Wednesday, 22 June 2011

And Now The Magic Really Begins...

Onward for our second day at the Liverpool International Pop Overthrow Festival 2011 (and the fourth actual day of the festival itself) and things begin to heat up as we invade the weekend space with more choice acts in one day than you could shake a ridiculously large stick at.

We saw around 15 acts today, 2 of them twice and one we've omitted as some weeks on we've forgotten what they were like and failed to make any notes at the time. Oops...

We will combine reviews where we saw an artist more than once and indicate thus: (x2 ) - but we'll comment as though it were one performance, with some deviations, naturally.

We can heartily recommend Garcia's Restaurant on Victoria Street for a great breakfast and a good start to the day.



Cardinal Jack Things began much earlier than the previous day with a post brunch stroll into the Cavern Pub and a chance to have a look at a bunch of young upstarts from London who regale under the collective moniker: 'Cardinal Jack'. Whether this non de plume is due in part to some veiled repressed Catholic upbringing is never disclosed. This didn't prevent our enjoyment of the music however. One is first struck by their youthful energy and mettle, but more than that, and uncompromising sound which all at once both repels and endears you to their message of 'bang, bang, shout, fall over' (their words).

Their angular, stop/start motion, rhythmical song construction is often a front for attractive melody lines which waft in and out of consciousness and particularly come together on songs like '
Green Eyed Boy'. Even more so is the hit laying in wait, the insistent 'Moving' which is particularly enticing. Think frantic early new wave, with nods to Pere Ubu, Talking Heads, XTC and the Kaiser Chiefs and you're part way there, yet their own slant sets them apart from any convenient reference point I can summon your way.

It's worth mentioning that this band also sported the most impressive collection of guitar effects pedals I've ever seen, hence the accompanying snap says as much about them as any traditional representation might.

Cardinal Jack's debut album is imminent which you can pre-order from their website (address below) but catch them live too, for the complete experience.


Charge of The Light Brigade – impressive name from these Canadian colonials who conjured visions of David Hemmings in Tony Richardson's 1968 film of the same name, all epic swashbuckling, psyche moustache and red tunic a flowing. In many ways you could level the same Charge (groan) at the the interesting musical furrow they have chosen to broadcast to an unsuspecting world.

Unfortunately stripped down to a mere two piece (Vocals, Guitar and Bass) I couldn't help thinking we were being robbed of the full experience that their multifaceted songs demanded. There are plenty of musical twists and turns, and lyrical recounts of fatalistic and predetermined desperate relationships, to keep the observer keen and interested, but in some ways this was way too demanding of their slightly relaxed and mixed lunchtime audience.

Yet, trying to interpret the basic presented sketch and imagine the full canvas, the attentive listener would be able to fill in some of the blanks.

Crying out for a drummer and more punctuation, but the best songs did manage to shine through, particularly the choppy/then smooth and most immediate: '
Young Love' but also:'Last Door Down' and closer 'Desdemona' (not the Marc Bolan song)

The band also chose a cool cover with a version of
Springsteen's 'Atlantic City'. Although not a particular 'Boss' fan, Debbie enjoyed this reference to her home state and memories of her Mom, who loved the allure of the New Jersey playground.

We look forward to see COTLB in full regalia in the near future.

The Spanish band The Seasongs were up next who we'd seen before but with a slightly different line-up. They cut quite a dash with tall guy Oscar Granero, all flailing arms, white Fender and chirpy tenor, augmented by his more regular sized compatriots, the rhythm section . There's a kind of ragged garagey quality to the trio's mix of psyche and angry punk, all fed through the Madridian metropolis.

Things are generally thrifty and sharp. For example, not outstaying it's welcome at all was 'Your Fun Is Coming To An End' which starts out like classic 1966 Who but has a gritty New Wave vibe which grabs the ear but is all over in about 2 minutes flat.

Changing the mood, the Gaelic lilt of 'She Was a One Eyed Girl' touches so many bases – we detected Bowie and Suede in the verses, set-off against the folky infectious “la-la-la” refrain.

We didn't nab the name of band's last song, but amid the air of fuzzy, squealing feedback came some nasty-but-nice tearing runs from Granero to bring the performance to a frenetic conclusion.

All the way from Amsterdam,
The Kik appear before you like the world simply froze in 1965. They light up the stage with cheeky chappy persona, infectious broken English quips and self effacing charm. Guitarist and lead vocalist Dave Von Raven wins over the assembled throng quickly, they seem utterly charmed by his personalty as much as the music that underpins it.

