Concert Review: Nina Nesbitt

The Garage venue in London was full of Nina Nesbitt’s fans on the 20th November. I found a place to stand among the crowd and managed to catch the last couple of songs from support act Goody Grace. His song ‘Pretend’ began with acoustic guitar finger picking and the opening lyrics ‘f*** you’ which juxtaposed the delightful intro. The song’s lyrics were clever and insightful, accompanied by the acoustic guitar; it was a very good first impression of Goody. For the final song of his set he played ‘Two Shots’ which had a completely different vibe to ‘Pretend’; evident of Goody’s diversity. To the steady beat he had the crowd swaying with two fingers in the air as he sung the lyrics ‘I just took two shots’ hyping up the audience for Nina’s set.

A stage adorned with lotus flowers, the fans and hipsters out in their masses, The Garage was ready for Nina Nesbitt. She started with one of her recent releases ‘The Moments I’m Missing’ before saying she was going to throw it back to 2012. All the fans knew what was coming, if the room wasn’t already exciting, the tension just built. We weren’t disappointed. Picking up her guitar she strummed the riffs of her first release, beloved by her fans ‘Apple Tree.’ I first heard this song when it was released, and I was 14, 5 years on I was singing the lyrics and dancing along with the rest of the audience, loving it. She then cleverly transitioned ‘Apple Tree’ into ‘Stay Out’ which calls out people on a night out ‘stay out and see through my eyes’ her clever lyrics exposing fake people ‘they think they’re from the sixties, but they were born in 1991’.

I always appreciate a bit of chat and banter from the performer, Nina got the audience to sing along (although I’m quite sure they would have without invitation), and admitted her new album, which is out early next year, is yet unnamed and has the working title NN2. By the end of the night fans were cheering ‘NN2!’, perhaps the name will stick? She played a few new songs from the album too, my favourite of which was ‘Colder.’ This song captivated the audience. Where we had been swaying and singing along Nina now held the audience on her every word with the beautiful melody and lyrics of her new song.

Her gig was diverse. She moved from old songs to recent releases and even to new songs. Many of her lyrics are, and she admitted it, about relationships, many about heartbreak or moving on. This had the potential to bring down the mood but each of her songs take a different view point and this diversity kept it upbeat. About one of her more upbeat songs ‘Chewing Gum’, she said she wrote it when she was single ‘which was fun.’ To contrast she played ‘Ontario’, written from inspiration from a letter she received from a fan and instantly wrote the song. It’s about when you start liking someone and then find out they already have someone she explained.

She was so involved in creating the music on stage, swapping instruments each song, even mid-way through jumping from a drum pad to piano. It seemed like she really enjoyed herself on stage and the audience loved it.

 

Concert Review: INHEAVEN

The October 17th gig at Scala was something of a homecoming for the South London indie-rock band, and what a homecoming it was.

Having released their self-titled album in September, it’s been an exciting couple of months for INHEAVEN, and if there was one word that I would use to sum up the gig, it would be just that – exciting. The band have been releasing music since their 2015 single ‘Regeneration’ – a single which so caught the attention of The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas that he released it on his record label, CULT RECORDS, and despite having only been together for a relatively short period of time, it’s clear that INHEAVEN are one of the most exciting new bands to have ventured onto the indie-rock scene in recent years, and are definitely one to keep a close eye on.

They were supported by two bands – the four-piece indie rock group BLOXX from West London, and King Nun, a rock band signed to Dirty Hit, the same label that artists including Wolf Alice, Pale Waves and The 1975 are signed to, and a label that has been responsible for putting out some of the most exciting indie and indie-rock of recent years. There’s the age-old saying that you often find your new favourite band after seeing them support the band you originally booked to see, and it’s a saying that is definitely true for me in the case of BLOXX and King Nun. I’m loathe to use the word exciting again, but it’s incredibly applicable to both these bands. BLOXX have already released four singles so far in 2017, including ‘Curtains’, a song featuring heavy guitars and incredible vocals from frontwoman Ophelia Booth. ‘Coke’ is another standout, as are ‘You’ and ‘Your Boyfriend’ – in fact, every song in BLOXX’s set is a standout, and points to very, very bright things for the band’s future. As for the second support act, King Nun – words can do little to properly explain just how much energy this band exude on stage, and how exciting (drinking game: take one drink every time Phoebe uses the word ‘exciting’ in this article) both the band and their music are. The singer and guitarist, Theo, spent more time jumping about in the air than with his feet on the stage, and honestly, I could write another entire article about King Nun. All I can say is that you absolutely need to go and listen to them right now – ‘Tulip’ and ‘Speakerface’ are my particular favourite singles.

