Category: Gig Reviews

GIG REVIEW – EVIL SCARECROW – MANCHESTER 12/10/18

Spoof style bands often don’t stay around for long, they put out a few songs then disappear into the ether of the ‘could have, should have’ complex. However, its not often that you see a spoof style band sell out the Club Academy Manchester, which is exactly what was witnessed on Friday 12th October. Evil Scarecrow (9) are lost in Antartartica, with nothing but a 13 track set, a stage prop igloo and some other friends to help them. So Evil Scarecrow, why did you go to Antartartica, the coldest place on earth?

Despite being a band since 2002, Evil Scarecrow made waves with their early 2014 Bloodstock set, enticing a huge turnout, with a pretty entertaining sight of scuttling metalheads, another sight to witness at their shows. Opening the set with ‘Way To Die’, featuring on their newest album Antartartica, its clear the band have a very enthusiastic audience ready and waiting. Donning their classic ghostly stage makeup and new stage additions, following tracks ‘Skulls Of Our Enemies’ and ‘End Level Boss’ have little extra personalised touches to them. From giant drum playing skulls to a literal boss level fight with Link from Legend Of Zelda, the dynamic quintet are dedicated to their stage performances (as are the loyal stage crew with the daunting task of such a performance).  Through the bands more popular tracks, older releases still remain true through the set with ‘Robototron’ and ‘Blacken The Everything’ making appearances in the gigs set. To make it clear, the audience knew what was coming, personalised robot costume heads floating among the audience there’s no denying that some old hits had to make the cut.

Yet, through the spoof tracks, silly antics and jokes, there truly is a deep side to the group. ‘The Ballad Of Brother Pain’ saw a darker side of the band and stage, while the audiences fuelled the beautiful ballad with torches and lighters. On a slightly warmer, more serious note, it is quite respectable how the group can tone down the tracks, getting the audience to sing and move through the saddened acoustic guitar and slower vocal aspects. Another song deeply routed in what the band describe as ‘politics and love and stuff’ (very important) is ‘Cosmos Goth Moth Gong’, something even fans were brought into with each respective left and right side chanting Cos-Mos-Goth-Moth-Gong in perfect timing.

The question remains, what would Evil Scarecrow be without possibly their most well known track of all, ‘Crabulon’? With people holding inflatable crabs at the show, this song is clearly a hit and it must be said, it was performed extremely well. Not only were the audience in perfect synchronicity with each other, scuttling left and right but so were the band, managing to play almost perfectly with the distracting amusement of the raging crowd in front of them. Even managing to upkeep the energy and stage movement with a literal raging crab behind them, its quite a sight, an impressive sight indeed. Most of the band-audience interaction is already known, but this still doesn’t take away from the extreme connection between the two. Whether its recently added dance battle or a friendly shouting of ‘EGGS!’ and ‘HOWEVER!’, you really can’t beat the interaction these guys have with their audiences. Hell, the band even got the audience to shout ‘you bastard’ at temporary ‘goose’ keyboardist Chucky The Bastard and honk at him. Bonus points must be added for that inclusion.

As much as the band may want to appear jokey and spoof-like, they do have an air of seriousness deep down. Yes they play 10 minute song ‘Antartartica’, a track they aren’t even sure why they made so long’ to ‘close’ the set, but the skill to which they play and set their stage design, setlist and interactions are that of a serious band. Closing on the Antartartica singles ‘Polterghost’ and ‘Hurricanado’, the band (and audience) are swept away into a spirling cylinder of spinning movement. Literally.

Evil Scarecrow aren’t for everyone, but they are sure as hell a fun band to watch. Can you rate them on the same level as incredibly professional, super serious strict bands? No, but who would want to? Lost In Antartartica was far from a cold spell and if anything brought a true warmth to the show. Eggs!

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GIG REVIEW – DIRTY SOUND MAGNET – MANCHESTER 04/10/18

Dirty Sound Magnet are no strangers to touring and bringing back their must-see set, they put on a pretty interesting show at Fuel Manchester.

There’s something intriguing about openers Sylvette (8), the way they meld together as a quintet that plays so differently, yet flows so well. You see, despite a rather temperamental PA system on the upstairs of a vegan restaurant, the groups individual dynamics were pulled through. Not everyday do you witness a rock band with a violin player (excluding Yellowcard). While their set did have some faults, a large majority of this comes down to the system around them, certain points each individual rhythm melded into a inescapable plethora of unsettling noise, however this was largely infrequent and the rest of their set was enjoyable. A tight band who know how to synchronise well together (and save themselves from a fall at the back of the stage!)

