It’s party time at The Cockpit as a sharp whistle, the beat of drums and South American music signals the entrance of one of the most talked-about bands on the block.
Beth Jeans Houghton and her Hooves of Destiny look like they’ve raided a costume box from a dilapidated theatre as they take to the Session stage. The Newcastle lass is sporting what looks like a silky, red polka-dotted smoking jacket with matching trousers although the whole effect is that of a cat suit – apt for the whiskers scrawled on her face. The face-painted Hooves are dressing up too. Feathers rise from the baseball cap of Ed Blazey, bike goggles are strapped to guitarist Rory Gibson’s trilby, and a Bet Lynch leopard-skin coat and Arthur Daley straw hat adorn keyboard player Calum. The sensible violinist, Findlay Macaskill, (thanks for the set list by the way) is wearing a silky number of BJH’s which she says makes him look like a gay samurai. You get the picture.
This is the last tour of their debut album Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose because the six-piece will be recording a new album in November. The surprisingly mature Leeds crowd are treated to a few of the rockier new tracks like Joe Frazier which falls a bit flat unlike the provisionally named Manslide which constantly changes direction, accompanied by some really nice touches from Calum. It’s the first time I’ve heard it but it already sounds like a winner. Chips to Go has a heavy intro too which suggests the folk roots have now firmly bolted from the stable door. BJH almost sounds like Lene Lovich at one point as the wah-wah steps in and then the tempo gallops to a frantic climax. There’s even a guitar solo.
It’s not all about music though. The crowd listens to tales of masturbation which earns her a ticking off from a mother accompanying her young daughter at the front of the stage. Undeterred, the potty-mouthed Geordie moves on to ‘rimming’ which Americans use as we do in the expression ‘tossing the salad’. All good fun until she can’t resist giving the other filthy definition. She just wouldn’t let it lie. The mother now has her hands over the ear lugs of her nearest and dearest.
But Beth canters along and won’t be reined in. We find out that Blazey has a bowel complaint, oh and his partner is pregnant, oh and it’s Holly’s birthday, that Macaskill is a doctor, whose bow snapped and Richard came to the rescue with a replacement. We are all told to lose our inhibitions by screaming out during the lovely Liliputt and then BJH says she’s going to get married to Findlay in Gretna Green and then have the marriage annulled in two days. She implores us not to steal the merch “like yesterday – come on Hebden Bridge!”
And so it goes on at breakneck speed. It’s breathless improv stuff, but in between the band don’t forget what they’re here for. The guitars are badly out of tune for the start of their latest single Dodecahedron, but a quick pit stop soon puts that right and the harmonies are just brilliant once everything is in sync; BJH’s incredible voice accompanied so well by the trumpet and keyboard. We all have to thank the girl at the front who slips in a request for Nightswimmer which criminally the band weren’t going to play because they haven’t performed it in ages and Beth has forgotten the song’s three chords, but eager to please the Hooves go for it and get it spot on – even the poetic, rappy bit towards the end.
Sweet Tooth Bird also stands out before the band launches into the song they usually finish with – Prick, with its ‘Fuck Off’ chorus (the mother and daughter must have done a runner by now) accompanied by six members of the audience looking a bit self-conscious on stage.
It’s a swashbuckling performance in not the best of venues (stick with the Brudenell you lot). They look a bit cramped up there and in between, and occasionally during, songs the pounding drums of a band can be heard from upstairs.
But it doesn’t spoil a joyously unbridled evening from one of the most original bands in the country. These Hooves may horse around, but they’re made from group one stock.