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The Loft – NYC Popfest @ Cameo Gallery (Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY) – Friday, May 29, 2015

20 July 2015

Photos by Mark Suppanz

Since 1996, the folks at NYC Popfest have built a reputation for coaxing way-under-the-radar indie pop acts out of the woodwork for their annual multi-day shindig. But this criminally unheralded London foursome was one of their more unexpected and welcome coups. Formed in 1980, The Loft were one of the earliest bands on Alan McGee’s seminal Creation Records – in fact, their 1984 debut single “Why Does the Rain” was the UK label’s ninth release. Internal squabbles led to the band’s unceremonious breakup on June 24, 1985, indelicately announced by singer/guitarist Pete Astor while on stage at London’s Hammersmith Palais opening for The Colourfield. After the split, Astor and drummer Dave Morgan went on to form the more highly touted Weather Prophets, who made two studio albums in two years before Astor embarked on a solo career. (Its two other members, guitarist Andy Strickland and bassist Bill Prince, went on to form The Caretaker Race and The Wishing Stones, respectively.)

Dave Morgan, Pete Astor, Bill Prince

Andy Strickland

The Loft surprisingly reunited in 2006, releasing a new single and playing some U.K. gigs. Nine years later, and 35 years after their formation, they finally got this chance to play their first (and so far only) U.S. show, at this high-ceilinged Williamsburg haunt neatly tucked behind a bar/restaurant on trendy and heavily trafficked Bedford Avenue. Even better, all four original members seemed stoked to be playing in front of such a spirited and enthusiastic crowd; Astor and Morgan even happily conversed with fans on the sidewalk outside the venue after the show. And as if to prove there were no lingering hard feelings, the setlist even included a few Weather Prophets numbers, including “Can’t Keep My Mind Off You” and “Jo Shmo & the Eskimo.”

Compared to the four raw and scratchy early live tracks included on Rev-Ola’s 2005 Loft compilation Magpie Eyes 1982-1985, the quartet’s playing has an added refinement and polish. It’s also become more atmospheric and full-bodied. Indeed, one non-Magpie track called “Rickety Frame” – which sounded clattering and spare in this ‘80s concert video filmed at McGee’s club The Living Room – felt more stretched out, evoking wide, skylit desert vistas. As well, their cover of Richard Hell’s “Time,” from 1982’s Destiny Street, the punk maestro’s second LP with The Voidoids, was shimmering and soothing (Astor told a story about a letter he once wrote Hell, which he received a belated reply to a year-and-a-half later).

Snappier songs like “Your Door Shines Like Gold” and “On a Tuesday” set the pace in the early going, each one enlivened by the jangly guitars of Astor and Strickland, and Prince’s busy basslines. Later on, those glistening guitars were coupled with captivating choruses, on “Winter” and the aforementioned “Joe Shmo.” But the band – especially stickman Morgan, who dug in hard – saved the best for last, closing out the show with rollicking renditions of their first two Creation singles, “Why Does the Rain” and “Up the Hill and Down the Slope.” (Too bad the venue’s piped-in music came on a nanosecond after “Slope” ended; the band’s printed setlist had three extra songs listed for a possible encore, including Wire’s “Outdoor Miner.”) It would be a shame if this ends up being The Loft’s only U.S. show; such an accomplished, alluring performance deserves to be witnessed by more than just one measly Northeastern state. In the meantime, those of us living in or near New York can consider ourselves lucky ducks, yet again! ✪

 

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