The first time I heard of Cabbage was during an interview on BBC Radio Five Live between Christmas and New Year. They sounded young and bored and decried the lack of royalties they receive from Spotify. As reward, no doubt for their appearance on the ‘serious’ talk radio station, one of their songs was played; Terrorist Sympathiser. I liked it. Sing-a-long lyrics sung by a bawdy lad drawing out his vowels with little regard for standing erect at a microphone stand. I thought of Johnny Rotten with his sleeves pulled over his clenched fists.
Forays into the music press revealed Cabbage as a bit of an upcoming band earning affection from music critics writing in broadsheet and music papers alike. After looking them up and finding their scant website I discovered they were on tour and playing at both Manchester and Liverpool in the North West. Manchester was sold out so I bought a dirt cheap ticket for the Liverpool gig at EBGBs. The gig was last night.
EBGBs is the basement bar to it’s more grown up looking sibling Heebie Jeebies on Seel Street. The cheerful door crew waived me through, I’d shaven my hair completely for the occasion, thinking the lack of grey stubble might help me blend in more with the kids. EBGBs is tiny with a bar in one section adjacent to the auditorium separated by a low arch carved out of the bowels of the pub and what once was, clearly, the cellar to the pub above.
After paying £4.50 for a bottle of Estrella Damm I ducked under the arch to see first support band April in full swing. April are aptly named as the callowness of the band members matches the month which heralds the first days of Spring. I imagine the band I played in at school looked a lot like April without the stresses and strains of being on a national tour. They looked like a bunch of kids whose soap their mums had packed for them had long since worn out and they couldn’t work out how to recharge the batteries in their bum-fluff razors. I was reminded of Ant & Decs attempt to re-create an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads with their appallingly applied 5 o’clock shadows fresh from make-up, in an attempt to make them look older and wearier. These kids had it in spades. They could play and their next single, Time, had a bass line worthy of a sample or two. The bass player was probably the kid who took A level music and scored a grade 5 piano; there’s always one.
April dismantled and removed their equipment, The Shimmer Band moved in and assembled theirs on stage. Sound and light guys walked back and forth with tablets fiddling with the son et lumiere. After much testing of microphones the Shimmer Band shimmied back off stage and the house sounds came on for another 10 minutes. It was apparent the band couldn’t play their set without the benefit of sunglasses and they re-emerged donning cheap looking shades which suggested they’d spent the 10 minute hiatus in search of a 24 hour petrol station where they could buy emergency sunglasses. A swirling opening worthy of the finest Dervish musicians began with the flabby arms of the lardy singer emerging from a gold velvet t-shirt prodding towards the ceiling. A stomp of his foot heralded the band joining in with the backing tape as it became suddenly apparent the boy could sing. The white plastic sunglasses clashed strikingly with his velveteen t-shirt but the voice inside caused the audience to stop and register what sounded like an English Ronnie James Dio. No sword and sorcery was this as punk energy met middle eastern rhythms during a noisy set of of well constructed songs. I think they’re from Nuneaton…or was that April. My listening and viewing pleasure was curtailed when a lady about 5′ 8″ tall stood on the step I was on at the back of the hall, smack bang in front of me with her 2 friends and they began to chatter and laugh loudly. It was rude it was ignorant and I told them; selfish idiots.
Cabbage followed The Simmer Band. I read a few live reviews of the band from their 2016 tour and to be honest they weren’t that positive. The band’s antics were largely thought of as contrived and set them aside as rebels without much of a cause. Another delay caused by the sound system and they arrived onstage at 10.10pm just after the chattering lady who’s rear neck I had become rather too familiar with had fucked off. Cabbage continued the trend of the bands playing in ascending age order with their teenage years seemingly just behind them. T shirts were quickly dispensed with by the two main protagonists of the band who between them shared lead vocal and guitar duties. It was difficult to tell most of the time as the stage at EBGBs is only about a foot higher than the hall floor and even from my slightly elevated position, I could only see them from the neck up.
The moshpit was in full swing and I enjoyed the gig vicariously sharing the mayhem going on down the front which felt sticky and sweaty. After two songs the road crew emerged to implore the audience to take a step back as their momentum had caused something of a stage invasion. The band said they were ‘fucking skint’ and couldn’t afford to replace any damaged pedals; “There’s plenty of fuckin’ shit to go and smash up out there, but don’t smash up Cabbage’s equipment” the singer implored. “Who thought this would be a good idea?” he rhetorically asked before bigging up the audience. They were great; swigging beer and crowd surfing on an audience who provided backing vocals when the singer found himself po-going in the third row. He amused me when he announced the next song was about dead people and ‘why we like shagging them’; I couldn’t restrain a reflective chortle.
The crowd, mostly made up of students (I think I was the 2nd oldest there), got their moneys worth with a set of blistering energy and well crafted punk-pop songs. Cabbage 2017 are kids on fire who, if they took any notice of their critics in 2016, have learned to have a fucking good time on stage and let their music do their talking for them. If they don’t implode they have a chance to replicate fellow Mancs, The Happy Mondays as stardom awaits. After it all finished the band came out and mingled with the departing audience. I shook one of the singer’s hands and he seemed genuinely pleased when I told him I enjoyed the performance and what a great gig it was. There was enough humility which made him likeable which, along with his talent should see them through.
Well done cabbage, you fulfilled my 5 a day.