Suds are an ideal opener for Ratboys; their brand of infectious melody-driven indie is a little poppier than the headliner – more in the vein of Alvvays – but they provide a much-needed sugar rush to get the limbs loose.
Fresh off the release of their best album, The Window, Ratboys are enjoying a glut of attention from new fans, and the sold out crowd tonight is evidence they’re unlikely to be playing venues this small for long. Unsurprisingly, most of the set is taken from that album (all but two songs), but despite being released less than three months ago, the band perform it with a locked-in precision that demonstrates just how simpatico this four-piece are.
Go Outside is the first older song, and there’s a noticeably scuzzier feel to it, something that the crowd respond well to, or as well as can be expected when standing practically on top of each other. Charles Bernstein and Elvis in the Freezer are other older highlights, but new songs like Morning Zoo (introduced as a hoedown) and Bad Reaction show the band’s increased range and skill.
The seven hour drive up from Cardiff earlier in the day may have slightly scrambled their brains (Tebay services and its famous duck pond is mentioned more than once, a joy also shared by Suds), but the band are very chatty and casual, quickly developed a nice rapport with the crowd, even if all they ever receive to their questions is a succession of people shouting “Woo!”.
The obvious standout moment comes with the epic Black Earth, WI. Singer Julia Steiner alludes to this just before, asking guitarist Dave Sagan if he’s ready for his “marathon”, but nothing really prepares you for someone solo-ing for five minutes straight, especially when they’re five feet away. The band drop in and out as required and everyone joins in for the glorious finale, but it’s a tour de force from Sagan, a nice update to old “rock god” cliches from a band that are pushing the idea of what a standard-lineup rock outfit can do.
Peter the Wild Boy is an energetic closer as well, and the band leave the stage cementing their status as ones firmly to watch in the future. This might seem an unfair to a band with five albums under their belt, but The Window showed them hitting their stride on record, and tonight shows they’re in the same space on stage as well.