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Hot Club De Paris at the Cockpit

Hazel Davis on a beardy Scouse band with a-capella staying power

Published on September 30th 2008.

Hot Club De Paris at the Cockpit

I may not be quite collecting my pension yet but in this room of brand-new baby Leeds freshers I feel about 100. And fat. Very fat. I am surrounded by gangly teens who can barely stand because they haven’t eaten for three weeks, skinnier than Jodie Kidd and weighed down with guyliner. The kids here look like they’re here to see someone like the Killers or the Mighty Boosh, not the robust, rosy-cheeked northerners up on stage.

Hot Club De Paris are Paul Rafferty, Matthew Smith and Alasdair Smith. The band formed in 2004 after Matthew and Paul met whilst working at Chester racecourse - not at art school or travelling round India like they’re meant to.

But nothing’s like it’s meant to be with the Hot Club De Paris. It’s actually quite hard to compare them with any other band and if I were to resort to that journalistic cliché I would say Arctic Monkeys meets half Man Half Biscuit with a spot of old English sea-shanty, a lot of a capella and close harmony and some healthy Scouse banter.

It’s rare for a band to have three decent singers in its midst but HCDP mine this particular gift for all its worth, trotting out the close harmonies and breaking off mid-riff for some unaccompanied singing.

The support band, Tellison, complement this cheerful musicality well. A tight outfit from Hammersmith, the lead singer gives the impression of being a brand-new primary school teacher attempting to teach his kids how to spell onomatopoeia. The banter is cutesy and self-deprecating but once they play, they are all energy and rhythmic togetherness. The lead guitarist rocks himself into a proper sweat and the drummer manages complex paradiddles like an old pro.

I just wish we could have heard all this properly. The Cockpit on Swinegate, one of Leeds’ classic music venues, has all the right trappings, burlesquey barmaids who make my boyfriend’s eyes pop out, sticky floor, a close-enough-to-add-them-as-a-friend-on-Facebook stage and a safe holding area at the back for the over-30s.

But what it doesn’t have tonight is a Decent Soundsystem. Well, it has a decent sound system but unfortunately the sound system appears to belong to Elland Road stadium.

Again, I am no pensioner but this is Loud. To the point of not being able to hear a thing. My right ear is hissing and my left ear has a pair of newly-gay first-years discovering their sexuality animatedly.

Anyway, despite all this, Hot Club De Paris – who I last saw two years ago at the Latitude Festival where they ripped the main stage to shreds, despite being brand new at the time – are great. Their humour shines through, not just in their stocky, beardy, genuinely geeky demeanour but in their actual jokes.

Paul Rafferty breaks into a Bruce Springsteen-esque version of the Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, almost certainly lost on most of the 12-year-olds in the crowd but very welcome among the elderly at the back. They implore the audience to add them as friends on Facebook, cue a comedy skit about the desperate, and launch a tirade against Duncan from Blue who dropped their song for his reality TV show but had the audacity to have sung songs himself about having the city on lockdown and driving by in a low ride.

And their own songs, as well as being rhythmically complicated and musically original, are funny too. They’re called things like Your Face Looks All Wrong and Sometimesit’sbetternottostickbits
ofeachotherineachotherforeachother and they are delivered with a dryness which exceeds their years.

Hot Club De Paris are originals and the sooner you see them in a venue with a decent soundsystem, the better. Or you could just buy the new album. Which I am going to do next.

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