Operator Please @ Birmingham Barfly, 8/09/07

It’s a funny business going to a gig specifically to review it, especially when you only have a fleeting familiarity with the band you’re going to see. Often instead of losing yourself in the music, jumping around like a loon and enjoying yourself you’ll stand there trying to make a note of what was played when and forming enough of an impression to put it into words. It doesn’t feel right, like you’re taking a joke apart to point out why it’s funny. Anyway, I say this because I’m pretty sure my experience of Operator Please was pretty different to that of most others who saw them. The show, scheduled before the Barfly’s regular Saturday night indie-fest, was a ‘Levis One To Watch’ showcase. There was a reasonable crowd of people meeting up and getting the first drinks of the night in.

The whippersnappers launched their set with ‘Get What You Want’ which immediately wrong-footed me by starting off like The Editors. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that but it struck me a little incongruous – I was expecting a spark of joie de vivre and some bubbly fun. Maybe I’d been taken in by appearances too much – from the press shots and recent video they looked like a bunch of happy, knockabout funsters but at times they sounded, well, a little dour. There’s nothing too wrong with that, it was just unexpected.

So it continued, with ‘Crash Tragic’ and ‘One Yellow Button’ just about sticking out from a set of reasonably energetic and reasonably earnest songs that were easy to admire but difficult to get too worked up about. They did score points for managing to incorporate a violin without edging anywhere near Levellers territory and they did spark the most horrendous bout of arrhythmic indie-boy frugging I’ve ever seen. Honestly, the law of averages says that you must move in time with the music eventually but these guys fought that law and won. Impressive stuff.

The penultimate track was current single ‘Just A Song About Ping Pong’ which finally lets fly with the exuberance that had been lurking just under the surface. It’s a sharp jab in the ribs and a sign that these tykes can produce something memorable. Set closer Zero, Zero was fine but a return to middling mid-set form. By this time though the doors to the rest of the venue had opened and the crowd had dispersed somewhat.

And that’s the thing. I’m sure the majority of people in that room would’ve thought ‘hmm, they were alright, now I’m going to get another beer and see what’s going on in the other room’. Me? I’d gone there specifically for the band and while I thought they were ok they were a long way from setting my making my night.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.