With a very small discography of music, second supports Stray One (5) didn’t have many options for their set, filling the gaps with cover/original mashups and tracks from previous bands. Can you fill the room with the same energy as the band before as a duo? Its safe to say that it is most certainly more difficult. Yet, they pushed on with their set – even playing unreleased tracks. The highlight of their set were the bands own tracks, but with the sound system not being at its best and the energy flow quickly declining, perhaps this wasn’t the best night for them to perform.

On the other hand, headline act Dirty Sound Magnet (9) brought the full fire of funky rhythms, unstoppable sound and a tremendous wave of sound, a mix to impact the audience almost instantly. Touring the UK is no new idea for DSM, with the band appearing again in the country (and Manchester) for the second time this year and they know how to bring it full pelt.

The crowd was rather small, with just a handful of people in a small room, but did this stop them? Not at all. Its hard to find a band comparable in terms of energetic approach when it comes to DSM, with such high energy never diminishing through the full set, one does wonder how they do it. Tracks high in popularity such as ‘Western Lies’ and ‘Homo Economicus’ brought out the energy, both from the band and the crowd, even with little dancing lines forming around the room. A downside to the performance however was the technical difficulties that had ravaged the night already, leaving elements clashing instead of flowing like in the recorded tracks, or some aspects just not working or being heard whatsoever. The majority of downsides to the set is placed on the overall sound system, not the band as an entirety as for most of the show, for the execution of their tracks was almost perfect. Practising and performing for 10 years is definitely shown in their performances. Even the final track of the night, despite this being played as an instrumental, this was perhaps the most intriguing and experimental tracks of all, with Stavros (Guitar/vox) running and jumping around the room getting everyone up and dancing along. Quite an interesting way to end a show, a memorable way as well.

Dirty Sound Magnet faced some issues at the show, but they didn’t let that stop them. The energy, power and dedication of this band comes through every element and watching them only solidifies this more. Definitely a band to see live, the rest of the tour dates can be found below!

GIG REVIEW – EMPLOYED TO SERVE – WOLVERHAMPTON 24/07/18

24 degrees and a sweaty metal show may turn some people away, but with a lineup as strong as tonight with Dead Hands, Leeched, Rough Hands and Employed To Serve, this was not one to miss

Being a local support can bring a range of reaction possibilities. If anything, Dead Hands (8/10) actually brought a very good performance and created a great reaction, despite a smaller crowd size. Aside from the slight awkward talks between tracks, the stage presence was very high and technicality in their music was replicated almost perfectly with very little faults. Dead Hands were a very good pick for a support and hopefully gained more supporters through the night.

Leeched (5/10) being the first of the full tour supports would give them some hope to be entertaining, yet there wasn’t much to them. There wasn’t too much of a structure to their tracks, not bringing as much of a reaction. Musically the three-piece were average and didn’t show much versatility or energy on stage. Whether this was a bad night for them or not, they just need to give a bit more energy into their show.

Rough Hands (7/10) put on a pretty good show. For a relatively unheard of band, they gave a pretty good performance as a whole. With impressive vocal talent and on beat backings, they kicked off to a good start. The problem is, without a strong stream of energy throughout, things will start to head downhill and sadly this hit Rough Hands towards the end of their set. No doubt they can put on a show, it was just a little unfortunate that their energy blew out before the end.

It’s easy to see why Employed To Serve (9/10) are riding as one of the hottest new metal bands of 2018. Not only did they raise the heat of The Slade Rooms but they also completely raised the bar in terms of musical performance and versaitity. Playing their critical success ‘The Warmth Of A Dying Sun’.

Bringing an extremely polished opening with ‘Void Ambition’ the show set off to a great start, evoking incredibly enthusiastic reactions from their audience. While it is expected that their most popular tracks/singles such as ‘I Spend My Days’ and ‘Good For Nothing’, even tracks between such as ‘Never Falls Far’ still brought an extremely polished set. In terms of the show as a whole, a few technical issues were apparent. While these never held up the show too much, there still will be a slightly awkward pause, one that is often unavoidable. While this was unavoidable at points, after the few guitar tech issues, the show picked up again within seconds.

Yet, Frontwoman Justine truly helped lead the show, showing extreme versatility with almost perfect vocal talent and instrumental ability through ‘Apple Tree’. It is clear that Employed To Serve have the potential and talent to put together a strong show, one that not only evokes a good reaction, but sounds polished and clean throughout. For a show themed around WOADS, stage presence and setting was not something left behind. Small stages could have compromised this, yet the matching ETS jackets, amp banners and backline banner made it 100% clear Employed To Serve were here to leave an impression.

