General Fiasco

When I headed out to see General Fiasco play the Bar Academy in Birmingham last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a band I had seen so often in Belfast, coming over for their first headline tour in England, away from the mates and supporters to whom they are used to playing at home.

The first task on arrival was to battle through the melancholy line of thousands of disturbingly similar looking teenagers queuing to see Rise Against headline the Carling Academy next door, but as we were greeted by the tour manager and got in to see the band, we were met by 3 guys sitting drinking water and chatting about the things brothers and best friends do.

Their shy demeanors and modest self confidence showed them to be a band who are really enjoying what they’re doing, with singer Owen commenting that they’re simply, “still having loads of fun.” That doesn’t mean to say they’re not working hard though, with Owen adding that, “you always want to out-do your friends and be pushing on a wee bit harder” when asked what they thought of the success of bands like Fighting With Wire and In Case of Fire coming out of Belfast and reaching massive audiences in England and beyond. And indeed they are, with two dates confirmed in Texas and a support slot for Snow Patrol at the Odyssey Arena later this month to keep them busy. Despite this hectic schedule, with the band flying back from America at 8 in the morning to support Snow Patrol later that evening, there’s an easy energy about them, as they embark on their first headline tour in new venues where they’ve “played to smaller crowds but felt a real buzz,” which I guess is all that can be hoped for for a small band just now coming into their own. They’re not resting on their laurels with songwriting either, as drummer, Stephen comments, “if we’re not playing we’re writing,” showing that if things do go bang for them, they’ll have the material and work ethic to make it work.

After chatting to the band we headed upstairs to take in the support and buy a couple of wincingly expensive pints, and were confronted by the sight of 50 or so painfully cool looking 16 year olds, sporting more Topshop than Scouting for Girls, Vampire Weekend and The Enemy could ever possibly dream of. The first act were a local indie pop band who’d clearly brought a few friends down and had a great time, to be followed by the excellent Onlookers, who sounded like a brilliant mix of The Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, yet with a distinctly British sound and a great singer.

After another pint and a cigarette General Fiasco came on at about 10 and showed us how much their immense gigging schedule has improved them as a band. Their songs just seem to get catchier and catchier as the band becomes tighter and more professional, with not a single slip up. Despite being so singalong friendly, their songs also manage to retain something interesting about them, as they don’t sacrifice ingenuity for shout out loud choruses along the line of The Fratellis. New single Something Sometime is a prime example, as it’s versey bit, different versey bit then chorus structure, not conforming to the standard binary form leant on so often by both new bands and established pop acts dying for chart recognition by impregnating the heads of every radio listener with a banal “ooohh ayyy ooohh” chorus line.

This evasion of the mediocre also seemed to communicate well to the crowd, as they managed to get the apathetic “I’m too cool to dance” crowd moving around before stopping to check their hair and readjust their checkered shirt, which is no mean feat. Their previous single Rebel Get By also went down a treat, with the crowd even singing along to the chorus and the band giving it loads in reply. Their varied set allowed them to show off Owen’s belting vocals and Enda’s rich harmonies, with a superb variation between slower numbers and more driving tunes, and Steven Leak’s almost disco beats providing a driving support to their infectious melodies.

Overall we had a superb evening and it was great to meet such a nice group of guys just on the cusp of, all being well, the beginning of their musical careers. I said it about Panama Kings and I’ll say it again, I hope for their sake that there is a label out there looking to try and produce some new music from real bands with real instruments, otherwise we’ll find ourselves in an era of music, as Sam Kinchin-Smith rightly observed in the first Boar of this term, defined by nothing other than commercialism.


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