Like a slightly more dangerous
Gerry & The Pacemakers they tell us 'It's Gonna Be Alright' and Ladies & Gentlemen – that turns out to be the case, with bells on!

They soon carry on with their new single '
My Eyes Are Still Dry' with it's totally seductive Hollies recalling chorus, it's an absolute winner!

Although they have their feet firmly planted in 60's Beat territory, and if that's your thing you will surely love it, yet there's a modern freshness which makes their sound and presentation as fresh as a proverbial daisy!


The Jooles – are vivacious, young and groovy, like The Archies cartoon come to life. Even their names make you think you're flicking through the pages of a teen mag from pop's golden age – meet: Daria, Alex, Chris, Katha & Richie.

Charismatic, blonde, attractive vocalist Daria oozes a naive chutzpah which nimbly connects with every member of the audience, as she continually gestures and eyeballs everyone in turn – yeah she's talking to me, or maybe it's you – no but really it's me.

Visually striking they make you sit up and take notice but with the sound they make too. Kicking off impressively with wah-wah chuka guitar and fizzy hi-hats ala 'Theme from Shaft' you just know this is gonna be a groovy roller coaster ride – and it is!

Often funky, sure and connected, with a hint of cheesy exotica, they put everything into their performance and their half hour on stage goes by in a convivial whoosh.

are nothing but fun with no hint of the solemnity of life – a benign yet innocent wet dream for both sexes delivered straight from their home in Berlin - to your door.


Night Parade – What is it about Night Parade that is so engaging? Well as one person said to me as the final chords of 'Demons' were fading away “It's The Voice”. Indeed she had hit the nail squarely on the head. Singer and songwriter Rob Vincent possesses that rare gift - a most unique and unusual singing voice – a sound that makes everyone who hears it, just stop whatever they are doing and want to listen – it's like we're all in trance – as if it was magic!

I'm not usually given to such flights of fancy or audacious claims – but “
It's The Voice” basically says it all. Well that and the strength of the material.

No disrespect to the rest of Vincent's band, and this probably pisses them off no end, although they are the perfect support for his songs; without him they would be just another band from Liverpool, and they probably know it.

Having said all that, put Vincent with an orchestra or bunch of session players and you would most certainly lose something. Like when the late, great Gerry Rafferty entered his most successful but MOR bland period, it's so easy to ruin a good thing with an unsympathetic setting. So Night Parade as a collective should hang on to that Je ne sais quoi they own and don't mess with formula.

I first saw
Rob Vincent last year when the band were a surprise addition to the Saturday IPO line up; I was mesmerised admittedly, but couldn't shake the image of Greek songbird Nana Mouskouri from my mind! Although Rob sounds nothing like the cosy 60's folk warbler – something about his signature horn-rims and perceptible tremolo conjured this image from my childhood watching the said superstar on my Gran's TV when we visited her and my Grandfather in sunny Hastings-by-the-Sea.

I think the band opened with wonderfully titled '
50 Stone Lover' which has quite a lot of instrumental interplay, only the keyboard was missing from this live version. They continue on through 'Havoc' a superb piece which alternates half paced verses with a massive driving chorus as the song progresses to conclusion.

In between songs Vincent tells us nothing about their content or inspiration, most of which have single word titles. There's a hint of anthem in their panoramic demeanour as each tumbles forth like wrath or anger from some higher source. Particularly evident in the aforementioned '
Havoc' - it's exciting building repetition “I'm gonna wreak...” is a case in point.

Normally I don't go for a bundle of anthemic songscapes, but can forgive him somewhat as the strength of his songwriting and honest delivery is truly beguiling, the epic stamp seems not to offend not a jot.

Rob announces before they go, that should you want to find out more about
Night Parade, that they can be found in all the usual places: MySpace, YourSpace, HisSpace, TheirSpace, FaceSpace etc.

The group finished with '
Demons', one of Vincent's strongest songs, leaving the audience somewhat spellbound and wanting more. We definitely hope to see them sooner, rather than wait another year.

Mr & Mrs Qwerty are indebted to Margi, superfan of the band, who introduced us to them last year and runs a website in celebration and to promote the combo at

HoneybugOne of the greatest highlights of the IPO around two years ago was seeing the magnificent Honeybug for the first time in all their glory – a 7 piece featuring guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, a 3 piece vocal trio, and at the helm: Nigel Frayling Kelly, a tour de force, piano playing, lead singer / composer / arranger throwing out one gleaming piece of lightly buttered soul infused soft rock song, after another.