Employed To Serve have an incredible tour ahead of them, ready to prove themselves to the UK scene. With the brilliant chemistry between each of the members and their ability to play to such a high level gives them a step ahead of everyone else. Make sure to catch them while you can.

GIG REVIEW – CASEY – BIRMINGHAM 18/04/18

Casey’s tour has reached the penultimate date, selling out Birmingham’s The Asylum 2 days prior to the show.

Ontario based band RARITY (7.5) did well to warm up the filling venue. From the start, it’s clear that the five piece have a fanbase, with a clear connection between the band and audience being formed almost instantaneously. One of the strengths of their set was communication, using their performance to spread a positive message of mental health as well as producing an energetic performance, playing on top of the barriers and even encouraging moshpits among the crowd. While their set may not have been the most memorable of all, they performed a well-practiced, energetic set to start off the evening.

Coming all the way from Australia, ENDLESS HEIGHTS (7.5) brought a different approach to the musical coagulation of the night. Bringing a more melodic hardcore, emo crossover, their set was far less rampant/angsty, but instead flowed smoothly through the set. While the slight change in style may have thrown audiences ever so slightly, this didn’t hinder the energy on stage in any form. If anything, the lower use of between song talks helped the band keep their carefree, enjoyable style on stage and amongst each other. Endless Heights took advantage of their stage time and definitely did it well.

Embarking on the penultimate date of their EU/UK tour for ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’, CASEY (9) showed just why they can sell out shows. Despite being an album promotion tour, the setlist was well balanced across tracks from their latest album, ‘Love Is Not Enough’ and ‘Fade’ creating a perfectly mixed balance for fans new and old.

Creating an atmospherically ambient sound in a recording is hard enough, but replicating such a style live is another factor. Yet, from the slow ambiance of opener ‘Making Weight’ to the atmospheric instrumental bridge track of ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’, the same feel was captured almost flawlessly throughout the venue. Yet, be it the lighter side of tracks such as ‘Bruise’ or heavier releases such as ‘Fade’, energy amongst the audience and band refused to dip. Despite reaching the end of a twenty-date tour, the energy was the strength of an opening show, with no sign of slowing down at any point of the set.

However, there wasn’t the best communication in-between songs. While there was the odd talk at times, it was mainly down to the music to create a connection between the two sides of the audience and musicians. On the other hand, this amplifies the power Casey truly have at spreading an emotion, a message, even a story across to the audience without even using words or lyrics in their tracks.

Development is also a factor noticeable in Casey’s performance. incorporating ‘Hell’ and ‘Teeth’ from debut ‘Fade’ it’s not only clear that they’ve improved in performance over time, but musically and in a way that they can still appreciate their old music just as much as the new. Even playing different material such as ‘Phosphenes’ and ‘Fluorescents’ from their latest album, each song has the same level of energy, determination and effort put in and is just as appreciated by fans, an aspect that can sometimes cause a noticeable change. In the end, finishing on old favourite ‘Little Bird’, the band put a great closing end to the second to last date of tour, clearly more than satisfying audience members at the same time.

Casey are building up fast. Selling out eight of twenty shows in places they’ve never even headlined before is quite an achievement for a building band. Make sure to catch these guys touring across the year; this is not the last you will hear of them.

GIG REVIEW – SPEAK, BROTHER – BIRMINGHAM 15/04/18

Embarking on the final date of their album launch tour, indie folk band Speak, Brother have made the last stop near their local area of Birmingham.

Hunger Moon (6.5) opened the show with intense vocal and atmospheric sound. The thing is about Hunger Moon is that in terms of vocal and musical performance, they are almost there, but for stage presence, more needs to be done. Granted, these isn’t a large range of movement that can be done during a heartfelt slow indie ballad, but perhaps the ‘first support jitters’ caused a sense of nervousness among the duo.

Often shows may have little minor issues such as supports quickly pulling out and being covered for a show, often without an announcement, these are largely unnoticed. Fill-in singer/songwriter Joe Dolman(8) smoothly took this place tonight on short notice, still bringing out a high quality performance despite the lack of preparation. Constructing an entertaining balanced set of quick and slower tracks (with the odd bit of on-stage comedy), his set was honestly quite enjoyable and definitely a good fit for the shows lineup.

