Miss Black America (The Dawn Parade, We Can Build You)
The Portland Arms, Cambridge on 5th May 2003
Reviewed by DanF on 18th May 2003
The Portland Arms is almost as much of a stereotyped "indie" pub as you get outside of London - the gig takes place in the backroom of a fairly ordinary pub on a fairly regular looking street, half regular customers and half gig-goers, each eyeing each other with distrust, and staff that look more interested in selling bottled beer than showcasing the future of rock 'n' roll. The backroom itself is tiny, holding maybe 100 people at most, and the stage is maybe 12 inches off the ground. It's hot, packed and even the walls seem to sweat, let alone the crowd.
Tonight it's the scene of a benefit gig for the Anti-Nazi League, under their "Love Music, Hate Racism" banner and organised by the people at R*E*P*E*A*T Fanzine (a Manics-inspired zine that's been running for about 10 years now) and featuring the cream of the current Cambridgeshire scene.
We Can Build You
First band up are WE CAN BUILD YOU. They're a local act, and quite young from the look of them. They play a sort-of scuzzed-up art-rock brand of music, with passages of Sonic Youth / Seafood style guitar abuse, and use a powerful drum sound. However, they suffered from various technical problems, including some poor mixing that made the vocals almost unintelligible (a recurring problem throughout the night, sadly) which did detract a bit. That being said, for a band I knew nothing about, I did enjoy them and they showed a lot of promise.
The Dawn Parade
Next up were THE DAWN PARADE. Currently one of, if not the, brightest light on the Cambridgeshire scene (and a current favourite of John Peel no less) they've been touring around the country almost non-stop for the last year on the back of two well-received EPs. Cambridge is essentially home ground for them, shown by the fact that the crowd size doubled in the short time between the last band and the start of The Dawn Parade's set.
The Dawn Parade are, to be blunt, magnificent. They play their hearts out. 'The Hole In My Heart' is an anthem-in-waiting, whilst at the same time being an anthem to the lucky few who know of its existence. 'Wider Than The January Skies' fills the entire venue with seemingly little effort. 'The Craving', an as-yet-unreleased song, is possibly the best thing they've written so far. This is the really fascinating thing about The Dawn Parade, the few unrecorded songs they play are better than the material they have recorded so far, spot-lighting them as a major hope for the future, and in Greg McDonald they have one of the most charismatic frontmen in the business today.
Truly a fantastic way to spend 30 minutes, with one of the most important bands currently touring the UK.
Miss Black America
Finally, there was MISS BLACK AMERICA, also playing a home gig and back after an odd few months, which saw them split, "reform" with 3 new members, tour Holland as special guests of John Peel, and then open for much-hyped Kinesis on their first UK headline tour.
There's nothing especially subtle about Miss Black America, but that's not the point - they are all about THE ROCK, and writing bouncy tunes with lyrics dealing with self-empowerment and a 21st century take / attack on the complacency and stagnation of Middle England. At this they succeed fantastically. 'Human Punk', 'Strobe' and 'Talk Hard' are all sing-along anthems for the disillusioned everywhere, for those fed up with the 9-5er-mortgage life expected of them. Seymour Glass is explosive on stage, just a blur of frantic guitar-thrashing poses and that hair (imagine just about every indie boy cliché rolled into one, that's him, but in an undeniably cool way).
Vitriol, slogans, the sheer power of live rock music, the willingness to rage against conformity and just the general ability to piss people off - Miss Black America have it all, *plus* the ability to put on a decent live show and write quality songs, as the 4 new ones played tonight show. Onward and upward.
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