The annual spring bank holiday touring show is back on the road this year, stopping off across Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester to deposit six or seven venues' worth of new, exciting or both artists. And all for £30. While there's nothing to match the no-really-what?-ness booking of Liars and Beach House together last year there's more than enough of greater interest to justify schlepping round a city centre of a valuable bank holiday day in the name of music, and here's five prime examples:
And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
(Bristol 9.45pm Anson Rooms, Nottingham 9.30pm Trent Uni, Manchester not at all)
Oh yes. You forget how much they were tipped to be enormous around 2000-2001, Source Tags And Codes earning a perfect 10.0 off Pitchfork, and as much as their recent albums have become bogged down in 'experimental' longeurs Texan roughnecks AYWKUBTTOD remain a vital live band. They can hardly do otherwise, in truth, with two drumkits and up to three guitars at once rubbing up against smart prog-space-hardcore that at its most direct and thrilling could blow the top of your head off. Wonder if they can still afford to wreck the stage.
(Bristol 6.45pm Anson Rooms, Nottingham 7pm Trent Uni, Manchester 7.30pm Academy 2)
It's two and a half years since this corner of the blogosphere has seen the fight-pop emissaries live, a frankly unacceptable state of affairs. With Ross Robinson-produced second album There Is A Way on its way on 13th June the second drumkit has been ditched, good news for the band's personal space while in their Transit but potentially leaving a big gap where the pummelling used to be. No matter, with John Baillie Jnr upgraded to co-singer the extraordinary ADHD energy, fun and level of ideas, both musically and what to do during the gaps, they exert will remain at high levels. DO A WALL OF CUDDLES.
(Bristol 5.30pm Cooler, Nottingham 7.30pm Trent Uni Pulse, Manchester 8.45pm Deaf Institute)
Now this could be something. Last year in that Trent Uni bar alcove we saw Islet blow many away with a unique staging, and this year's odd undercard show could come from the Oklahoma psych-fuzz outfit whose album My ____ Is Pink - no, that's what it's called - is one of our unsung records of the year so far. Reports of the live show involve matching boiler suits, streamers, interactivity, volume and some tremendous facial hair.
(Bristol 6.15pm Academy 2, Nottingham 11pm Bodega, Manchester 7.30pm Academy 3)
We think we've described both of the Oxford not-members-of-Blessing Force-any-more-thank-you-very-much collective's first two singles as Brian Wilson meets Animal Collective. You get the idea, anyway - sunshine harmonies, tornado stacks of psychedelic noise with dreamlike electronics and pop melodies both going on underneath. They can carry it off live without dropping off either.
(Bristol Louisiana 10.15pm, Nottingham midnight Bodega, Manchester 8pm Club Academy)
And here's your wild card. Still pretty much an unknown live quantity, such was the pace of their blog frenzy, Madeline and Brian plus friends are by some early accounts still working towards a unified method of transposing their giving a kick up the backside to 60s flowery pop to the stage. Mind you, they played ten times at SXSW so if they haven't got it together by now...
ALSO: Well, loads, so quickly through the top and best of the rest. De facto headliners are Hurts, bringing the poker faced Go West synths to a party also crashed by laff-riot power popists We Are Scientists, sunshine indie-pop irritant Darwin Deez (Manchester only) and the hopefully still far freer and more inventive live than on increasingly dragging record Guillemots. Also in prime positions The Joy Formidable bring the surprisingly loud and wayward in a good way live show, as exemplified by their performance on Conan O'Brien's show last week, in particular the noise-out ending:
Some other featured artists, quickly: Blessing Force math-disco brainiacs Trophy Wife, bank robber-masked synth-pop freewheelers Is Tropical, tightly strung power-folk-grungers Stagecoach, beatific nightmare pop fuel Braids, intriguing folkie Benjamin Francis Leftwich, blog-goth witchery Niki & the Dove, Bella Union-signed spectral slowcore duo Lanterns On The Lake (Nottingham and Manchester only), gently futuristic psych-pop Hot Horizons and nu-shoegaze far better than most Spotlight Kid (Nottingham only).
Calendar: Bristol 28th May, Nottingham 29th May, Manchester 30th May
Tickets: £30 through alt-tickets