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.

Live Review – Enter Shikari @ The Corn Exchange, Cambridge – 24/02/15

EnterShikari

 

Enter Shikari are one of the few bands that require no introduction, partly because any attempt to describe their music would result in the same confusion as a discussion of the meaning of life with an infant. These genre-hopping giants recently dropped their incredible 4Th LP “The Mindsweep” last month, meaning it was time to ‘Take To The Skies’ once more and deliver a tour de force filled with brand new, meaty material, alongside fan favourites.

 

‘The Corn Exchange’ fits in perfectly with the architectural aesthetic of Cambridge – old and pretty from the outside, but neat and modern on the inside; with a decently sized floor-space for fans to tear up, a huge stage and the obligatory wall-length bars in the foyer. Unfortunately, Cambridge is around three hours away from where I live, meaning I missed the first support band: ‘Fatherson’ – which is a pity as their smooth alt-rock tones would have been the perfect way to get in the mood for a night of music – if not quite preparing for the hectic energy of the following bands.

 

 

The second band to hit the stage was ‘Allusondrugs’ – a band which I did manage to catch, who were sadly underwhelming. Each song seemed like a pastiche of a different band: first attempting to emulate ‘The Strokes’, then ‘The Darkness’, followed by ‘Marmozets’… unfortunately, by not choosing a signature sound for themselves, ‘Allusondrugs’ don’t feel like they’ve mastered any particular style – the set came across as bland and uninteresting. Oh, and the lead singer could benefit from some singing lesson (just saying).

 

 

All was not lost though, as ‘Feed The Rhino’ took to the stage to remind everyone that the raw energy of hardcore is still very much alive and kicking. Still riding off the back of the success of their most recent album “The Sorrow & the Sound”, FTR know how to get a crowd moving. The venue’s PA was almost unable to handle the sheer power or anthemic belters “Behind The Pride”, “Give Up” and the signature rock’n’roll vibe of “Deny and Offend”. Towards the end of their set, it seemed that even frontman Lee Tobin was struggling to maintain his voice – although I challenge anyone to keep up his full-throated hollering for over half an hour. ‘Feed The Rhino’ finished off their set with the more reflective “Tides” – living proof that even the heaviest bands have a subtler side – and the undeniably catchy “New Wave”. The energy in the performance was pure and ungated, and whet the crowd’s appetite perfectly for the entrée: ‘Enter Shikari’.

 

 

Before I continue, I should point something out: ‘Enter Shikari’ work within every genre of music possible. They can start off with a sombre acoustic sound, move into a dance track, a dubstep drop, crushingly heavy breakdowns and finish with a stadium rock anthem – often all in the same song. As a result, crowds aren’t full of the usual suspects when it comes to moshing. Usually, there’s a standing area at the back, a pit for moshing in the middle and people singing along at the front. A Shikari gig is essentially a free-for-all: there is no etiquette. People break out into moshing/dancing all over the venue, and standing at the front will get you squashed up against everyone else so tightly that you won’t be able to breathe. Ironically, this makes the pit (in any shape or form) the safest place to be – suits me.

 

‘Enter Shikari’ set the scene with the thought-provoking opener from the most recent album: “The Appeal & the Mindsweep 1”. The chilling electronic backbeat and slam poetry-style call to arms from front-man Rou Reynolds gave me chills, before the band launched into a frantic, anthemic journey – a pattern and pace that was held for the entire concert. I’m always impressed at how refined Enter Shikari’s lyrical content is – all songs are incredibly well thought-out political statements weaved into a beautiful and often raucous blend of electronic and metal music. Angry fan-favourites “Destabilise”, “Radiate” and “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” provided the perfect atmosphere to throw my weight around and just wallow in the sorry state our society is (apparently) in. When a song starts off with the lyrics “Now, I don’t know about you…” and warning sirens, you know that someone is about to erupt – and it’s probably going to be you. New additions to the Shikari catalogue definitely don’t let up on this; notable songs include “Anaesthetist” – a furious retort to plans to privatise healthcare and the decline of the NHS – “Never Let Go Of The Microscope” – an electronic, almost ambient song if it weren’t for the carefully planned scientific rap from Reynolds – and “Myopia”, a tragic song about the extinction of various species on our planet. The technical proficiency of the band has noticeably improved since their inception, especially on these newer, more ambitious songs.

