In time-honoured fashion I turned up too late to catch any of the support acts, but only barely. I got to the top of stairs to find myself dodging sweat-covered, panting kids making their way back from the stage. I couldn’t help feeling I’d missed something so I grabbed a drink and took in my surroundings. The place had been taken over with kids, some clearly pushing the 14+ age limit. What the heck was that about? Perhaps all the older people were at the main Academy next door for the NME tour and I’d wandered into an indie crèche or something. Still, there’s nothing like the enthusiasm of youth to knock a twenty-something’s cynicism, and Flamboyant Bella aren’t a band that have much truck with cynicism. If you’ve encountered them then there’s a good chance it’s been via their Myspace where, still unsigned, they’re racking up friends like nobody’s business. Or perhaps you’ve thrilled to the sounds of their two EPs with their perky, occasionally jangly, indie guitar-synth-pop happiness.
Or maybe you’ve been nudged in the direction of one of their gigs without knowing a whole heap about them. Like me.
The band kicked things off with My Skies which, on record, is a summery slice of indie pop with singer Flo’s lovely voice hitting a point somewhere between Kate Nash and Beth Orton. We didn’t get to hear any of that though; we got an awful mud of noise and a hint of a murmer when Flo opened her mouth to sing. In comparison, James’s vocals almost drowned out the rest of the band.
Not that the crowd seemed to mind, squashed down the front they leapt about enthusiastically. The extended hiatus between the first and second songs didn’t seem to faze them too much either. A synth had broken and it was a couple of minutes before it got fixed, which Flo filled with commendable ad-libbing. Unfortunately the sound levels weren’t noticeably mended and it wasn’t until five songs in that we got to hear the band really hit anything like form. The darkest point came before dawn with an awful and pointless cover of Bootylicious performed far too fast for Flo to get the lyrics out.
Fortunately everything fell into place for Second, Minute, Hour which sounded just as it should’ve. I’m not convinced by James’ mannered vocals but Flo’s delivery was impressive indeed. Sexy Beast and Sex For Procreation kept things going in this much-improved vein. Fan favourite (and it feels odd typing that for an unsigned band playing outside their home town but the crowd really were baying for it) Crazy Cool rounded off the set in fine, bouncy style.
Bar Academy doesn’t accommodate rockstar mannerisms too well. There’s no walking off stage for a couple of minutes before returning for an encore. Flamboyant Bella had to do with hiding behind a speaker stack before returning with two songs to finish the night off. The first I’ve now learnt is called Break Away but the note I typed into my phone at the time just said ‘shit clichéd piano ballad’. Nuff said I’m afraid. Set closer Absolutely Wankered didn’t exactly hit lyrical heights and musically it rambled more than the rest of the set but it gave everyone a last chance to jump about, and jump about they did.
So it was far from the best gig I’ve ever been to, but then what would anyone expect? They’re a young band who are building up some touring experience and still need a few more songs of the standard of Crazy Cool and Second, Minute, Hour. I reckon they’re one to watch though. Besides, saying bad things about them feels like kicking a puppy – they’re a likeable bunch and put in the time afterwards to hang out with the fans that had come close to filling the place on a school night and with a large tour playing next door.