Gig review – Earls at The Big Difference, Friday 28th July 2023

Earls at Duffy's bar 09/07/22. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

with Dada Women and Leave your body behind

Reviewed by Alphonso Butt

Earls are Dead, Long live Earls!

Historians might know Friday 28th July as the day both JS Bach and Vivaldi died, but for the Leicester music scene it will now stand as the death of Earls, stalwart noise machine of the city for some time now.

The Wake, as it was billed, started with Dada Women, part of the Unglamourous… movement? project? collective? It might not be easy to summarise what Unglamourous is, but this fem/alt/ageless/DIY phenomenon is energising Sock City’s music landscape with Dada Women as part of the vanguard. They are increasing in confidence and competence with every outing. Stand-outs for me this evening were Hammerhead and Free to Roam. The first is a mournful, lyrical lament about opening your mouth and depositing your feet therein. It made a nice counterpoint to their other, more lively and raucous numbers, and was delivered with real feeling by vocalist Paula. Free to Roam in contrast, like many of the Unglamourous bands’ tracks, compels the audience to think about something all women understand, but very few bands address. This one is about what it’s like to walk home alone, late at night, feeling nervous and vulnerable just because of one’s “chromosomes”. Smart, thought-provoking stuff.

Next up was Leave your Body Behind: a lairy, hairy, four-piece bringing a unique style and guitar virtuosity to the Big Diff stage. LYBB had energy, they had attitude and their lead singer, Max, has a quirky, awkward charisma that is endearing. They certainly know their stuff and blasted out a brand of psychedelic, post-punk groove that was spell-binding. All of Leave your Body Behind’s offerings were peppered with damn clever guitar licks and ear-pleasing waves of sonorous sounds. I, personally, love it when four individuals combine to make one musical entity and this bunch delivered track after track. No one stand-out moment, but rather an accumulation of skill and commitment that made for a great set.

Leave Your Body Behind. Photo (c) Alphonso Butt

So, in the end, The End, the valedictory outing for the headliners. With the bar set high by two solid supporting acts Earls had to hit the ground running but then, whenever I have seen them, they always do. Dressed appropriately in their mourning attire Leicester’s own angry, punky aristocrats (although Ant did once confess to me that the band are, rather prosaically, actually named after a Black Country Secondary School) appeared on the compact and low-ceilinged stage.

They have been at this long enough for any set to be slick and on point. However, Earls are nothing if not entertainers; so, even though they’ve done this before, each gig seems like these four have just realised some truths about our modern world and are mightily pi**ed off about it. The emotions run high. George on drums pounds out a furious undertow and the cheeky pair of bass and lead weave it all together behind the mesmerising singer, Ant.

The four piece are well aware of what we are: We Are Skum but, much like the stage they are stood on, they own it and embrace it – even though they are clearly not happy with this state of affairs. That said, all is not despair. Us “drones” get our own back in a way because in the end we really know that we drive the economy others get rich from so, ahem, “stuff you, pay me!”

Not only alive to and railing against the injustices of our zero-hours existence, Earls are also hyper-aware of the pathetic, brittle, fragility of masculinity and tell us in no uncertain terms in I’m a Man; parodying attitudes we still see all too often. Life might be better if only they were really earls but these four were not “born with a trust fund” as we are powerfully informed in Entitled. You wonder though, if everything was easy Earls just wouldn’t have the energy needed to sustain them through their performance?

Switching effortlessly between incandescent rage and frolicking with their devoted audience the band sweated their way through another magnificent session. As effortlessly skilled as they are angry; Earls delivered a set of power mixed with poise. It was, perhaps, made all the more poignant by the mutual understanding between the stage and the audience that this was the end. In their gentlest offering I Can’t Move frontman Ant tells us he “doesn’t want to go outside” and we don’t want them to leave either, but the reality is that all things have to finish.

That was it. Earls have headlined their last gig. There is still a chance to see them one more time playing Leicester Pride at Abbey Park, 2nd September. Ultimately, in their own words, do “they need us more than we need them”? Only time will tell. For now, at least, Earls went out with a bang, well-supported on a spectacular evening.

Good luck with whatever is next guys!

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