I always feel sorry for the bands who are on first at a pub gig. Most people are still at the main bar, drinking, chatting and sneaking a last cigarette before the bigger, headline bands grace the stage. Unfortunately this sends most bands into an awkward, stiff set, which is never fun for those of us who quite like to hear the unknown songs. Thankfully when I went up the old, brothel-like staircase at The Lexington in Angel two Thursdays ago, I was presented with a surprisingly good show from Burn Before Reading.
Although the awkwardness lingered around the bassist (the Swedish-looking guy who forgot to cut the other side of his head) and the rhythm guitarist (the bored 12-year-old with a lip piercing), the drummer (who was exactly like 'Animal' from The Muppets) and the lead singer (Jack Black in 'School of Rock') put so much passion into their performance I clapped and cheered at the end of each song just to show how impressed I was at their enthusiasm.
I did like their songs. No, really. They were pretty generic indie-rock, but their performance was tight, and they played their instruments well. Unfortunately the crowd weren't going too crazy for them. It was pretty empty at the start of the set, though it did slowly fill up during their performance. However, atmosphere is important, and I was frequently reminded that we were standing in not much more than a glorified attic. No-one wanted to start the dancing, and the school-disco lighting was crap for my camera, and not so hot for the show either.
Like I said, it was a tough spot to fill, but their songs were a bit same-old same-old. I'd like to hear something new from a smaller band sometime soon.