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:: Real Fur :: Letters To Fiesta ::
19 May 2011 / Hilton St Launderette / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine

You know you're getting old when you remember when gigs used to be in... venues. These days it's all churches and bandstands; art galleries and shops; boats and village halls and... launderettes? Why not? London-based Real Fur are half way through their first major UK tour and there's not a traditional location on the schedule - after making a bit of a name for themselves gigging round the capital's laundries they've decided to check out the washing machines in cities across the land, from Portsmouth up to Glasgow. Now obviously, being situated in prime hipster territory just off Stevenson Square, the Hilton St Launderette's a couple of levels nicer than the rough ones in Longsight frequented back in our student days - it's got sofas, for fucks sake, and WiFi; not a three-month old copy of Hello magazine in sight - but it's still a launderette. We arrive to find Suicide blasting out of the PA, strings of coloured lights round the pillars... and local support Letters To Fiesta debating whether any nearby drinking establishment is going to be OK about them blagging a pre-gig visit to the "facilities". In fact given the quantity of beer being carried in in plastic bags it's a good job there's a load of back alleys round this part of town...

Once they start though (we didn't ask - there's some things you just don't need to know about bands) it actually doesn't feel much like a launderette at all, aside from that all-pervasive soap powder smell. More like one of those odd cafe-bars you end up watching bands in during In The City; better sound than a lot of venues, too. How many of the young crowd were previously familiar with Letters To Fiesta is unclear but what is certain is that they go down a storm: their assertive yet friendly art-pop sparkling brighter than the Daz Doorstep Challenge. The tunes spiral off in all sorts of wayward directions and Anna's voice is truly a thing of wonder, shooting up and down the octaves like the young Morrissey if he'd been a girl and in love with life - so, um, not really like Morrissey at all, really. Bassist Alex meanwhile gets screamed at by young girls, which must be quite nice. If a little weird when you're surrounded by tumble-dryers.

Between bands everyone piles out onto the street while someone mops the floor inside and a girl reaches inside a washing machine for the beers she stashed earlier - it feels a bit like an illicit party, which is presumably what Real Fur are aiming for. It's one way to get that all-important attention in today's crowded music scene I suppose, gets people talking - even if someone did say a couple of weeks back that it was "all a bit Pete Doherty" - we kind of know what he meant, though it was probably the first time in some years anyone's associated Doherty with washing...

It's pushing 11pm by the time Real Fur come onstage and there are a few odd looks from passers-by - one or two are even enticed inside for what turns out to be another helping of upbeat and instantly likeable indie pop. Theirs comes with twangy bass, loads of percussion and guitar jangling bred equally from Afropop and classic early 80s indie which makes for something that actually sounds like sunshine and is seriously difficult not to smile and dance to. And whilst they're hardly alone in wearing these influences, there's something about Real Fur that just seems more - well, real (if thankfully not in the least bit furry): they're unpretentious, stuffed full of enthusiasm, genuinely good musicians and so tight you couldn't fit a Rizla between them. This is, possibly, what The Drums think they sound like and they really don't. It helps that they also have absolutely cracking tunes - the opening "She's Late" is brilliant, instrumentally echoing the dawning panic of the lyrics (put it this way, we don't think the protagonist's girlfriend is "late" in the sense of turning up somewhere...) - and you can actually hear the words too due to the singer's rich deep voice - no schmindie wussery here. The set seems to fly by in a few glorious technicolour seconds - in truth it's maybe six or seven songs, but when you watch as many new bands as we do you come to appreciate those who exercise strict quality control and leave us wanting more, which is definitely the case tonight as the party spills back onto the pavement again where it looks set to continue until the early hours.

So, a slightly bizarre idea for a tour, but surely a hell of a lot more fun than the "sinking feeling as local support's mates all fuck off back to the pub then not getting paid because you don't know 30 people in a city none of you have ever visited before" thing that is many a young band's early experience of national touring. OK then, we near the cynics crowing, they must have someone behind them backing all this? Well yeah, Real Fur have had a bit of help along the way, but not from some parental trust-fund, corporate deal or fashion svengali - rather from the charity Strummerville, whose stated mission is "to enable the production of music by creative young people who would otherwise be prevented from doing so simply because they lack the necessary funds." - tonight was a glowing example the foundation's principles in action. The gimmick factor might get them the attention, but they'd soon fall on their arses if their music wasn't up to the job. And they're never going to run out of clean pants halfway through a tour doing it this way, are they?

Real Fur - Myspace Page
Real Fur Safari Funk Site
Letters To Fiesta

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