Sorted Records @ Abbey Park, Leicester 1998

This was Sorted Records' third year at Abbey Park and as usual they produced a limited-edition collector's item; this year it was a 15-track compilation LP called "Suction prints" in a hand-painted sleeve featuring most of the bands playing this year.

First up was Dalmation Rex and the Eigentones who appeared last year as one man and a drum machine and this year have expanded into a three-piece but still produce the same blend of Fall/Beefheart shouty songs about Brussel sprouts and synchronised swimming. Great stuff.

The Sorted stage always puts on a very varied line-up and the next act, Mel McCrory couldn't have sounded any more different to Dalmation Rex. Gentle hazy, lazy songs played and sung by Mel, augmented by accordian, drums, acoustic guitars and percussion, this was the perfect accompaniment to the glorious sunny afternoon.

Next up were The Abandoned; some snotty 14-year-olds playing in the band you all wanted to be in when you were 14. Punky, noisy, route one stuff with a trash cover of "Making your mind up" thrown in while their mates threw themselves off the stage. Full marks for effort.

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon and with crystal clear sound The Freed Unit's songs took on new, cheerier characteristics: the downtrodden underdog's whine substituted for a cheery sunny day's glow. Simplified from the recordings, the slow bleeps, drone and bass swirled around while the dream vocals laid down the mood. Superb.

Mark Hibbett came on and kept coming, bringing his new band, The Validators, who he proceeded to introduce one-by-one for what seemed like a fortnight. When they started to play, however, the "unusual" mix of instruments (trumpet, bagpipes, xylophone & didgeridoo) seemed to work in a bizarre Brian Wilson/Rolf Harris kind of way, and the last song "The fair-play trophy" (featuring the all-male Durham Ox singers) got the biggest cheer of th whole set, being a paen to the brave efforts of our boys in the World Cup.

Airport Girl suffered from some serious string difficulties---breaking five in as many songs---which resulted in a rather disjointed set. A couple of gems shone through though: current single "Between Delta and Delaware" is a Mid-West indie treat while "Cold", the next-single-but-one, blends Pavement with lots of wild, squealing keyboard/acid FX.

Julie from John Sims got herself dressed up like a 1930's seaside holidaymaker: retro low-cut-thigh swimming costume, heels and a floral hair garland. And a couple of tabs, it seems. She snatched most of her vocals, preferring to run off and sit behind the drums whevever she could, but still a more solid performance than one or two we've seen. The music was as sharp as ever, the buzz of thrumming keyboards and drum loops, space/groove bass and wierd little noises.

The sound that Beat Glider put down on record is a quite light---imagine Ride unplugged and you'll be in the right area---but on stage here they chose volume which meant that much of their eddying subtlety was lost and they were reduced to slogging away manfully with audience interest obeying the law of diminishing returns. Things picked up when they played their new 7" on Tube Bar which managed to inject a bit more melody into the procedings but they need to re-think their live approach.

Having heard a lot about how good Twinkie are live, and having seen them play well previously, their set here was a bit of a disappointment. Not entirely their fault though as they were blighted by horrible sound after they blew up the generator with Spinal Tap volume. Their Fortuna Pop! debut "My favourite animal is the whyte tyga" was wasted in the resulting soundcheck and they lost attention with one or two slowish numbers but came good in the end playing both sides of newly relased "TK1".

L'augmentation purvey a brand of summery french pop that's already forcing comparisons with fellow brummies like Pram and Broadcast. It was a little out of place here at 8 pm and would certainly have gone down better in the middle of the afternoon with bright sunshine and a bigger crowd. Still, their "Soleil" single (Pickled Egg) sounded sublime wonderful, the band having a good time and indulging in some pissed-uncle-at-a-wedding dancing and if they crossed the line into Easy Listening once or twice, then we'll forgive them for creating such a big, gorgeous sound with only bass, drums, keys, trumpet, occasional flute and few lyrics.

Zipperfish brought the day to a close, starting with their "Suction prints" track "Francesca" and zipping (ha ha) through an action-packed set, concluding with a cover of "TV eye". For those who don't know, Zipperfish ar the latest incarnation of Crazyhead, with a new guitarist. And basically they sound pretty much like...err...Crazyhead. Which is no bad thing really. (Thanks to Mark Hibbett for around half of these reviews.)

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