Remember The Hoosiers? Those purveyors of jaunty indie rock from the late noughties when the genre was on its last legs, with guitars on their way out and keyboard coming in? On the rock scale, they always felt somewhere positioned between Muse and Scouting for Girls, with less critical acclaim and hard edge than the former but with more musical chops, self-awareness and pure pop sensibility than the latter. However, they always delivered brilliant falsetto vocals, harmonies, guitar solos and propulsive pop to which you could hum and tap your feet. Oh, and they wrote ‘Goodbye Mr. A’ which will forever be a golden slice of Britpop, accompanied by one the best music videos going.
In this new show, the two remaining Hoosiers, singer/guitarist Irwin Sparkes and drummer Alan Sharland, become Felix Scoot and Lee Delamere. They are here to instruct us, the audience, in the ways of fame and the perils that lurk therein. The early portion of the show is predominantly comic and with their little ‘n’ large quality, Sparkes’s impressive, breathy falsetto and Delamare’s supreme deadpan comic timing, the duo immediately struck me as an English Flight of the Conchords.
“They were born for this”
Their believable awkwardness, onstage rivalry (cue a number of singer/drummer jokes) and taste for the surreal are all redolent of the Conchords and this ensured that the production – rather than feeling like two musicians taking a misjudged stab at comedy – was a natural fit for Sparkes and Sharland. Even the briefest of glimpses at their parody laden collection of videos indicates as much. They were born for this.
As the show progresses, things take a slightly darker turn, with a recurring joke suggesting that whenever the words ‘Radio One’ are uttered, Felix undergoes a mild panic attack. Moreover, Lee begins to transform from a jealous bandmate into Felix’s carer and the show goes to unexpected places which explore the problematic nature of a meteoric rise to fame and an even quicker descent. Those with a passing familiarity of The Hoosier’s history (and that of many of their peers) will recognise the reality behind the production’s fictional conceit.
Many bands of this era experienced a high level of success in the wake of guitar music’s mid-00s dominance and, once the genre began to stagnate and lose public interest, many talented musicians were left to fund records personally and pursue other artistic avenues, with only a handful of those (such as Arctic Monkeys, Foals and Muse) left with the same level of profitability which they had previously enjoyed. The Hooisers were one such example and, in many ways, this production is an extremely brave choice for the band to take. Through the medium of song and motivational speeches, they directly confront the problems of fame and the importance of keeping sane and connected amidst the background noise which can overshadow the original pleasures of making music with friends.
I truly hope that Sparkes and Delamere continue to develop this show and make others given that, in addition to its fascinating insight into 00s indie, the two performers possess natural chemistry and comic timing. Overall, music based duos have quite a year at the Fringe, with this show and Giants Are Fjörd being two of the most joyous hours you could spend.
Felix and the Scootermen: Self-Help Yourself Famous has now finished its run at Underbelly, Bristo Square – Freisian.