Fortuna POP! Live @ The Scala 03/11/11

Posted on 05 November 2011 by Dorian

In celebration of the 15th birthday of Fortuna POP!, the fiercely independent record label, three gigs were held at London’s Scala. This third and final night was the pick of the bunch featuring The Ladybug Transistor, The Tender Trap, Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern and Allo Darlin’. Arriving at the venue it was immediately obvious that we were at a “Twee” night, with a prevalence of floral print dresses and badges on show. In fact it is pointed out to me that one such badge festooned punter even has a badge sporting the legend “Twee”. So far so good, I love pop music, twee or not, and I like badges.

The Tender Trap

The Tender Trap

Arriving at the venue late, caught out by an early start and a need for pre-gig sustenance, we had missed the Ladybug Transistor (a band that I had seen once before, but many years ago at a Track and Field ‘Pow to the People!’ event). First up for us was Amelia Fletcher’s current incarnation The Tender Trap, the band of the night that best fits the twee label. The songs are lively, punky and cute, and the playing simple but effective with Fletcher looking a lot younger than can be possible given her long history on the indie pop scene. There is a sense that you are hearing something you have heard before, but considering that the person on stage pretty much invented the whole scene that is fair enough. It is a fun set and a great start to (my) evening.

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

Darren Hayman is up next, and playing today in full band mode with a trumpet player as the latest edition to The Secondary Modern. A crowd pleasing set features a Hefner classic early on, ‘The Hymn For The Postal Service’ isn’t one of his older songs I expected to hear, but it sounds great and goes down a storm. The whole set plays brilliantly, with Hayman on jovial form and the addition of trumpet adding to the already full sound of the band. The brilliant Pram Town, a Neon Filler album of the year, supplies the highlights of the set but songs from Essex Green and The Ships Piano are near perfect as well. The closing song is no surprise, Amelia Fletcher returning to the stage to add her vocals to ‘Good Fruit’ some 11 years after she originally recorded it with Hefner, and it is a perfect way to finish the set.

Allo Darlin'

Allo Darlin'

Before Allo Darlin’ take the stage there are video tributes to the record label, and label boss Sean Price. It is great to see a label that inspires so much loyalty and respect from the artists, something that is pretty rare these days.

Allo Darlin’ have become one of my favourites bands since I first saw them at the End of the Road festival in 2010. Their debut album is such a charming set of sweet pop moments, and they are a very enjoyable live act. The set is predominantly drawn from the debut, unsurprising as only have one album to draw upon and are too savvy to fill their set with unknown songs from their next release. Set highlights (of which there are many) include ‘Let’s Go Swimming’, with Dan Mayfield moonlighting from The Secondary Modern on fiddle and ‘Kiss Your Lips’ which is just one of the best singles of the last few years.

Allo Darlin’ manage to be that little bit special thanks to a few key factors, the most obvious of which being Elizabeth Morris. Her distinctive vocals, enthusiastic ukulele playing and confident stage presence give the band a strong central focus. The rhythm section is skilled, tight and unfussy, propelling the pure pop along with real energy. The band’s secret weapon though is guitarist Paul Rains, his playing is sophisticated and shows far more skill than you’d expect from a punky twee pop band. I heard more than one person on the night compare him to Johnny Marr and I would agree that he can sit comfortably in that company.

The final song of the night brings The Ladybug Transistor’s Gary Olsen to the stage to duet on ‘Dreaming’, which brings things to a close pretty perfectly. I for one am looking forward to 2017 for the 21st birthday celebrations.

By Dorian Rogers

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