This time Nigel was showcasing the stripped down economy sized edition of just himself and two of the three-piece backing vocalists. This was fine, I imagine they all fit compactly into one 4x4 with room to spare, rather than the articulated lorry required for the full 7 headed Monty.

Nonetheless, maybe this time they could have done with the heavy artillery as not only was the Cavern Pub packed to bursting at around 7.15pm, but there were a few folk in from the Loud Obnoxious Crew too, giving it plenty of heckle and vocal intrusion. Debbie and I were late so we didn't experience the full brunt of the broadside, but needless to say one thing a soft rock 3-piece with piano and harmony vocals don't require is input from the loud of gob and soft of brain.

By the time we got there it had mostly died down but was still extremely packed and pretty sweaty. There was standing room only and we weren't even able to get a clear picture of the stage, which is why we are indebted to
Alan of Cavern Photos for the use of his picture (incidentally from a different show).

The thing we were struck by this time hearing
Honeybug in this more transparent form, was not the excellent bob-on harmonies, of which were uniformly super-trouper, but how much Nigel sounds like a combination of Stevie Wonder and Neil Sedaka (particularly in his 10cc days). Only being able to hear and virtually not see the performance I was able to pinpoint the examples (in the links above) which most illustrate this realisation.

This is high praise indeed as previously I was more aware of the great soft rock parallels in arrangements, overall sound and larger ensemble effect which pointed towards
Curt Boettcher, Sagittarius, Millennium, California, Association, Harpers Bizarre, Merry-Go-Around, Turtles etc.

All this is still apparent, but the aforementioned lead vocal parallels were a new facet, previously unrevealed.

But what of
Honeybug themselves, after nothing more than the paired down Naked Songs EP release in two years, the next 12 months promises a heavy release schedule of all manner of goodies from all corners of the ensemble big and small. Debbie and I for one (or is that two?) cannot wait!

The Suns - have at times a gentle wide-open-space west coast sound, not a million miles away from some of the Pub and Prog bands of the 70's. This is nicely demonstrated by the closing number 'Soul Desert'.

We particularly dug '
The New Normal' the title song from their latest album - it's a great melody with an expansive feel and nice memorable hook. Particularly with the feel, it reminds me of something else, maybe The Jam or The Teardrop Explodes, I just can't put my finger on it, so maybe its all theirs, as the references elude me – anyway I'm still singing it now some weeks on, for which they should be justly elated – I know I am!

Although the band are good, we were later disappointed to learn that having seen the band during an earlier slot, we missed their fuller and perhaps greater performance when they were to be joined by new lead guitarist
Carl Phythain. For this reason we hope we get the chance to see them again next time at IPO or somewhere else on tour with this new line-up.

The Breakdowns – meet: Joe, Matt, Adam & Owen Breakdown from downtown Nottingham, but their hearts and minds reach right across the Atlantic to the classic New York of the Dolls, the Ramones and any other kind of trashy pop bubblegum references you can think of, but most of all they put me in mind of Boston's own sublime Real Kids. Like The Jooles earlier these guys yearn to be two dimensional in a 3D world – hooray for cartoon pop!

We had almost forgotten we'd seen
The Breakdowns once before at the IPO in 2007 when I guess they were still wet behind the ears, so it was an unexpected surprise to see them some four years on still chasing the trash aesthetic, but hitting the target pretty much every time.

Not since the 70's have a British band so embraced the sound of young America, and even then it was very much the West Coast sound, whereas the
Breakdowns definitely take their lead from the East Coast and from the end of that decade.

Joe Breakdown certainly looks the part, all renegade rock'n'roll threads, low slung guitar and wasted physique.

They may resemble an Anglicised
Johnny Thunders Heartbreakers but 'Don't Write Another Love Song' has more than a passing resemblance to the other Heartbreakers – Tom Petty's band' and their 'Anything That's Rock and Roll's Fine' with perhaps a nod to Green Day's Warning' itself a cop from the Kinks 'Picture Book'- all good points of reference though.

Affectionately known as Los Breakdowns (their new album is on Spanish Label Rock Indiana ) the band unashamedly wear their influences on their collective sleeves: 'Summertime Twist' is Ramones via trashy Beach Boys, whereas 'Roll Over Record Fair Blue' is a clear homage to grandaddy of them all Chuck Berry.