INHEAVEN are a band that are incredibly visually focused – singer and bassist Chloe Little was a film student before she was in the band, and many of the band’s songs start life as visual clips that then inspire songs to be written. Little also directs a number of INHEAVEN’S music videos, and the band has spoken in the past about wanting to try and bring some of that attention to visual detail to their live shows – this is incredibly evident, with a distressed looking American flag referencing the lyrics of ‘Baby’s Alright’, and roses decorating mic stands and all other available spaces. The four piece band, made up of Little (vocals, bass), James Taylor (vocals, guitar), Joe Lazarus (drums), and Jake Lucas (guitar), played a fourteen song set, playing the entirety of their debut album, alongside some B-Sides of singles that didn’t make it onto their debut. INHEAVEN’s debut album is one of those rare albums that doesn’t contain a single song that could be seen as a weak-link, and this showed during the gig, with the band playing tune after brilliant, high-energy tune. Each song is better than the next, from the almost 80’s new wave inspired ‘Stupid Things’ to the raw and gritty ‘World On Fire’ – the song which saw the first mosh pit of the evening, encouraged by singer/guitarist Taylor. INHEAVEN’s music is also exciting (there’s that word again) in that it doesn’t seem to fit quite into one genre – at times it feels like it could be from the 2007 height of indie music, or from the ‘80s art and college rock scene, and it could definitely also fit into the grunge genre at times. Little cites her inspirations as being Patti Smith, Sonic Youth, Siouxsie Sioux and Debbie Harry, and these influences are very apparent within their music. Other standout songs include ‘Bitter Town’, ‘Real Love’, and ‘Vultures’, a song that mixes Little and Taylor’s vocals perfectly to create a high-energy punk rock banger. INHEAVEN have only just started, and I can’t wait to find out what else they have in store.

Review by: Phoebe Hagan

Concert Review: Sundara Karma

If you think guitar music is dead, think again, you obviously haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Sundara Karma live.

An indie rock band originally from Reading, Sundara Karma released their debut album, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, at the beginning of 2017, following up from three successful EP releases. The October 5th gig at the o2 Academy Brixton was the biggest venue of the tour, and as lead singer and guitarist Oscar Pollock said whilst addressing the crowd, the biggest show the band have ever played.

Up first out of the two support acts was Willie J Healey, an indie guitarist, who released his debut album in August and whose blend of classic indie style guitar music, combined with some slightly rockier undertones in later songs, went down extremely well with the crowd. Following him was the Brighton band The Magic Gang, a band that was the perfect choice to support Sundara Karma – stylistically, the band produces music very much in the same vein to that of Sundara Karma, and the two bands share many of the same fans, evident by the mosh pit that sprung up during the first song of The Magic Gang’s set. The Magic Gang have been outspoken in previous interviews about wanting to bring the UK indie scene back, and after seeing them perform, it’s clear that they are incredibly intent on doing just that with their ear-catching and exciting music. They played a seven song set including crowd favourites ‘Lady, Please’ and ‘How Can I Compete,’ and are due to release their debut album sometime next year.

Prior to Sundara Karma taking the stage, what sounded like a ‘Nature Sounds for Sleep’ album was playing, creating a chill atmosphere in what was otherwise an incredibly excited crowd. The band opened with ‘Another Word For Beautiful,’ from their debut album, a song which was the perfect choice to follow the pre-set music, with its ambient opening and lead singer Oscar Pollock’s almost Bowie-esque vocals on this track. It only took the band six songs until Pollock jumped into the crowd to sing ‘Flame,’ an undoubted highlight of their set and a song that is, without question, one of the best indie songs I’ve heard in recent years. The crowd seemed to agree, and it was amazing to see a band that had such support from fans already, having only just released their debut album. Sundara Karma is comprised of lead singer and guitarist Pollock, bassist Dom Cordell, lead guitarist Ally Baty, and drummer Haydn Evans, who all seemed to be genuinely having the greatest time onstage, and truly relished being able to play their new album to their fans. The band have spoken previously about using literary and philosophical references within their songs, most notably in ‘Flame’ and ‘Loveblood,’ and this attention to detail could also be seen in their backdrop of three circles, recognisable for being used several times in various album and EP cover art. These were lit from behind, looking almost like an eclipse and adding an even more artsy vibe to the gig. Other notable songs were the upbeat and catchy ‘She Said,’ an indie classic if ever there was one, and the two encore songs, ‘Happy Family’ and ‘Explore.’ The band put on a truly fantastic show for their biggest one to date, and having gone to the gig already a fan, I came away an even bigger one, with a renewed faith in the current UK indie scene.

