Review: Alaska + Best Friends and King Tuff @ The Bowery

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Leeds-based Alaska graced the Bowery stage adorned in all-white. Was it something to do with the twinkling snowscapes of Alaska itself (as a geographer I would have liked to think so), or did they just forget their UV projector? Forgotten disco effects or not, as the set’s big hitting tunes kicked in, Alaska got the crowd moving no matter what, making for some incredible scenes.  I don’t think there are words to quite describe the effect the foursome had on the Bowery crowd, but perhaps this video captured by Semi Detached will explain:

Quite a spectacle it was too, never before have I seen both inebriated punter and bass guitarist in perfect harmony, lunging back and forth with each other in such a spontaneously decisive fashion. That said, award for the happiest bassist might as well go to that man, taking front stage wielding that bass like a sword and swatting amongst the newly-formed dance troupe. Just to reiterate the true joy of it all, I turn round whilst waiting for Best Friends to begin and there they are, Alaska and the ‘dancers’ enjoying a drink together – no party-poopers in here tonight.

Back to the actual music, there were some moments of rock and roll brilliance in the spooling rounds of guitar strokes in songs such as ‘Ghost In Your Mind’ with strong vocals biting right from the start, reminiscent of Paul Banks (Interpol) or Harry McVeigh (White Lies), just a lot more upbeat, of course.

The room lit up when Alaska threw out their most definable pop hit ‘Baker Boy’ surely cooked up of all the ingredients one would want from a stand-out single; sway-inducing melodies, plinky little guitar riffs and undeniably catchy lyrics… the old man next to me strolling to the bar murmuring to himself ‘oh ba-ker boy, ba-ker ba-ker ba-ker boy’…

I also enjoyed the variety of facial hair this band exhibited.

For me the outstanding track of their set was ‘Kylie’. The lead-singer finishes his lines with such a definitive wail, the song itself builds with a subtle, surf-style guitar wobble in the background and got a lot of feet tapping along live…

Stand out track: ‘Kylie’

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Total kudos to Semi Detached for the most excellent one-two line-up of Best Friends into King Tuff. These two bands from opposite sides of the Atlantic share both that on-stage vigour and grunge-esque performance that pull in the crowds. The local beauties delivered a tight set just like they repeatedly deliver; giving Peace a run for their money at the last Semi Detached show they attended at the Harley.

There is nothing more upbeat and refreshing of a Saturday evening than to be kicked in the face by a fast-paced belter like ‘Mankind’ with its snappy vocal barks and lovely, pendulous alternating tempos that give this song so much texture – it demands attention – and didn’t it get some. The Bowery was pretty packed out already and not surprisingly with the home crowd advantage for Best Friends.

Neither is there anything more satisfying than seeing a guitarist crunched around his bass like that, tense and poised and just blowing out the bass lines. Moreover, seeing a guitarist appear to dig a grave as if his axe were indeed a shovel is if anything more appealing. For such high-paced surf anthems, the band rumble onstage like an earthquake rocking the floor, a lot sea of nodding heads towering behind me. ‘Surf Bitches’ is the one for me – a coo-ing drummer emerges from behind his curtains of hair from the back of the room and it kicks off with some cool, chatty lyrics. Such an easy listener, a hip swinger, a song that makes you whistle and coo along too. An essential tune for your summer playlist.

I also enjoyed the variety of swooshy hair this band exhibited.

Dude Love’ indeed screams teen dreams, balmy nights and the end of summer… but luckily this wasn’t the end of the  summer, or the end of the night… but it leaves me longing for the return of Best Friends… come back! Wait for me! One more song? …

Stand out track: ‘Surf Bitches’

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ALL HAIL KING TUFF!

I cannot begin to tell the tale of the performance until I have said a word about the man himself, the head honcho, el douche, who goes by the name of ‘King Tuff’ himself. Such a cool cat on stage, so collected; his sun medallion swinging below his fauny locks (of which he even names a song after his statement jewellery). Yet with a bare of his fangs and a screech of a remark, he tends to strike out to the crowd with some biting charisma in announcing he is present, introducing some of his songs with a hiss “thisss one’s for those girlsss who know they are hot”.

It’s sad to admit there are times throughout the set I found myself distracted. Not distracted by the crowds creeping up ever closer behind me, not distracted by that tiny American flag stuck onto the snub of ‘Magic Jake’s’ bass, but I found myself distracted by King Tuff’s MAD guitar skills – honestly there are something to behold. No picture I took was indeed able to capture the lightning fingers on this guy on songs like ‘Wild Desire’ and ‘Stranger’. All hail those delights.

There are some real psychedelic, whirlybird songs in the set, especially from his most recent self-titled album. ‘Swamp of Love’ is one such specimen, ‘Unusual World’ another softly sung delight to break up the heavy thronging songs like ‘Bad Thing’ that certainly made my knees wobble.

Thing is, when being graced by royalty, surely you wouldn’t go so far as to ignore them would you? You wouldn’t be so treasonous as to turn your back to them and start texting would you? You wouldn’t sit down whilst in the front row of a gig and pretend King Tuff hasn’t clocked you being a defector … would you?

King Tuff lept upon the turncoat, stradled him and played an almighty (and perfectly timed) shredding guitar solo to the crowds praise. Nothing is more pleasing to the crowds than using a peasant as a footstool during your perfomance. It was great stagemanship to see Tuff keep a cool head and use it to his advantage, same kudos to Alaska for brilliant crowd interaction – and then leaving it to Twitter to laugh about it afterwards:

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The night drew to a close but the crowd didn’t move at the end of the King’s set. Sheffield weren’t letting him disembark from the Bowery throne just yet – his disciples weren’t done. One more song, one more song, ALL HAIL KING TUFF! The King isn’t all bad, course he played another, shredding like a god, fist in the air all the way… what a night.

Stand out track: ‘Stranger’

Words: Beth Louise Coleman

Alaska Bandcamp. Soundcloud. Twitter. Facebook.

Best Friends Bandcamp. Twitter. Facebook. Soundcloud. Tumblr.

King Tuff Twitter. Myspace. Website. Facebook.

micho

Here’s a cat, Beth!

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