Category: Gig Reviews

GIG REVIEW – AS IT IS – 28/11/18 MANCHESTER

As It Is are lined up to play their biggest Manchester show to date – headlining the O2 Ritz. Moving from a pop-punk happiness to a much darker ’emo’ style, it’s safe to say a happy-go-lucky bubblegum pop atmosphere was not to be achieved.
While the band have been around for years, Canadian synth-rock Courage My Love (6.5) supporting large shows on the scale of the Ritz isn’t their forte yet. First on, the struggled to form a connection with a crowd of unresponsive attendees and despite Mercedes’s beautiful vocals and attempts, little could be done to capture a crowd. Through no fault of their own, perhaps it was just a tough crowd. The trio are excellent performers, aside from a slight sound issue causing the bass to smother the guitars, they are indeed a very tight band musically. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t their night.
 
Don’t be surprised when we say Holding Absence (9) are one of the bands on the cusp of breaking out in 2019. Already building a reputation in the scene, the quintet embodied a heavier side of music fans were perhaps not expecting. Instantaneous energy and brilliant stage presence, there was no holding back even in slower tracks ‘Everything’. Musicality was on point as well as stage presence and audience connectivity. If one point was to be made, perhaps more on-stage connection between band members, but otherwise this is a band you will hear a lot about soon.
 
Finally, after embarking on their first UK tour by As It Is in 2015, Trash Boat (7.5) return as supports once again. Generating the largest crowd of fans in the audience, the participation and enjoyment from crowdsurfing fanatics and mosh pit enthusiasts was through the roof. Yet, the bands performance seemed to lack. After witnessing the performance previous runners Holding Absence gave, there was a lacking stage atmosphere. Undoubtedly, the outfit were strong musically, but there was little to make them stand out, little to push them out to those unaware of who they were. An improvement they can work on.
 
Edinburgh’s show turned out to be quite the disaster. Sets being cut short and violent security, As It Is (9) we’re clearly unamused by the events of the previous night. Yet, with a day off before Manchester, the band had recouped to give it their all for this show, notably the biggest performance to date in Manchester.
 
Building a bridge with an audience is fundamental for any live show, and such levels of doing so can easily be seen. Patrick Foley on drums, we will give a pass to. Spending a good half of the show hidden behind a smoke screen (despite a higher platform) its also not easy to give much interaction from so far at the back. What can be said however, is that it can be rather embarrassing when your touring guitarist Ronnie interacts more with the audience than some of the others. Older tracks dug out from the discography ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Can’t Save Myself’ saw lead vocalist Patty Walters moving across the stage singing to front. Yet, it did feel connectivity from bassist Ali Testo lacked majorly in comparison. Granted, it is hard to multitask with instruments and backing vocals, but if guitar/vocalist Ben Langford-Biss can do it, what is the excuse?
 
Harshness aside, an onstage connection between the band could be felt. It’s clear these tracks mean a lot to the group. One of the more emotional connections came mid-way through a the set, slowing down the pace with ‘The Question, The Answer’ and ‘Still Remembering’. Looking in-depth it is almost as if there is a small shift in the emotion of Walters, between gaps going up to fellow band mates mouthing the words ‘I fucking love you’. To see songs played so much still striking deep in the performers is a sight that is heart-warming, as well as showing the depth the band encapsulate in music. A song, perhaps unexpected in the set was ‘The Great Depression’s’ closing track ‘The End’. As a conceptual stage show, voiceovers and formulated colour schemes added to the atmospheric feel. As It Is had an idea for this stage show, but at time almost felt like they were holding back. Going full out could really skyrocket this show, perhaps a thought for their upcoming American show. Aside from a slight timing issue on the spoken word bridge of the closing track, a clever way to end the show.
 
But it’s the performance in the encore of previous and new singles saw energy ramp up ten-fold, something incredible from a band already giving a high percentage of their energy in the show. Ending on ‘Dial Tones’, ‘The Wounded World’ and ‘The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry) pushed a strong end to the show. This group know how to structure a set. Even to the last minute all was given, with ‘The Stigma’ perhaps gaining the largest reaction of fans.
 
As It Is are pushing an important message in their music. To see a room of 1000+ people of all ages singing back such meaningful lyrics and embracing who they are is a beautiful sight. Such connections in the scene may be depleting but shows like this prove that there are still sparks in the darkness.
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GIG REVIEW – AVENOIR – MANCHESTER 20/11/18

 
Brash, boisterous and bold. Avenoir (8.5) are not top of the list, or the most popular by any means. Hailing from Leeds, the melodic grunge trio are pushing boundaries to create wider audiences – starting with Manchester.
 
Thirty minutes, seven songs to capture an audience.
Despite being new to the Manchester scene, Avenoir stirred up an atmosphere instantly. With opener ‘Tadpole’, the trio melded together all the energy provided from previous frontrunners and exceeded it. Easier for a three piece? Perhaps, but for such a new band, this level of performance is definitely an impressive feat. As for musicality, aside from the occasional mis-timings, or flat notes, the band were tight. Even through unreleased single ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’, a high level of inter-band connection and timing was great. Yet, instrumental performance aside, ‘Krakow-P- presented the bands ability to transfer emotion from recordings to live. Whether this emotion is through playing or stage presence, the outfit are rather enjoyable to watch. Wrapping up with debut single ‘Leviathan’, the group packed the last reckless hit of their set. Even though the vocal harmonies may have been off at times, a development in sound always takes work. After 30 minutes energy is still at a high and infact leaves quite a memorable set.
 
Avenoir may not have had a huge audience, but they played to their best either way. For a band so young and new to the scene, perhaps other bands should look to these guys for live inspiration. Young, loud and reckless, maybe these guys could be next on your radar.

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!

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.