Review by: Phoebe Hagan

GIG REVIEW: Transviolet @ Boston Music Rooms, 18/05/16

2016 has been a ludicrously exciting year for new music, and one of the bands at the very forefront of that are Transviolet. Having only released four songs to the world so far, they’ve already attracted an ever-expanding hardcore fanbase, many of whom were won over on their recent tour with Twenty One Pilots. As brilliant as their debut self-titled EP was, there’s no acid test quite like your first UK headline tour. Insanity caught Transviolet at a sold out show at London’s Boston Music Rooms, and they certainly did not disappoint.

Before that, though, the capacity crowd got a more than welcome taster of the talents of London’s own Miamigo. Drawing elements from The 1975 and The Killers and throwing them into a blender with 80s new wave textures and an intangible additional spice, the four-piece were consistently impressive over the course of their 30 minutes on stage. If anything, the set got better as it went on, building from fun electro-indie that entertained, but rarely excited, into more unusual sounds. The bluesy strut of “Forever” was particularly striking, with a chorus that shifted time signature so effortlessly it was barely noticeable. Ending their set with the intriguingly left-field minimalism of “Hard to Love”, Miamigo made more than a few friends among Transviolet’s fans.

If the ecstasy among many of those fans when the headliners took the stage is anything to go by, then they won’t be in venues as intimate as the Boston Music Rooms for long. “Bloodstream” is a genius choice of opener; the dark, pulsating synths of its recorded version bolstered live by heavier guitars and bass. Transviolet’s music as a whole is meatier and more “rock” in a live environment, and all four of the band members throw themselves into every crescendo without slipping out of the tight structure of the songs. Many good bands are full of energy, but great ones are made up of characters. Vocalist Sarah McTaggart is a captivating presence, assuming the role of mesmeric rock star but ensuring the focus is always on her chameleonic, stunning voice.

What’s also very reassuring about the band’s live performance is that they are very much a band, rather than a vehicle for their singer, and each musician plays an integral role in how the songs are recreated live, whether it’s Judah McCarthy’s varied guitar lines, the pumping bass undercurrent from Mike Panek or the great balance between sampled and full-on rock drums provided by Jon Garcia. Those songs are, without fail, excellent. Inevitably it’s the already released tracks that get the biggest reactions, but unreleased gems like the dreamy “Astronaut” make the imminent prospect of a full-length Transviolet album tantalising. “New Bohemia” is predictably rousing, while it’s obvious why “Night Vision” is almost unanimously designated the band’s favourite song to perform live, as its chorus hits harder and soars higher each time it bursts out of the speakers. The best is left until last, an encore performance of “Girls Your Age” that perfectly captures the dark electronic magic of its recorded version and sends the crowd home very happy indeed.

Transviolet’s show proves not only that they can recreate their songs in a live environment to a standard that equals, and at times even betters, the EP performances, but also that they have a catalogue of material at least as good that’s ready to be unleashed on the world. The band return to the UK this summer for the Reading & Leeds festivals, and if you happen to be going then they’re a part of the lineup you do not want to miss.

Review by Michael Bird

Check out our interview of Transviolet here. The band’s self-titled EP is out now.

Meeting Altered Sky: 'Without Wonderland' Album Launch

I have heard a lot of positive feedback about Altered Sky and they didn’t disappoint in person.

The band really made my first time at The Venue 229 in London a night to remember. Playing music from their new upcoming album ‘Without Wonderland’ alongside some of their older and well known tracks, the group created a fantastic energy where you couldn’t help but dance along.

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