Being A Tiger have always eluded us. Tempted by their promises of grunge-punk chaos, we’ve gone to the ends of the Earth to track them down live. An announcement about a month ago that the band would be playing in Huddersfield’s tiny Czar hair salon (though they clearly didn’t stop for a trim judging by the lank mass of hair that’s on display tonight) had us salivating all over our moth eaten jumpers and holed Converse.
But alas, fate has always stepped in at the last minute to make things just that little bit harder for us. Damn you, fate. An early bout of Freshers’ flu stopped us in our tracks literally hours before the show at Czar, and last-minute family emergencies which see us boarding the next train home when we’d rather be throwing rock shapes to some sweaty drop-D riffs are not uncommon. Damn you, fate.
Indeed, even when we woke on the morning of this special show to celebrate the launch of new EP Not Being A Tiger Is Shit, we were feeling a bit peaky. A heady mix of fruit juices and paracetamol soon saw to that though and we fought through the sporadic sneeze attacks to plonk ourselves down the front at this Street Spirit affiliated show (!).
Being a Street Spirit night, we were of course treated to an eclectic line-up of bands before the main act had even contemplated tuning their guitars. Dials were up first, bringing their emotive alternative rock up the M1 with them all the way from Guildford. Imagine the soul patches and smarmy charm of No Vacancy – the rival band in 2003’s brilliant School Of Rock – and you’re pretty much there. In the film, the band are ridiculed for their pandering music that takes the fun out of rock ‘n’ roll and playing moaning moderate rock for the masses whole not “sticking it to the man”. The same could be said about Dials, who’s “School of Soundgarden” thinking and even Chris Cornell-alike singer offer a terrifying glimpse into the darker side of alt.rock where Chad Kroeger is king and listening to Creed isn’t so much a guilty pleasure as a bona fide way of life. Still, we’re told the band have tonight gotten the best reception of their tour so far with what seems to be genuine sincerity.
It’s handbags at dawn when Tom Napier announces “this song is about a girl I knew who turned out to not be a very nice person”, a sharp intake of breath from the crowd segueing into the pained obviousness of lyrical cries like “thanks for nothing”, and a closing cover of All Saints‘ ‘Pure Shores’ does actually skirt with genius.
Up next are Bearfoot Beware, an insane math-rock trio from Leeds. Their regimented post-punk aesthetic (think the well ironed shirts and sweaters of bands like Untitled Musical Project) meshes well with their free-form approach to music, as tempos quicken and slow at a moments notice. The off-hand time signatures even catch the gaggle of drunken party girls at the back of guard as they try to head bang sarcastically to Bearfoot Beware’s intense barrage of noise. Staking their claim to the coveted “most exciting band of the night” early on in the slot, the band are tight and on the button throughout. An achievement made all the more worthy by the seemingly unstructured nature of their music.
Sandwiching an acoustic singer-songwriter between two loud bands must have sounded like a hilarious prank to pull on Johny Gibson – who ambles on to the stage to the chattering of the crowd and never really gets them to shut up – at some point. In practise though, watching the singer struggle through his set against a sea of uninterested people armed only with the relatively placid tones of an acoustic guitar makes for a fairly excruciating practise, and many make a beeline for the loos just to avoid the awkward atmospheric thrum.
Being A Tiger finally take to the stage, and a real sense of achievement wafts over us. After about a year of waiting we’ve finally managed to cheat fate long enough to catch Huddersfield’s premier grunge reincarnators in the act!
So it’s all a bit of a shame when it turns out to not be very good. Sure, we were expecting the total Nirvana/Mudhoney/Seattle-grunge-scene rip-off communicated to us by the band’s online presence (we know we hark on about originality most of the time but sometimes just letting your hair down and going batshit crazy to some sludgey rock ‘n’ roll nastiness), but Being A Tiger just don’t come with the clout of those bands and that era, and it all feels somewhat shallow. The chugging guitars of ‘Down’ evoke early Placebo or the intensity of Veruca Salt on record, but live the Huddersfield power-trio are mostly defeated in their attempts to recreate them, singer Mark Wendl’s Cobain-alike vocals straining against the trebley strums of his Fender Stratocaster.
It seems a shame that after such anticipation for Being A Tiger. it looks like we caught them on an off night. It seems doubly a shame too that this came with the launch party for their new EP in Not Being A Tiger Is Shit. Perhaps on other nights Being A Tiger do truly bring with them the type of grunge-punk chaos captured in Dave Markey’s 1991: The Year Punk Broke, but tonight we witnessed nothing of the sort; no splintered guitars, no ad hoc stage invasions. And perhaps worst of all, no truly crunching grunge riffs to whip your lank, untamed hair about to.
Still, as with any other Street Spirit night, it was an interesting mix of styles. Perhaps the strange mid-line-up booking of Johny Gibson was a step too far, but the running order was eclectic as ever.