Future Yard, Birkenhead, 23 July 2021

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

I’ve been to several events at Future Yard, but the venue had not been fully operational until this gig.  Unlike the Death Star becoming fully operational with the destruction of Alderaan, Future Yard celebrated with an exciting mix of live music and more.  With a highly eclectic bill of wonderful musicians, GIRLI supplemented by local talents SPQR, Dan Disgrace, and Zee Davine doing a one-off Tranmere Ravers DJ set until closing, there was something for everybody.

And everybody had a bit of something too.  Often at mixed genre events like this, you get people cheering on their favourites and standing around (or worse going outside) for the others.  There was none of that sort of thing.  Everybody threw themselves into making the most of the night.  Even during the turnarounds people went outside into the sunshine to be joyous.  In the time between SPQR and GIRLI there was even a dancing circle as the DJ dropped a few funk and disco numbers like a family party for music fans.

The Zee Davine set did not have the same family party vibes.  Instead Zee managed to conjure up memories of when dance music was not the safe atmospheric staple choice of every bar in town, but when repetitive beats terrified the establishment and electrified the youth.  It was uproarious and edgy, and sent people home feeling illicit.

I would not have guessed how the night was going to end up feeling when I was watching the opening act, Eggy Records’ Dan Disgrace.  I did not have a clue what to expect from this set as somehow I’d missed him performing on the Liverpool music scene.  I was impressed by what took place on stage though.  It was quirky, smart, and drenched in musicality with more than a hint of Matt Berry. With having Dan Disgrace as the first performer it generated a feeling that this night was going to be all about pleasure. And I was well up for that.

SPQR are a band I love and who never fail to impress me.  But something has changed with them now.  In the last eighteen months, their musical majesty has grown.  The band hasn’t changed, but this set was another level.  I still cannot put my finger on what it was different, but, honestly, this was a performance of intensity and drama on a par with the likes of Shame and Fontaines DC.

Frontman Pete Harrison didn’t just demand the attention of the audience but made it impossible for your attention to wander anywhere else.  He was supreme as the leader of the group.  With a setlist comprising of mostly new tracks including the impressive Fault Lines the band sounded suffocatingly tight and made me as an audience member feel desperate to get to know the songs more, to listen to them over and over, to be able to recognise every little nuance in their play.  This set makes me believe that SPQR are one of the best bands in the UK right now, and their debut album cannot come out quick enough. They really could take over the world.

I was worried about how GIRLI would be taken by the crowd after a victorious hometown support set.  With only her MacBook for company on stage, for a brief moment the setup looked made Sleaford Mods seem like The Polyphonic Spree.  As soon as the music kicked in and GIRLI took control there could have been an orchestra squeezed on the stage and you wouldn’t have noticed them.  GIRLI is a force of nature combining in the anger, energy, and passion of punk with the melody of pop at its finest.  She truly demands that you listen to her words and sing along.Everybody in the room seemed to be feeling a connection with GIRLI.

Songs like More Than A Friend and Dysmorphia are such beautifully crafted pieces of three minute pop delight that you’d have to be the most ardent, miserable music snob to not be taken on a journey by them. It just so happened that this Friday night journey allowed us all to jump around as we all cheered GIRLI on. There wasn’t quite a mosh pit, there was still a healthy level of trepidation and respect of people’s personal space, but there was so much love in the air. Whether it was the team behind Future Yard seeing their venue used properly for the first time; the music fans remembering a feeling they had once took for granted; or the performers once more being allowed to have their raison d’être; everybody shared the love.

There were even a couple of moments where GIRLI made a misstep on stage, and her honesty to hold her hands up and say, smiling, “let’s do that again” made me take to her even more.  It was human and reminded us all that it’s been a long time since we were able to do this sort of thing.  Life isn’t there to be perfect, it’s there to be lived.

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