My music taste is varied and random. When I was younger, I both followed the trend and went my own way. I was a teenage girl who loved boy bands. But I wasn’t stuck in a pigeon hole. Mid-90s saw my later teenager years, a course at Art college and the arrival of “Britpop”, which drew me in with it grungy guitar rifts, addictive drum beats and poetic lyrics.

What is Britpop?

How do I define it? It was, no IS, a genre of music that epitimises “Britain”. British artists singing about relateable topics, usually over a guitar heavy back beat, often but not always, upbeat.

Think Blurs Parklife and Pulps Common People, and you’ll get my description. When Britpop went slow tempo and heartfelt, anthems were born. Wonderwall by Oasis and Chasing Rainbows by Shed Seven are classic examples.

Imagine my delight when tribute band “The Britpop Boys” announced a gig at my most local live music venue. No doubt about it, this was one night I would not be missing, as the promise of all the bands mentioned above and more, lured me through a week of work.

The last time I went to a gig here, I wore heeled boots and my feet did not thank me for it, but for a night of Britpop, I knew I’d be more comfortable in my trusty trainers, infact, it was probably expected. Dancing would be happening. No doubt about that.

I’d heard about this gig via Facebook, and for the purposes of mine and L’s music forum, I was interested how The Britpop Boys advertised gigs.

“We learnt a long time ago that we needed to be very active with advertising and not rely on venues. There are some good ones. But in our experience most aren’t! We have to be all over social platforms and we also run paid Facebook ads and produce all our own posters and marketing material. This is all part of what we offer for our cost and is often not seen by the public or the venues”. Good advice indeed. 

Supersonic by Oasis opened the night of musical delights, and the full venue were thrown back to the 90s. Although not a “tribute” act as such, in that these guys perform the songs of a genre rather than a specific artist, front man Ian took to the stage with the familiar swagger of Liam Gallagher, with his head tilted upwards towards the mic and hands held behind his back. They pay tribute to the era with accuracy. The setlist took us through The Manic Street Preachers, Pulp, Suede and so many more. I feared they’d raided my CD collection! 

A particular highlight of mine was their rendition of Going for Gold by my all time favourites Shed Seven. For me, Britpop music is intoxicating, and Shed Seven in particular have an ability to grab me by the earlobes with their guitar strings and whisper sweet nothings to transport me to a happy place. It would be hard to “copy” the vocal talents of Rick Witter, but you know what, The Britpop Boys didn’t let me down. Their cover was spot on, and evoked similar feel good vibes in me that the real deal have done when I’ve seen them live. My foot was tapping to the drum, my arms swaying to the tune and I was singing the oh-so familiar lyrics with affection and pride.

The rest of the first half reminded me of artists such as Babybird and Space, and then ended with a much appreciated shot of the Verve. How had I forgotten The Verve? Bittersweet Symphony, released in 1997, and the album it was taken from “Urban Hymns” was played on repeat in my yellow cd player I carried around with pride.  The day after the gig, I found the CD, dusted it off, and promptly transfered it onto my iPod. 

“Feel Good” was definitely the mood on the night, with the band and the crowd loving the music and the sense of togetherness that the love of music brings. The band themselves were clearly having fun. The Britpop Boys were brought to life in spring 2016, after two highly experienced musicians, Jon and Steve, met at a festival in 2015 and the idea was mused over. Adding drummer Russell to the mix made that idea a reality. Bookings and interest was already high for the band in their launch year, but adding keyboardist Jason and award winning vocalist Ian, the band were able to enjoy the success they have now and I can say it’s most deserved. 

The vibe on and off stage was amazing. Such a huge group of like minded, crazy individuals in one room. I asked Steve how aware the band are of what the crowd are doing and how they react?

“We are very aware and I think Ian has summed it up best:-
as a band we feed off the reaction of the crowd. I do tend to keep one eye firmly on the audience.  The more they are buzzing, the more we buzz, but on the flip side to that,the less reaction I get, the more I up my game to get them to the point where they have no choice but to join in the fun!
We have been know to flip songs in the set on the fly to change mood with the crowd if needed and we have a huge bank of songs to rely on”.

Regular packed out venues and festivals is what these guys now achieve, and they honestly deserve it. Asking the guys since about where they prefer to perform, I can see that every show they do is given the same energy and commitment, whether its a festival or smaller gig.

“Each have their own appeal, whether it’s the convenience of an organised festival or the buzz of a huge auditorium full of Britpop fans or being able to get amongst people in a smaller venue. We enjoy it all and treat every show as if we’re playing Wembley”.

The second half of hits kicked off with Waterfall by The Stone Roses, another tune long forgotten in my memory bank and grateful I’d been reminded of. From talking to band member Steve, this song proves one that the band collectively enjoy playing the most, although understandably, with such an awesome back catalogue to choose from, its difficult to choose just one song. More bands seeped out from the dusty compartment that kept teenage memories locked away, and were brought crashing back to the present day to be enjoyed by my 40 year old self, The Stereophonics, Supergrass and an uplifting rendition of Ready to Go by Republica, which got the crowd surging forward with enjoyment. 

During the gig, the band weren’t afraid to interact with the crowd, getting off stage and moving round the venue, and equally gave my photographer partner in crime L the night of her life with shot after shot to camera which enabled her to capture the night perfectly. 

The band cover so many bands from the Britpop era, I wondered which bands were the members personal favourites individually?

Jon – Ash

Russell – Blur and Stone Roses

Jason – Kula shaker

Ian – Oasis and ocean colour scene 

Steve- Blur and Shed Seven

Easy to see why performing came so easily to them. They LOVE the music. The setlist covered more bands than I had remembered, and I was curious how many more songs they knew, as with each reminder of a band from the Britpop era, came the reminder of their own back catalogues of songs. 

Do they ever add different songs to their shows?

“We generally have a good rotation of songs and if we return to a venue try to have between 7-8 different tracks. Obviously there is some massive anthems we just wouldn’t get away with leaving out and so they have to stay. But will move positions in the sets ”

As the gig was coming to a close, the crowd were up on shoulders, high fiving the band, belting out memorable anthems that we all held so close to our hearts. I had danced on my own, I danced with a random guy, I danced with a group of people and it was awesome. Parklife by Blur had everyone in the room up on their feet, which is where they needed to be for the finale. A British flag elegantly crowd surfed across the room…

Without question, the evening finished on the perfect song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. A song that has recently become even more iconic since its relevance to the Manchester disaster earlier this year, with a crowd of people singing it during a rememberence service, started by a lone woman. The song holds power, and a room full of strangers literally singing their hearts out to it held all the emotion expected. A lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. 

I have so much love for the Britpop era. It took me through college. It showed me a few dodgy fashion choices, but most of all, it gave me my way with words, my love of poetry and a soundtrack I’ll never stop listening to.

The Britpop Boys brought back so many memories. All of them good. Its impossible to look back in anger.

Photographs courtesy of the amazing Lissywitch:-

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