Completely unpretentious, the band carry no extraneous fat. Like the
Ramones there are no guitar solos, no unnecessary drum fills or rippling runs from the guitar or bass. Save the odd blast of bluesy harmonica, there's no dressing, the Breakdowns are as lean as their leader Joe's gangly frame and as mean as his biker bandanna and trilby hat!

A note to the combo before we close, a cover of the
Real Kids 'Common At Noon' would suit them like made to measure glove, please indulge me!

Nigel Thomas (x2) from The Foxes was appearing solo as the band's drummer had sustained an injury which prevented him from being able to drum. Rather than cancel, Nigel hopped on a train and landed with guitar in hand ready to deliver his solo variation on the Foxes catalogue.

Nigel was one of the few artists we got to see twice. This can often happen with simultaneous events and the multiple appearance programme of the IPO at Liverpool.

As a consumer this can be a fine balancing act, choosing acts you definitely want to see at least once, avoiding a few you might prefer not to see at all (
generally there are very few in this category) and catching the odd one a second time, either by accident or design. Things fell reasonably well into place this particular Friday allowing us a second chance to see the Foxes front man.

We arrived only knowing a smattering of
Foxes songs, but it was clear that many of the elements present in the material transferred well to Nigel's sole presentation of the same. We did miss the harmonies and some of the subtle light and shade that make the experience rather sweeter, but the heartfelt honesty, cards-on-the-table intimate soul searching and lyrical pieces on offer connected very well with the audience in the small familiar club environment.

In recognition of the venue, rather than do a Beatles cover, Nigel chose to perform a song the Fab Four themselves had covered in the shape of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' 'You Really Got A Hold On Me'. Although his version was adequate, I felt it was an ill choice. Not only do the lyrics sound quaintly old fashioned in 2011, but the original song contains lots of musical space and vocal interaction from the Miracles, leaving Nigel's version sounding oddly empty and bereft.

By the time he got to his second set, he dropped the
Miracles tune and replaced it with the Hard Days Night Song: 'Things We Said Today'. This was far more successful, even bringing one particular fan to her feet, who proceeded to dance around the floorspace much to the onlookers delight.

Performing with just vocals and acoustic guitar in a chiefly electric band environment is a tough call, yet it was visibly apparent that Nigel's clear, thoughtful and touching songs with the personality to match, easily moved his audience, both the tourists and the IPO faithful alike.


David ReidYou wait for two front men with acoustic guitars who carelessly lose their drummers, then two come along at once . And so it was with David Reid, normally front of house, lead vocalist and songwriter with superb Peterborough combo The Contrast was also appearing solo, having lost his drummer to temporary but debilitating illness.

Ever the trooper, Reid turned up all black except for a fetching white sport jacket and only a nylon
classical string guitar for companion. What was he going to do with this I wondered, not having seen a nylon string guitar in a rock context since the heady days of the 70's band Audience when the charismatic Howard Werth thrashed a similar instrument within an inch of its life with his deft finger-work?

Fans of T
he Contrast who've enjoyed their regular spirited and energetic sets may have arrived and been disappointed to find only David Reid alone on stage. Yet they needn't have taken umbrage, as those of us who enjoy his unusual voice and alternative view of the world, would have delighted in his interesting take on familiar Contrast songs.

Beginning with Underground Ghosts (from The Contrast's last album God of Malfunction) Reid delivers this and next song Pocketful of Fear as if they were fragile children being unleashed into an uncomfortable universe.

Much more restrained than the usual frenetic
Contrast submissions, each song is accompanied by Reid's faintly picked nylon strings but are immediately recognisable, even in this alien form.

Debbie experiences a particular poignant moment when David introduces his next song, a cover of Jimmy Webb's 'Wichita Lineman'. Most people will recognise this as one of Glen Campbell's crowning moments. In David Reid's hands it takes on quite a different interpretation, but gives Debbie a lump in her throat as it was one of her late Father's favourite songs.

David trawls further back through some more from the
Contrast back catalogue before finishing with a final cover of David Bowie's 'Heroes', a song that sits very well with Reid's special kind of delivery.

