Well, it was always going to be a weird gig. I’m standing in a dimly lit, smoky room with about fifty other people as hip-hop blares through the speakers , and the only real indicator I’m here to see an a capella group and not a heavy metal band is the almost bare stage and the ten or so bottles of water lining its back wall. I wonder how much of the rest of the crowd heard about The Blanks, like me, from massive hospital sitcom ‘Scrubs’, in which they go under the name ‘The Worthless Peons’, as the barbershop quartet of Ted, the hospital’s underappreciated lawyer. Sam Lloyd, who plays Ted, recorded an album with the band as The Blanks, who have reached Manchester on their current tour. Moho Live with its position in the shadow of Afflecks, odd capital of Manchester, seems a perfect match for the surreal style of Scrubs, but I still can’t quite get my head round the idea that a barbershop quartet will be taking to the stage hopefully any minute now.

The crowd are getting restless- every sound technician or member of the stage crew crossing the stage gets a cheer in the hope that it’s one of the band. So there’s some confusion when the support act, Captain Hotknives, takes to the stage and picks up a guitar- but within minutes he’s won the crowd over and have them singing his backing vocals. It’s clear from the very first line of his opening number, sung in a Bradford growl, this evening is as much about comedy as it is about music: “I hate Babies (I hate babies), I fucking hate babies (I fucking hate babies)”. The audience are particularly taken with his take on a Manchester classic, with his advice on why you shouldn’t grow Cabbages in West Yorkshire -‘Slugs… slugs will tear them apart…’.

By the time he leaves the stage (“Don’t worry, the guys from Holby City are coming on soon”) the place is totally packed, and even more restless. The shouts of ‘Ted! Ted! Ted!’ over the ska music now being played show just how much of the crowd are Scrubs fans.

Finally, the stage goes pitch-black and a voiceover announces in a doom-laden voice the presence of “The most interesting a capella band that has ever sung in a hospital sitcom”. The lights flick on and the group are already in position, and go straight into their first song. As a band from a television background, they’re visually just as impressive as they are vocally, with tight (and appropriately cheesy) choreography.  The crowd go as wild as the crowd at any standard rock concert. When the band launch into an elaborate jacket removal routine, there are surely as many hands in the air as there would be if a boy band were on stage. The first song ends with them pulling confetti out of what seems like thin air and throwing it over the crowd to massive appreciation.


The bizarre theme continues; the band perform a song with a fifth member- a plastic Halloween ornament that spurts out catchphrases at the push of a button Buzz Lightyear style, and manage to perfectly blend their voices with its mechanised voice; there are short comedy sketches between acts, including a sneaky advert for their own merchandise using the band’s radio-perfect American infomercial voices; and the band perform a medley of “The greatest four rock songs ever’ accompanied this time by ukulele, and including ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ with its famous cowbell replaced with Lloyd slapping himself in the face to percussive effect. The oddness reaches a peak on their final song- the band announce they will perform “The greatest Christmas song ever written”, don Santa hats, produce a tiny motorised dancing figurine of Mrs Claus, and then serenade it with  ‘Maniac’ by Michael Sembello. If there’s a really clever joke hidden in this, it’s gone straight over my head as they spray bottled water in Mrs Claus’ face as she shakes her hips.

With their encore, The Blanks prove you don’t need overdrive and heavy drums to get a crowd moving with their ingenious pop mash up ‘Teenagers Forget Streisand Because the Only Girl Is Cooler than Dynamite’ and then, with the crowd on a high, finish with their most famous song, an acoustic version of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ that ends the show on a peaceful note, but still with a massive energy in the crowd. I wonder if Sam Lloyd ever gets sick of playing Ted on screen and on stage, but The Blanks have been more than just a TV gimmick- they’re brilliant as a band in their own right.

Come for Ted from Scrubs, stay for the music.