Category: Gig Reviews

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.

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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

GIG REVIEW – DREAM STATE – BIRMINGHAM 11/02/18

Local Birmingham openers Mindstep were first on the bill. Mindstep are your average openers as shown by most of their performance. Yes, their vibrancy was average (excluding their amazing energy filled drummer – shoutout to them for lifting the set) but otherwise it was a lacked any audience-band reciprocity and was overall a little…dull. That’s not to say all of it was. Faster dance style tracks such as Peach lifted the set from time to time, but unfortunately the performance was brought down by a lack of stage presence from their main vocalist. A good voice, no doubt, yet it almost seemed as if they were afraid on that stage, whether it was a bad night or a bout of stage fright, Mindstep had their time and took it to a reasonable extent.

Next on the local support roster was pop-rock band Layover. With a clear definition between their old and upcoming material, it’s a clear factor of which ones the band prefer. While older tracks such as ‘Stage Fright’ had their moment, it was their upcoming unreleased material that truly stole the stage for Layover. A true overflow of emotion brought some of these fluctuating newer songs to life, and it’s something we can hopefully look out for in their upcoming studio recordings too.

Yet, if somehow you didn’t notice the bands before, you certainly did now. As Chapter And Verse flew through their set, with impeccably impressive vocal harmonies, insane stage presence and exuberant tracks to match, it’s clearly portrayed as to why they were chosen to support the full length of the tour. It’s rare to see bands consistently perform with vivacious power while including three part harmonies side by side, but through every track, be it ‘Slaves’ or even newer track ‘Magazines’, Chapter and Verse were there to get your attention, and that they did excellently.

Headliners Dream State are rising through in the world of rock, maybe not enough to sell out massive rooms, but enough to have a great performance and fan base to match. Dream State do not have the largest catalogue of material to hand, with one EP (Consequences) and two singles, meaning their set was a little shorter than one may hope, however, perhaps it was their insane performance from their opener ‘Burden’ to their ending track ‘Rebuild, Recreate’ that made time fly within the venue.

Interestingly though, it wasn’t just an average band, barrier, audience show. In a true Dream State fashion, vocalist CJ took off from the stage to sing fan favourites such as ‘White Lies’ amongst the crowd and in the pit, with some of the other band members joining along from time to time. It’s one thing to perform and sing to a few on the front row, but when you get fully integrated, singing their finale Rebuild, Recreate’ on the shoulders of a friendly mosher, you know you have a band who are there for enjoyment. This radiated throughout their set, and even though the set was a little short, there were more than enough highlights to fulfil the crowd, and either way, this is definitely NOT the last we will be seeing of Dream State.

Gig rating: 4.5/5

GIG REVIEW – FIRE RED EMPRESS – WOLVERHAMPTON 20/01/18

Severn were first up and while you could tell it was their second ever show, they didn’t do as badly as one would have expected. Giving a few little awkward quirks such as ‘track 6’ and stumbling trying to be a frontman, the band did give it what they had and took advantage of their opportunity.

Scattering Ashes took their stage and held it…to an extent. As for many of the bands on this stage tonight, movement and energy did lack for a large majority of the night. Scattering Ashes were more polished than the band prior to them and helped get the audience a bit more intrigued.

Netherhall, like Fire Red Empress, had the advantage of playing a few weeks prior to this show on the same stage to a similar crowd. However, being a member down meant they had to perform an entirely instrumental set for their slot. The technicality and higher energy of Netherhall helped bring a more interesting side to an instrumental performance, giving it a further push and really making use of the creative technicality all three members use for their individual instruments. Yet, the worry with instrumentals is that sometimes they can drag on which sadly did seem to be the case at times in their set. Having to go completely instrumental which may not be instantly known is hard, so props to Netherhall for executing it well!

On the other hand, headliners Fire Red Empress took the stage with monumental exuberance, playing their full debut ‘Black Morphine’. Taking advantage of their recent set just a few months previous at Midlands Metal Crusade, the band clearly knew the stage and their audience well. While their set was longer than they may be used to, the band didn’t let that stop them as they threw 100% of their energy into killer tracks such as ‘Giants’ and ‘Dead Nature’.

Even on the slower side of things with ‘The Little Death’ there was still a full flow of eccentric energy and talent coming through. However, a lot of the songs sounded similar to their recordings, which isn’t an issue, but perhaps a little twist to some of the tracks could have embraced a more changeable side of the band and open them up to new stage ideas. Fire Red Empress are no strangers to playing Wolverhampton, and this was clear tonight. Make sure to stay tuned for our interview later this week!

Rating: 3/5