Although I don't think he does this kind of thing very often, for fans, it was fascinating to see the singer/guitarist out of his normal comfort zone, thrust into an unfamiliar environment delivering his music in this bare and intimate way. Based on the tunes strong melodic content and the uniqueness of his voice, the material transcended the stripped down presentation to reveal something intangible – a new shade of

The Dirty Royals – from Oxford, were punchy, lively and upfront. Their witty and intelligent in-between song patter was a breath of fresh air – we were most amused.

Apparently the line-up was one guitarist missing, as always, what you don't know, you don't miss, so for us leader Simon Williams carried both the evening and all the extra guitar solos just absolutely fine – Simon we didn't notice!

Their dry humour pervades even through the song titles, surely a band can't take themselves too seriously with titles referencing already established evergreens such as 'I'm in Love' (Beatles) 'Respect' (Aretha, Erasure) and even 'There's a Riot Going On' (Sly & The Family Stone). So their collective tongue is firmly planted in their collective cheeks.

Has there already been a song called '
Josephine'? I expect so, but it didn't stop our appreciation of the same. With lovely nur-nur opening riff and “put 'em up” refrain it's a great little memorable tune which stays with you long after catching for the first time.

It's difficult to succinctly sum up their music style in a nutshell, suffice to say it has most of the ingredients that will enthuse your average powerpop fan, so we say thank you to the
Dirty Royals.

Although a Friday we made it an early night in preparation for traditionally the big day, tomorrow. In so doing we missed a band I'd wanted to see for many years, but rain checked once again regrettably, the Sparkle*Jets UK.

For Your Further Endeavour:

Breakdowns -
Cardinal Jack -
Charge of The Light Brigade -
Contrast -
Dirty Royals -

Foxes -

Honeybug -

Jooles -
Kik -
Night Parade -
Seasongs -


Trouble At Mill: Recent changes with the way Blogger implements its interface has given bloggers like ourselves a serious set of unfathomable obstacles and erratic unpredictable output.

This has resulted in not only in our latest post looking like its been in a nasty accident, but also a phenomenal waste of time and energy trying to fix the same. We will shortly be moving to a new address under our own domain name, with the level of control we need to bring you the best content in a consistent readable format. This has been your friendly neighbourhood PowerPopReview Team, slightly miffed and worse for wear but with yours and our collective interests at heart!


Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible

You don't want to hear a bunch of excuses do you? No, so we'll apologise and say if you've visited this space in the last 12 hours and seen all kinds of strange appearances and then non-appearances and now this - you'll get the idea that we're experiencing one or two technical difficulties. Have no fear just as soon as they are resolved we'll return with our next installment of our review of the Liverpool International Pop Overthrow 2011. Thanks  - don't go away now!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends

My husband and I have never been disappointed when we have gone to the annual Liverpool International Pop Overthrow Festival and this year was no exception; indeed it would be fair to say that this one turned out to be probably the very best we have ever attended. This is due in part to the broad mix of bands and artists from all over the world, and the great friends and acquaintances we've made over the years at the event. This particular year was the 9th year running for Liverpool – kudos to promoter and all round IPO guru: David Bash – in a year that has seen artists possibly harder to contact (MySpace decomposing to some extent) he surely did his homework.

For those of you who have attended the event on a regular basis there was the return of many favourite bands in addition to quite a few new surprises. As in the past the ambiance of the three venues, Cavern pub and club (with its 2 stages) enhances the experience of hearing such wonderful music. You have the rich history of the Cavern plus the semi-fanatical music lovers of this festival combined with the worldwide tourists who have made the trip to see the legendary Beatles birthplace. We've been to the same festival in New York also, but none approaches the fun, diversity and draw of Liverpool.

In the past we've only been able to attend 1 to 2 days of the festival but this year we decided to spend as many days as we could due to the very rich bill being sported this year. Now having stayed for most of the festival, we know there is no way we will ever only attend for a short spell. In total we ended up seeing over 40 bands and although at the time it seemed like the merry-go-round would go on forever, in reality it was all over far too quickly.

Upon arrival, the sky was blue, the birds were chirping. I was practically running to Matthew Street in my excitement to get there. Mr Qwerty was close behind with his camera to capture the moment and beyond...

Liverpool International Pop Overthrow Festival Review 2011

We will combine reviews where we saw an artist more than once and indicate thus: (x2) - but we'll comment as though it were one performance, with some deviations, naturally.


Richard Snow & the Inlaws (x2) - We were late to the Cavern Pub, the scene of our first concert. The room was uncharacteristically busy for the late afternoon and the IPO schedule, but we were pleased to see it so. Obviously our first artist Richard Snow was responsible for the healthy draw.

