Rock City at the Velvet Lounge, Worcester - 24.02.12

It's all about the promoters and I reckon there's precious few in the two counties works so hard as the Worcester Rock City Crew of Alby Samuels and Will Hughes, who are also involved with the Grind project to promote a few more under-18-accessible events.

They held another great promotion on Friday in the basement suite at Velvet Lounge in Worcester's Angel Place (and of course I took up my customary position at the door to deliver my report!). Exceedingly impressed were my first impressions of newby opening act Rusty Knives - who are a very punk/grungy but thoroughly pleasing threesome of Abi on drums, Elly on bass and Alan on vocals and guitar. I'd pretty much describe them as 'raw and untamed' at the moment but they've got a fine set of originals like Stupid Club and Frank Ain't Listening that'll only improve in slickness with a few more gigs under their belt - and I'll be checking out Commodity Girl for a second listen as soon as.

I have to admit, though, that my main reason for attending this gig was to catch my first snippet of the new four-piece Crooked Empire with new guitarist Jay Dudley sharing some of the immense workload previously shouldered by the trio of Sean, Chris and Matt. And I have to say that the formula works amazingly well - all of their great pure rock 'n' roll numbers like Baby Bye and Emily just sounded crisper and fuller. They just appeared to have a little more time to enjoy playing their set with a little more interaction. This is an outfit who until now have saved their classy slow number Alnight until the end of the set as they're usually too knackered by then - if it's moved to the middle by the next time I see them then that'll be a result.

I wasn't the only one at the Velvet Lounge tonight whose number one aim was to see Crooked Empire, which meant that when headliners Inca Hoots hit the stage, the audience had nearly halved in numbers. I call this the 'Zebedy Rays' syndrome - promoters, always put the band with the biggest following on last. Lucky, though, that the place had been rammed earlier so still a very healthy Friday night crowd to cheer on Stuey and the rest of the Hoots as they cruised through their anthemic set of totally classy numbers like Sleeping Lions and 10000 Alcoholics. Inca Hoots are an outfit that I'd love to see pretty soon on a really big stage at a very big festival - and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Andy O'Hare

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