When a band has progressed from playing school assemblies to headlining pub gigs on a Saturday evening in little over a year, then the chances are that they’ve got something about them. It is one thing to play a couple of songs in front of your peers at the summer fair. Only a few make the step up to playing to a wider audience.
Carpet made that step and took it in their stride.
On a chilly night at the end of January, people were quite clearly in the mood to blow out the cobwebs. The four piece, consisting of Sam Harden (drums), Ewan Ling (vocals, keyboards, guitar and sax), Ed Lane (guitar), Joe Nixon (bass), kept a packed house on their feet. This was their first headline gig and with the greater profile, comes a need for a broader repertoire.
Kudos to the band though for how they dealt with that particular challenge. Firstly, for ones so callow (all of them are in 16 to 18 age bracket), the set list spanned from early punk through to the present day. Let’s not just leave it there though. If you’re going to choose a Ramones song to cover and you are just setting out, then you go for “Blitzkreig Bop” or “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”, don’t you? Not this lot – we got “The KKK Took My Baby Away” from 1981’s “Pleasant Dreams”. Talk about a deep cut.
Similarly, fancy a blast at a Cure song? “Boy’s Don’t Cry”? “In Between Days”? Maybe “Close to Me”?
Nah – to hell with that! We got “Jumping Someone Else’s Train”, the Cure’s second single. Nicely done it was, as well.
And that’s saying something given the band had opened up proceedings with a right old tear up of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up”. The organ driven three chorder was a perfect way to start the evening, with Ewan’s keyboards propelling the song along with Joe and Sam’s rhythm section. Ed got chance to shine later on with a couple of Smith’s songs (“Hand In Glove” and “This Charming Man”) to show of his arpeggios.
A couple of things were instantly apparent. Firstly, there was a level of confidence in their own ability. They are all competent musicians and this showed in the breadth of material that they comfortably handled. Joe’s bass playing at times was sublime, his melodic approach elevating the songs rather than just tracking the chords – it brought to mind REM’s Mike Mills or the Smith’s Andy Rourke. Sam kept a solid rhythm all night, the band comfortable that they knew where they were heading, even on some of the more rhythmically challenging songs. Ewan was an engaging front man, switching between instruments and even giving his sax a blast on Orange Juice’s “Rip It Up”. Ed’s guitar embellished things nicely, particularly on the Stone Roses’ “Made of Stone” and interlocking with Ewan on Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out”.
Secondly, they were clearly having a good time. Now this may seem relatively trivial but when the band are enjoying themselves, it doesn’t half help pull the audience along with them. The likes of “Song 2” and “Down In A Tube Station At Midnight” filled the dance floor, rolling back the years for the older members of the audience but still offering something to the band’s contemporaries, who lapped up material from the Killers and the Kooks.
I can see the balance of their set changing as they get more confident. We got four originals. The highlight’s were “Too Near”‘s melodic pop and “Telecasting”‘s interlocking instrumental development. “Xander” was dedicated to the eponymous absent friend who watched the performance via a friend’s phone using FaceTime – who said that mobile phones don’t have a place at concerts?
They finished their set with a lovely version of the Arctic Monkey’s “Mardy Bum” and an ambitious stab at the Beatles “Golden Slumbers”, which they pulled of by the skin of their teeth – no mean thing.
A shout out to the support band “The Fuse and The Small Blonde” who successfully mixed the covers and original material, again at a youthful age. They’ve got a bright future ahead of them as well.
So it is onwards and upwards for Carpet. They’ll grow into their role of headliners, finessing the new cover songs and adding more of their own material. And their friends and family will share in their enjoyment and hopefully their success.
Cheshire has got a couple of rising bands to be proud of and neither of them are in the slightest bit anaemic.
Blossoms – watch out!