HARD-FI + Nine Black Alps @ Le National

By Paul Lafond - 04/04/2006

I loves me those bills with all U.K. bands on them. We get so few up here in our neck of the woods that the wee little British lad in me just laps them up. On this particular April evening, we had Nine Black Alps from Manchester and much talked about buzz band of the month Hard-Fi from Staines, England.

The show was short and sweet. That's what you get when you have bands on the bill that have only one album to their names. By 10:30 pm, it was all over. It was held in the newly re-opened and refurbished Le National. Looks very much like La Tulipe except that it has this weird slanted floor and a killer view from the balcony. It seems every Britophiles was in attendance that night. Even that portly kid right in front of the stage I keep seeing at shows -- especially of the Brit kind -- always one arm in the air wagging his finger (even to slow songs) having a jolly good time.

First up were Nine Black Alps with their insanely catchy guitar-driven rock. They were a late addition to the bill as they were to have their own show on the same night at La Sala Rossa, but it got cancelled for some reason. I actually had tickets for it so it was a very nice surprise. I got hooked to their music when I saw their video for the song "Shot Down" at the beginning of 2005. Their sound is basically a mish mash of Pixies/Nirvana inspired melodies. It was a 30-minute blast of non-stop riffage. A few French words uttered by lead singer Sam Forrest thrown in for good measure to appeal to the Francos in attendance and it was done. Many NBA fans were born on this night.

As for Hard-Fi, frontman Richard Archer was in fine form. He seemed very pumped to be here and he had the crowd in his hands. Lots of call-and-responses to get us involved, rockin' out the melodica every other tunes ... you can't go wrong with a good melodica solo, I always say. A nice balance of clash-inspired punky dub reggae mixed with Franz Ferdinand disco guitars. My favorite song of theirs, "Hard To Beat", they pulled off beautifully. I'm not much of a dancer -- more of a head nodder -- but they really got me going. If there's any justice, this song will be an '06 summer anthem for many. They also did an unrecognizable cover of "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes. Felt really out of place but other than that, fun was had by all.

Oh and a shout-out to the hot girl in the Hard-Fi T-shirt passing out pins to everyone in the balcony. Your hotness wasn't left unnoticed and I got a free pin out of it too. I'm so easy to please.

[Paul Lafond is a HOOKED ON SONiCS listener (and nothing else!). Check out his podcast.]