Relatively well known around Birmingham, Speak, Brother (9) had a large turnout for their close to home show. Having formerly played the Hare And Hounds In November 2017, this atmosphere is nothing new to the indie-folk quintet. It’s almost magnificent how Speak, Brother can transform a small venue sound into something amplified to a greater extent. Both the bursting, powerful choruses of ‘Magnificent’ to the overall drawn out slower collective feel of ‘Slow To Now’, while only opening the show, saw a lovely start to the set.

Being an album release show, it’s inevitable there will be some newer tracks performed, with impactful tracks such as ‘Empire’ and ‘When We Were Young’ receiving elaborate, detailed backstories behind them. Evolving from last performance, vocalist James Herring has improved between song conversations compared to the slightly awkward tuning waits in the prior tour. While this did perhaps ramble a little through the set, it encapsulates just how personal and intricate each track can be, with ‘Empire’ appearing most personal through each member’s performance as well. Bands that can recreate a distinct, almost intricate sound live is hard to come by. Being joined by guest vocalist Kirstie Smith for ‘Father’, the same vulnerable, atmospheric flow of the original recording created beautifully sincere ballad and making a standout performance mid-way in the set.

Of course, anyone who has seen Speak, Brother will know they enjoy involving their audience, getting them to sing along and dance to varying tracks, even altering the setlist for a request of ‘Lions Roar’. There’s no doubt the band can build up tracks in their recorded music, but the inclusion of willing audience members during ‘He’ll Fight’ creates a more ethereal atmosphere, a quality the group base their music on. Even adding a dance competition to their jokey, fun cover of Rusted Root’s ‘Send Me On My Way’ fought its way through to close the show in a different enjoyable fashion.

Speak, Brother are evolving as a band constantly, a difference clearly noticeable between live shows as well as recorded music. A refreshing change for a Sunday night is what can be said about this show, a very lovely refreshing change.

GIG REVIEW – FALL OUT BOY – BIRMINGHAM 27/03/18

Opening night of the UK/EU M A N I A Tour is set to go off with a bang, with an almost sold out arena and excitement building up for days.

Against the Current (7) are frequently placed as supports for larger bands in the UK, touring with the likes of All Time Low and Good Charlotte in the past. Therefore, supporting Fall Out boy in the same arena as they supported All Time Low in two years ago should be no big issue. Yet, it kind of was. No doubt, Against the Current started well. Chrissy Costanza (Vocals) dancing around the stage with the energy a smaller band should have with such a big stage/crowd. Musically, all seemed great, apart from the extremely loud bass which did hinder the ability to hear anything else, probably through no fault of theirs. However, playing two new songs, one of which was a lot slower, the audience didn’t really know how to react. Even more well-known tracks ‘Gravity’ or ‘Running with The Wild Things’ didn’t create any energetic reciprocity from the audience, making the band seem rather small and swallowed by the large front they were tasked with performing to. Maybe it was just first night fears, but overall, they did a good job.

With an almost sold out arena, the first night of Fall Out Boy’s (9) UK ‘M A N I A  Tour’ has officially kicked off at full speed. Opening with the fire packed (literally) track ‘The Phoenix’, the lit-up room was instantaneously brought to life, making full use of the stage with Pete Wentz(Bass/vocals) and Patrick Stump (Vocals/guitar) running down the centre stage isle to really blow out their first track. Being the ‘M A N I A Tour’, there must be some new tracks from their latest album. Seeing ‘Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea’ and ‘Hold Me Tight or Don’t’ was also received well throughout the set. Occasionally, the question of bands being able to affect an entire arena through stripped back tracks is debated, it either works well, or it doesn’t. This was one that went very well. ‘Save Rock and Roll’ saw not only Stump’s piano and vocal skills come into play, but their ability to create such a powerful atmosphere across the arena. Even through the extremely stripped back solo piano version of ‘Young and Menace’, the dramatic singularity sent a real wave across the arena and everyone in it.

It’s no doubt that over the last few years, Fall Out Boy have truly upped their game in terms of stage sets, and with their new layout, they really have risen above all. Of course, as you make your way to the top, you may fall down.About to embark on the biggest stage reveal of the set yet, a rising stage platform, Andy Hurley (Drums) accidentally fell off the stage. Pulling through however, the classic drum solo carried on in a professional way – with the platform eventually working again. Incorporating two rising platforms in the central arena, crowds saw the band being lifted many metres high to play favourites such as ‘Dance, Dance,’ and ‘Wilson (Expensive Mistakes). Even visually, the large screens dominating behind the main stage and around the lifted platforms gave audiences a more visual version of tracks, with ‘I Don’t Care’ hosting hundreds of middle finger emoji’s and gifs, ‘Champion’ bringing a touching Princess Diana tribute and ‘Uma Thurman’, unsurprisingly, showing clips of Uma Thurman in her respective feature film roles.

