Manchester Roadhouse - Wednesday 18th March
I jumped at the chance to review this gig after seeing this band play a tiny (and I mean TINY) loft space in Cheltenham, in the middle of the day about a year ago.
The loft was VERY hot and I only caught about a song and a half before escaping outside for some fresh air (and a cigarette), but what I heard made me wish I‘d stuck it out a bit longer.
Admittedly, most of the people at the Roadhouse are here for Red Light Company who are the main band of the evening and it’s sold out with the touts making a killing outside, however the crowd are really getting their money’s worth of entertainment this evening.
People who may not have heard Grammatics before may have been surprised to see a cellist setting up onstage. Most people tend to have an expectation of what will follow based on this only to be completely off the mark.
Owen Brinley (vocals/guitar) whilst setting up comes on stage wearing jeans held together at the knee with thick black gaffer tape accompanied by a bottle of red wine and a glass which a roadie knocks over and smashes in the process. This leaves him with no choice but to drink from the bottle during the set. This is surely the behaviour of some talentless, middle class, indie kid who put a band together to lure groupies but no. Owen has a voice which makes Matt Bellamy sound like karaoke at a hen night. He’s also from ’up north’ and not ‘trendy Camden’ as you might expect.
Rory O‘Hara (bass) in comparison seems much more the introvert but then goes on to play his bass so furiously that he makes his finger bleed all over the stage. It’s always the quiet ones… (as the saying goes)
There may be a cello, their singer may have an unbelievable vocal range hitting high notes perfectly without faltering but make no mistake, this is complex pop-rock which at the very core of its being is fuelled by genuine passion and creativity, not pretentiousness.
Owen seems genuinely surprised by the crowd’s response to each song. Those who may have otherwise used the support band slot to fit in a fag break outside, between lager consumption and the main act, actually stay to listen and are rewarded with dissonant energetic songs in compound time that are still easy to listen to without having to “be into that kind of thing.”
Not only is every song intricate enough in detail to keep you interested without being overwhelming but Owen is also every bit the showman making them interesting to watch and it doesn’t even include him acting like an idiot to achieve this. Subtle things like just staring into space for ages whilst singing are as mesmerising as watching him lean into the crowd wondering will he or will he not crowd surf like something from an 80’s pop video?
It is certainly one of my favourite gigs of the year so far and also probably just one of many more Grammatics gigs I’ll attend.