We had missed Richard at previous IPO's and Debbie in particular was familiar with his last album and we were both eager to see this talented singer/songwriter and his band. He was chiefly featuring songs from his forthcoming third album: Am I Really That Boring?

First song I remember was Middle Class Girl which was dedicated to Margi (audience member and fellow midlander). The recorded version is swelled out sonically with semi-lengendary figures: powerpop luminary and Brian Wilson Band member: Nelson Bragg, along with singer/songwriter and star ascendant Anny Celsi - quite a coup for Richard and delight for our ears. Not that the heavy friends were present on this occasion, but Richard and the two members of his band all sing and make a sound big enough you'd swear there was at least an extra phantom member or two! From it's catchy " GIRL/Girl" call and response intro it arrests the listener from the very beginning.

Richard songs are full of melody, ringing Searchers/Byrdsian guitars and beautiful pin sharp harmonies. His somewhat ironic tales of real life are often insightful and can hit a truism many of us can recognise – on 21st Century he sings “21st Century sucks and blows... -'s modern life I fear” – too true mate!

Next up is the pretty If You Don't Rescue Me, with its Paul Simon fingerpick and wonderful Beach Boyslike tag out.

Stop Your Crying echos a slight 'Don't Fear The Reaper' figure but takes it off in a different direction with another lovely call & response vocal so beloved by Snow and us fans of vocal harmony.
The past occurs again in Take Me Back Home Again where Snow explains the double edged sword of looking youthful “When I was 18 I looked like I was 10”.

Last and best, the show stopping number from the new album is title song “Am I Really That Boring?” with its infectious twiddlly opening riff, almost Claptonesqe, and Joe Jackson type shouty vocal. Snow then goes on to list a set of scenarios which I guarantee will have most of you nerdy/anal pop types identifying with 90% of them – Mrs Q & I exchanged several glances of recognition even on first listen. You can check it for yourself here.

Richard Snow has an intimacy and spareness of expression that captures common experiences and relates them with candid honesty, plus a rare gift for melody, harmony and hook. He connects well with his audience and sometimes you might think, we've found the British Marshall Crenshaw – Ladies and Gentlemen – this is a good thing!

Sara Lowes - After some technical difficulties (yes unusual keyboard set-ups can be a pain in amongst a sea of predominant guitar bands in a festival situation) Sara's stunning songs came as a complete surprise – we had no idea what to expect.

A bit of piano noodling begins her set – I thought she was still messing about – suddenly this changes gear and gives way to a solid crunchy riff recalling early Steely Dan – turns out this is the leading track from her new album 'Back To Creation'. Later there's a suggestion of Chicago in the anticipation of some phrases as the drummer plays also some brass (how?). Listening to the album somewhat later, it becomes apparent that Sara dresses her arrangements with fabulous brass intervention a la Chicago/Blood,Sweat &Tears. Fans of this most creative period of pop/jazz grooviness will definitely enjoy Sara's twist on the fusion.

There's always a danger with female singers who practice open heart surgery about their life and loves to stick them in some cosy sub-folk category. Although we detected some strong traces of Renaissance in their airiest of phrases, there were also equal parts Andy Pratt, Ben Folds and even Traffic – very fine company indeed.

Onwards and Sara introduces 'Something I Don't Know' a song closer to classic white soul than anything else she has played thus far. I've always admired artists that are not tied by genre – great stuff.

It turns out that Sara is originally from Barnoldswick but based in Manchester and studied classical music, plus she has done quite a lot of session work for the likes of the fab Micah P Hinson, King Creosote, Jim Noir and The Earlies. Thus she's quite the seasoned pro, which belies her seeming young innocence and modest presentation – I hope she doesn't mind us saying?

IPO often surprises us – Sara was one of the first to make us sit up, take notice and appreciate the eclecticism. One to watch definitely.

Eskimo Blonde (x2) – It may have been my imagination but there seemed to be a buzz in the air, an anticipation during the set-up period for these guys from Aberdeen, Scotland. An act that we were fortunate to get to see twice across two days. First time, on the Cavern big stage they prove that they are a force to be reckoned with – our second look later confirms that the intimacy of the Cavern Pub is far more comfortable, as the band relax and connect with their audience when they can see the whites of their eyes.

