing round London DiY venues, Silvi’s dreamy punk vocals stepping into jangling guitars and gently throbbing basslines.
With ripping guitars and pistol-charged pop gems, Wolf Girl are another vivid memory from those early gigs.
London and Leeds-based T.O.Y.S blew heads off with dirty, scuzzy bullets at Jimmy McGee’s 80p festival in Brighton last year (a solid gold name for a festival; the 80p fee was abolished to let all pour souls in for free), so we nabbed them for the night. Their raw drumming, punching and amp-punishing bass lines and baby Yamaha keyboard sound gave an ecstatic kick that flies high above everything else in pop right now, with ‘X-Static’ being hands-down the best thing this year. Tyrannosaurus Dead kept the magic going that night, wonderfully and sensitively savage, leaving melodies and moments echoing in ears long after the last guitars fluttered.
The wonderful Ghost Car opened the first night back after a summer break early October, electric in only their second ever gig, with a richly layered keyboard-infused post-punk sound. The Wharves continued the night with gems of soft guitar fuzziness and their trademark well-defined, harmonious dual vocals in ‘Renew’, ‘The Grip’ and the sensational ‘Unhand Me Now’.
Pitchfork once referred to the headliners of this night, The Manhattan Love Suicides, as having “now-fashionable reference points” and “catchy, well-crafted songs”, dissecting their effect to a single “fashionable” reference in a lengthy analysis. My black-leather love affair with the band started with the apparently ‘now-fashionable’ reference point that drew my attention, having just been hit by the brilliance of Richard Kern’s transgressive collection of short films that come under the same name. I triumphantly managed to sneak into the back door pulpit of the sweltering wooden railwaymen’s church at Indietracks this summer to catch them play. They melted away in the heat, and their sound melted me with its brilliance. The Manhattan Love Suicides crashed the tiny Paper Dress shop window stage that October night with the most beautiful clusterfuck of sheer rock’n’roll energy, wonderfully fuzzy guitars, behemoth basslines and hauntingly shimmering vocals.
I scratch through hazy memories of the latest Halloween adventure. The most excellently-dressed Night Flowers, hopping around as Ninja Turtles, with a sound sweet and dreamy, vocals beautifully drowning in the gentle miasma of guitars. The Indelicates followed, playing an almighty set, Julia and Simon’s scathing and melodic vocal combos gripping everyone tight to the very last rendition of ‘Be Afraid of Your Parents’. Paper Dress packed to its edges, housing the bloodied and elegantly decayed Halloween souls, a DJ set by Darren Hayman followed, setting the dancefloor ablaze with a blend of misshapen hits fitting of a man who’s probably written at least 20 of my favourite 100 songs from the past 15 years.
Gordon McIntyre of Ballboy, who has written another 20 of those favourite 100 songs and is a co-member of the indiepop Godhead with Hayman, will soon arrive in the historical basement of The Alleycat alongside the fabulously dressed Bobby McGees and Simon Love, casting a shadow of excitement for the weeks ahead.