Mar 04, 2023
By Jimi Arundell
Photography by Jimi Arundell
Nottingham’s JT Soar may be one of the tiniest venues around, plonking its performers in the corner of its 60-cap room and just letting them get on with it. But it’s always an essential stop on the DIY circuit, proving that good things do come in small packages. The former fruit and vegetable warehouse now gig venue and studio, famed for being Sleaford Mods favourite place to record, is tucked away just behind Sneinton Market which has become quite trendy in recent years after a long age of neglect.
Tonight, were here to see our new favourite band Italia 90, supported by Sheffield guttersnipes Big Break and local heroes Sofftness. The militant mob are here for the last night of a tour in support of their long awaited, eagerly anticipated debut album Living Human Treasure – whose title was first revealed as an Under The Radar exclusive when we caught up with them at Sharpe Festival in Slovakia last year. (See HERE for more!)
First up are the aforementioned Sofftness, forged out of the detritus of Slumb Party and headed up by Joey Bell who was fronted frenetic post punks Punish The Atom; delivering a satisfying flurry of rapid fire drums, killer basslines and infectious rhythms.
Bell drawls, yells, and leaps around like a hyperactive kid after too many fizzy drinks. But that sugar high always comes with a crash, and it’s not too long before he’s leaning on other bandmates for support. And as it turns out, the singer is bit under the weather.
“This is a new one. My voice is wrecked, it’s called “Forced Fun” which is exactly what I’m going through.” Bell bemoans, yet somehow manages to muster the energy to scream and shout for us. He’s later spotted sat on the stairs, totally worn out, head in his hands. And you’ve got to admire someone who give it their all even when they’re on their last legs.
Despite sharing a title with the long-forgotten Saturday night snooker gameshow, Big Break are a lot better than their naff name suggests. The Steel City band come on with a big fucking bang, sounding like South Yorkshire answer to Black Flag with a little bit of DEVO hooks chucked in for good measure.
A short but sweet appearance (they want to get home to see friends play somewhere back at home apparently), “Cancelled Again” and “Computer Phone” are thrashed out at breakneck speed. I’m sure the singer was saying something poignant at some point, but everything is drowned out by the brilliantly cacophonous din. You’ve got to love a group that doesn’t mess around, gives it there all, burns brightly onstage and then leaves without any encore bollocks. Come back again soon!
Looking like some rag tag guerrilla army, Italia 90 are the last to take the floor. Led by Les Miserable, who has the air of a thuggish skinhead no-nonsense general, he prowls the tiny corner allotted to them with menacing determination. Les is flanked by agent provocateur guitarist Unusual Prices whose Telecaster is adorned with the hammer and sickle, and bass assassin Bobby Portrait sporting his trademark beret. Sitting at the back is a long haired, unshaved J Dangerous who grins manically behind the drums, giving off the appearance of Donald Sutherland’s Sgt Oddball character in Kelly’s Heroes – just here for the wild ride!
They begin their wailing assault with tension building track “Cut”, whose brooding bass is the perfect introduction, and the sparse desolate feel sounds like the perfect soundtrack to inevitable oncoming Armageddon. They move onto the lacerating “Leisure Activities”, rampaging “Magdalene” and perfect pogo track “Funny Bones”.
Politics maybe performative for middle class pretenders. But for these Brighton boys (now South East London based), class war is very brutal, nasty and real. And you can hear the violent effects of alienation and urban decay in each taunt riff, every curt snarl, and the acerbic social commentary in every song. It’s easy to hear the street punk of Crass, the jagged experimental edges of Wire and even the deadpan vocal delivery of Ian Dury all neatly combined into Italia 90’s one inch punch.
But that’s not to say the night was all anger and po-faced polemics. Les grins halfway through the set, letting on how happy he is to be back at the venue, informing us “First time we came here, we slept on the floor and lost the keys to the front door. But obviously there’s no hard feelings”. It helps loosen the tension which translates into a more energetic audience who let rip to the likes of shout-a-long “New Factory” and creepy, echoing “Tales From The Beyond”.
This is the sort of amazing night only a truly great toilet venue like JT Soar could provide; the set is rounded off with “Competition”; their rowdy mockery of the moral and cultural bankruptcy of Monetarism and the closest thing Italia 90 have to an anthem which saw fans nearly spill into band in their eagerness to shout along.
And of course, the coming weeks will see many more awesome live events hit JT Soar with awesome acts from all around the world, including Ohio industrial outfit The Serfs, Pittsburgh emo-tinged slackers Short Fictions, Canadian college rockers Motorists, French synth-pop oddballs Attention Le Tapis Prend Feu and charming indie pop with infectious rhythms courtesy of sextet Lakes – coming all the way from Watford!
Check HERE for full listings of everything happening at JT Soar.