One of my favourite things about Fortune Sound Club are those initial steps up the stairs, where you can hear the echoes of the on-stage band spilling down into the lobby. Climbing the steps by two, I eagerly wanted to see the band that was luring me in with their bright haphazard melodies and garagey guitars. Playing to a decent crowd for 8 p.m., trio Ablebody got the night started with a fuzzed out, noise-pop set.
The band had a chill, unkempt sound that had bite but remained catchy. Lead singer and guitarist Christoph Hochheim projected the standard reverbed blitheful vocals but also hit a surprisingly nice, floaty falsetto. Reminding me of a young Bobby Gillespie—okay, maybe just in terms of hair—Hochheim hooked the crowd with his sporadic guitar solos that were short and oh-so-sweet. Sure, Ablebody has a sound we’ve heard many times before (though their records tell a different story, which are more dreamy and new-wave in comparison) the band delivered a no fuss, down-to-earth set that any crowd can’t resist just vibing and bouncing along to.
Like Ablebody, second openers Fear of Men proved that the band on record doesn’t necessarily give you an idea of what they’ll sound like live. Hailing from Brighton, the four-piece band has the recipe to be the ideal loveable twee-pop group: soft vocals, forlorn and ho-hum lyrics, bright sunny guitars… they’re British. But rather than succumbing to the sickeningly sweet genre that’s already overly-associated with any band that has female members sporting bangs, Fear of Men weren’t delicate, whimsical or twee to any extent. They were bold and gloomy and won over the crowd wholeheartedly.
With a girthy bass and pounding drums, the opening song brought everything down to a low and moody register. Contrasted by lead guitarist, Daniel Falvey’s tinging, crisp notes, the band immediately set up an interesting dynamic for lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Jessica Weiss’ pristine vocals and vigorous strumming to shine. It was their closing number, “Inside,” that took an already impressive set to a memorable finish. With its impeccable build up, Fear of Men’s shoegaze freak-out was by far the highlight of the night.
Promoting their upcoming studio album, Days of Abandon, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart (let’s go with Pains for short) gave the audience a preview of some new/never-released material. Stepping away from their signature blitzed out, noisy tracks, Days of Abandon dares to be tender, poppier, and more sentimental which was perfectly demonstrated by the first song of the set, “Art Smock.” It was just frontman Kip Berman on stage with his electric, singing about nostalgic memories and bitter-sweet loves. His bandmates, plus Weiss (on synth and backup vocals) discreetly joined Berman on stage. The essentially three bands in one line-up jumped seamlessly into “Until the Sun Explodes.” Following with a couple older tracks, the next new one was, “Kelly,” featuring Weiss on lead vocals and a very Smithsy’s à la “This Charming Man” beat.
Catchy as hell, the song put an extra pep in everyone’s step as the crowd got their dance on. After playing another upbeat track, “Simple and Sure,” from the new record, the band went back to some oldies but goodies from their self-titled debut including the always crowd pleasing, “Young Adult Friction.” When the band goes into the final verse, reciting, “Don’t check me out,” it just never gets old on how addicting that outro is.
Offering a nice variety, the first encore song, “Coral and Gold” stood out with its misty and serene arrangement that calmed everyone like soothing ocean waves before being blasted again with closer, “Everything With You.” I went in thinking I was in for just another show of the usual despondent shoegazing, dream-pop acts. But how sweet it is to witness bands that defy your expectations and give you an energetic slap in the face for being so pessimistic.