With no nonsense they are soon ready and kick off with Something for the Weekend a song that cops the riff from Bad Company's 'Feel Like Making Love' but far more puts me in mind of the excellent early 70's London hard rockers Stray.

Effortlessly, they soon slip into the next number 'Happy' where a great thump and grind riff starts things off as soon the chorus escalates to a soaring hook line. The band follow that enduring line of outfits influenced by the unfussy classic rock of the mantle laid down by Free but also encompass the now sadly defunct but brilliant Moke and the great Canadian band Cry of Love. Eskimo Blonde are our next great hope to occupy this space.

Lead vocalist Mike Laszek has a great edgy rasp to his voice; in the high points he elevates this to a controlled whine which soars above the back line to accentuate the all important hooks. Complete with blonde spiky hair, he cuts a fine outline against the Cavern backdrop; close your eyes for just one moment and you can hear a young Bryan Adams at his creative best.

Mike has strong support from the rest of the band, led by their slightly nerdy looking lead guitar player, but he belies his bespectacled demeanour and delivers a constant stream of interjecting rips and runs complimenting their sharp and infectious riffy tunes.

The band's penultimate song begins with a Talking Heads' 'Psycho Killer' bass line but develops into a full scale AC/DC style four on the floor rocker. Called Trip it's a definite stage high point. They finish with a new song harshly and ironically christened by their leg pulling home audience as 'Shit' but is in fact currently titled Heaven Almighty. It's a great finish to a great performance.

Eskimo Blonde deliver a very polished, confident and powerful set, chock full of bump and grind riffs and infectious choruses. Highly recommended and definitely one of the IPO highs in what proves to be an exceptional year!

Advice: Take a trip and try to see It their way

“We're the fill in band” announced besuited Corner Laughers (x2) singer/guitarist KC Bowman as he stepped up to the microphone. The first band I've ever seen at the Cavern proper not to be introduced by IPO head honcho David Bash or his partner Rina Bardfield. Indeed they were the fill in as they were unannounced on the programme. We later learn that the charmingly named Corner Laughers are an alter-ego of billed combo Agony Aunts, which are normally fronted by Karla Kane and Angela Silletto and augmented by various powerpop aristocrats such as Chris Von Sneidern. However tonight, all the way from the Bay area of San Francisco we get the Agony Aunts (albeit with Karla Kane at the helm) posing as the Corner Laughers.

Clear? No, OK never mind, what about the music? The Corner Laughers were not surprisingly, completely unknown to us. They seem to inhabit that narrow but delightful chasm left by the likes of the great Dan Hicks & his Hot Licks crossed with jug band appeal of The Lovin' Spoonful. Depending on your Point-Of-View, their brand of good timey western swing delivered with suitable quirkiness on ukulele & mandolin by the aforementioned waif-like bespectacled vocalist Karla Kane and her assembled bunch of equally whimsical similar sailors, is totally engaging. However, its fun and frivolity on the outside hides the lyrical underbelly, where we are recounted tales of myths, betrayal, ancient history and lets not forget: jerk-off boyfriends!

The second time we saw the band, later in the evening was as Agony Aunts (as billed). In many way the Corners although they are much more accessible to your actual Powerpop fan with their skew on Beatlesque melody and song structure, their inclusion of plenty of 7ths and diminished 5ths and all round R. Crumb & his Cheap Suit Serenaders references makes you realise just how very interchangeable the two bands are.

We had seen The Anydays before but such was their improvement over the last time we had done so, we barely recognised the fact. Hailing from Oxford they completed the night for us by delivering a sharp concentrated set of mod-u-like crunchy songs in an assured and deliberate fashion. Leader Drew Atkins, every inch the rock star in Lou Reed shades, red wasp-like hooped shirt and Chelsea boots, announced songs in a nonchalant, sometimes unintelligible insolence, which went well with the territory.

The audience, at this time of the night, strongly represented by the tourist fraternity (The Cavern naturally attracts many unconnected to IPO visitors from all over the world) seemed to treat the band with an undeserved disinterested indifference, which frankly amazed this writer. Somebody was tired and it wasn't the band.

Nonetheless, they didn't allow it to affect their performance and continued with a great animated elan.Their best song blew off our socks, called Tambourine from their just released new album 'Move'.

You should buy it, and we look forward to seeing The Anydays again soon.
We'll be publishing our review of the next day at IPO (Friday) in a few days time.
For Your Further Delectation:

Corner Laughers -
Eskimo Blonde
Sara Lowes -