Fall Out Boy fans came to see a good show, and they got just that if not more. Not only does the bands performance, visuals and reference to llamas stand out, but also the work of dedicated fans along the side. With dedicated fans creating the ‘M A N I A Project’, handing out and holding purple slips to their phone lights during ‘Champion’, the respective community of the fans was truly recognisable. Another stand out show with many more to come through this tour.

GIG REVIEW – MILESTONES – BIRMINGHAM 17/03/18

The British pop-rock crossover genre is slowly becoming less known amongst the modern scene. Shows are getting smaller, as are audiences. Yet even the snow and cold can’t keep some fans from rushing to see their favourite bands, such as Milestones playing Birmingham’s The Asylum 2.

Known relatively well in the Birmingham pop-punk scene, local rockers You Know The Drill were billed as the starters for the night. Be it the misery of the weather or the lack of an audience, they started with a slightly lacklustre performance. Yet, from midway of their second track, the true pop-punk energised style of the collective we know was unleashed. Of course, with one EP and another due to come, the performance of unreleased track ‘No Ambition’ held up well both on stage and through those listening. You Know The Drill played a good lengthy support set and even though they did miss out their much loved Taylor Swift cover, still gave a fun and lively performance.

Better Days were up next, bursting through with tracks from their previous release. While it took a while for fans to get into the music, lead vocalist/guitarist Graeme Costello managed to forward a spark to the audience with their plethora of enjoyable tracks. Stage presence also kicked up well, despite a few almost disastrous collisions amongst members! Following a few issues of a lost bass, the band didn’t actually have too many issues performance wise. Filling the accidental tuning issues with improvised stage banter, the set did appear a little unplanned, however, this didn’t set the 4-piece back, if anything, highlighted their ability to add a few lighthearted touches to their set. These days, Pop-punk is often referred to as a ‘dying genre’, but Better Days helped prove there is still a collective presence out there.

Midway through their headliner, Milestones left no room for errors. Yes, they may not be the most well known band in the scene, but with such lively, excellent performances, they’re on the way for certain. Opening with ‘This Is My Life’, the band managed to kick off the show with a slower track, rather unusual but working in their favour. Milestones definitely bring back a reminiscence of the early eras of British rock bands You Me At Six and Mallory Knox. Yet through their early 2006 pop-rock style track ‘Bittersweetheart’, their dedicated ecstatic performance came through strongly. In some respects, it’s understandable that the band had more fire and vibrancy during their newer tracks. Nevertheless, older fan favourites such as ‘Call Me Disaster’ still emerged through the set and weren’t tossed aside, still keeping up a strong energy. Even the slowest of tracks ‘Shot In The Dark’ still has an unmistakable charm about it, being stripped back but still having a slower, well reformed energy.

‘Red Lights’ isn’t just an album of fast paced pop-rock angst, but also features heartfelt ballads that come through just as strongly live as they do on recording. Emotion throughout the setlist was never diminished, not once. Stripped back melodies of ‘Hold On’ sent waves through the room, whereas even the slowed down beginning of single ‘Paranoid’ added a different interpretation to the albums tracks. More importantly, the emotional connection, especially between vocalist Matt Clarke and the audience was recognised. Between songs, there was a slightly awkward atmosphere, but this was quickly made up for between songs with everyone getting deep into the music of each track and the band jumping endlessly around the stage and onto the barriers.

Of course, with any crowd in Birmingham, one ending track is never quite enough. Finishing with their hopeful ballad ‘Against The World’ saw a collection of fans come together in a lovely singalong. Yet, despite ending on a beautiful track, in hindsight, Milestones probably knew a demand for an encore was coming. Unexpected and unplanned, demands from the audience led the band to perform an old rendition of ‘Hindsight’, not quite as polished as the other tracks, but in their defence it wasn’t planned. If anything, it formed quite an entertaining performance that didn’t quite go horribly wrong, but certainly was a fun finale either way.

Milestones know how to perform and connect with their audiences. Between songs, they do lack a little but this is easily made up with their connectivity with the audience throughout their tracks. Definitely go catch Milestones at a show near you, you’ll thank us later.

Gig rating: 4/5