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Bethlehem Casuals – Fulford Arms, York – Friday 21st April 2023

Another night and another great lineup at the Fulford Arms in York. The first to hit the stage, and they really did hit it hard, was the Apocalypse Disco. This hard electro-dance duo created enough energy to power York for a week. There was barely a let up in their powerful, pulsating sounds and the audience was lapping it all up. This was not just a simple set, but a full performance. Robin and Ian wore matching black boiler suits as they slammed through their take on 90s trance and big beats sounds. The new song “The Bridge” even gave a nod to Erasure in its sublime hook. If this bunch are not yet on your end-of-the-world playlist they need to be!

Flat Cap Carnival was next and who knew York could do Latin music so well? Actually, I did, as I have seen them before. This abundantly talented 7-piece is an incredible party band that it’s impossible not to shake your arse to. But it’s not just Latin, there are parts of Cuban style, skanking, and ska-punk to name just a few. Their original songs are perfect, but their covers take them to another universe completely. “Careless Whisper” and “Spice Up Your Life” were masterclasses on how to cover a song. On social media, they describe themselves as “a Latin-infused Scanival band from York. Dancing is compulsory.” That seems a fair description to me. If Carlsberg made party bands they would definitely make Flatcap Carnival.

The headliners tonight are a band that I’ve never seen before, Bethlehem Casuals. They are like Polyphonic Spree or Animal Collective after a huge injection of raw, unpasteurised jazz funk juice. Probably the perfect band to follow the mighty Flatcap Carnival. The Bethlehem Casuals takes me right back to my jazz funk period, but probably with a touch more jazz than funk, a la Norman Connors’ “The Creator Has A Master Plan”. For a band that is steeped in complex and well-executed jazz tropes and some complicated time signatures, they are incredibly danceable. I have enjoyed listening to their music on line, but the live setting is where they excel.

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