The Spook School tore it down at Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds (sponsored by Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages, apparently).
Fresh from a tour with diet cig across Europe and the states, the band is out supporting their new vinyl effort. Local Leeds two-piece Bad Idea, a “scuzzy pair” made up of guitarist Sarah Sefton and drummer Daniel Johnson, graced the stage to guide the show with grunge-pop songs layered dynamically in both sparkle and shade. They played songs about everything from Daniel being bad at texting back to attempts at bettering themselves.
Cat Apostrophe, another local Leeds crew, is a four piece singing “sad pop” songs about the real world and the shit situations it offers to us. “Small Things” is a highlight, with lead singer and founding members Kirsty Fife’s raw vocals soar above the wall of sound crafted onstage beneath it. All their songs are as such, and speak on the importance of looking forward. Maybe not up, maybe not while feeling better, but forward, because sometimes that’s the best we’re going to get for now.
Chester trio Peaness (say it out loud…) took the stage next to play infectiously sweet songs about the absolute joys of growing up in this younger generation – sticking close to home amongst people you’ve known forever, pursuing sustainability in a world gone less than green (“Ugly Veg”), and the escapism that comes hand in hand with these concepts. In the new (as-of-yet unrecorded) riff-heavy song “Kaizen,” which means “change for the better” in Japanese, they harness all the effortlessly breezy melodies and catchy hooks and choruses that makes Pea-Pop so fun.
In between sets, a playlist curated by The Spook School themselves blastrf high-energy dance music, inspiring sporadic fist-pumping and smiles. Every few songs, ding dong! Drummer Niall McCamley’s voice came over the speakers, pitching things like the famous Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages – not surprising since three of the four band members met through a comedy course at university.
And then: the lights go down, and the first piano chords of “Live and Let Die” begin to play. At the drop of the first chorus, instead of the great McCartney singing the titular line, the music cuts at the last word and it’s the great McCamley on the last word instead: “Live and let sausages!” The character and personality of the band as a whole was on display the rest of the set.
The band kicked off with the opener for their newest album, Could It Be Different?, released January 2018, “Still Alive,” a rage-spitting, incendiary, inspirational song about finding enough empowerment to walk away from an abusive relationship. The band passed that power to the crowd, all singing along in unison to the chorus: “Fuck you, I’m still alive!” The Spook School are well-versed in their guitar-driven, anthemic, storytelling songwriting, crafting both heartbreaking and heart-warming tales of transformational politics on safe spaces, equity, acceptance in a world that crafts gender on a binary, mental health, and other vital messages we need to hear.
They’re here to celebrate the sadness too, though, and it’s with material from all three albums – all infectious – that they treated us so well with. At the end of the set after a faux-encore where they only step partially offstage, they covered Robbie Williams’ “Angels.” There’s a twist, as you could probably guess: something along the lines of “I’m loving Linda instead,” ending the night on the note of the crowd swaying their arms in the air to a song about sausages.