 

 

Of course, it’s not all violence and harsh sounds: Welcome respites from the madness came in the form of slightly softer songs such as the acoustic “Stalemate”, “Torn Apart” which is an anthem for the decline of society (and oh so danceable-to) and the almost Coldplay-esque “Dear Future Historians”. Each of these songs starts off noticeably softer, in an acoustic manner and build different layers of sound until you’re hit with a wall of emotion – which is no less breathtaking than screaming your lungs out. It’s during these quieter moments that you realise “Wow, these guys are seriously talented musicians”, and it’s utterly true. Few bands can claim to flick between your emotions like Shikari do: tugging on your heartstrings, making you think about the world that you live in and getting you riled up about how stupid human beings can be.

 

 

Not to say that the show was all doom-and-gloom – more reflective at times, with an aura of aggression that’s a welcome release for most. Some class-A stage-presence and banter kept everyone completely invested in the show – particularly towards the end of the show. Already a fan-favourite, the 2-minute restaurant complaint in the form of “Slipshod” went down an utter storm, with the entire crowd screaming out the quintessentially British anthem of disappointment. Reynolds may have even gotten a little too into it, as he smashed a glass vase on Rob Rolfe’s drum kit to the cue in the song. It just made me wonder how many injuries the band sustain from shows like these! “Slipshod” ran straight into the party anthem “Sssnakepit”, Shikari-style: The song started off with the Hamilton remix of the track and the band transitioned seamlessly into the original. This practise was seen earlier with the dubstep edit of “Motherstep 2.0” into “Mothership” and a mash-up of the latest single “The Last Garrison” with a stellar remix of “Juggernauts” by Nero, ending up again on the original. Throughout the gig I was constantly aware of how much planning the boys put into their set – which music to play, how it all flowed into the next song and how to create a spectacle with a mix of gravitas and exceptional lighting.

 

 

This was the 4th time I had seen Enter Shikari, yet I was still completely blown away. It definitely won’t be the last time either. If you’ve never seen the indescribable spectacle that they put on, I recommend you head down to a show as soon as you can.

 

 

~ Adam Hitchen, Head of Music

Live Review – Marmozets, Electric Ballroom, 19/02/15

marmozets

 

Every so often a band comes along that makes you question why everybody else settles for musical mediocrity when they could strive for so much more. Marmozets showed promise from the moment they burst on the scene, fresh-faced teenagers spitting venom in every direction. But last-year’s debut full length The Weird and Wonderful raised the bar not just for them, but British rock as a whole, and it’s off the back of that that they’re headlining a rammed Electric Ballroom (one of the finest clubs in London) to a totally partisan crowd.

 

Before the main course comes two starters of very different quality, the first of which is steak. Belgian sludgy-post-metal quartet Steak Number Eight to be precise, who immediately impress with their often-instrumental bludgeon. Frontman Brent Vanneste has an impressive howl on him when he lets rip, but for the most part it’s the thick, ripping groove riffs that course through their music that seem to make a big impression on the already surprisingly full room. There’s an unusual accessibility to them that makes their half hour on stage a resounding success – and frankly any band that end a song called ‘Dickhead’ with “banana!” screamed repeatedly deserves plaudits. They fare far better than the bizarre Thought Forms, whose long-winded droning loops fall largely on deaf ears and provoke little more than polite applause. In comparison to what came before and the thrillingly direct headliners, the lack of energy results in a damp squib of a set.

 

Not that anybody stood a chance coming on before Marmozets. Opening with your best and arguably most popular song is a risky move, but as soon as ‘Move Shake Hide’s opening riff pours out of the speakers, the Ballroom is electrified into action. For the next fifty minutes, a thousand people lose themselves in reckless abandon to a soundtrack of apocalyptic rock ‘n’ roll – and this really is rock ‘n’ roll, as easy to dance to as it is to kickstart a mosh pit, many of which carve open the Ballroom’s floor this evening. From there it’s a thrill ride that takes in everything from dizzying mathcore on ‘Vibetech’ (for which even the breakdown is a sing-along moment for the crowd) to gorgeous atmospheric post-rock yearning in a passionate ‘Back to You’. A symbiotic relationship is established between the band on stage and the audience, each feeding off the energy of the other.

 

It’s easy to forget in this maelstrom of energy how capable and talented the musicians that make up Marmozets are, intricate riffs and unusual guitar parts adding an extra dimension to their white-knuckle punk rock rush. Worth singling out for praise is drummer Josh Macintyre, who has the unenviable job of keeping the perfect chaos together in a coherent rhythm, a job he does seemingly effortlessly. His sister Becca seems somewhat lost for words between songs, perhaps overwhelmed by the crowd’s adulation, but while singing she’s a commanding presence and her ability to flit between beautiful clean singing, a towering wail and of course feral screaming is unparalleled. Highlights come thick and fast – ‘Is It Horrible’ is as deliciously scuzzy live as it is on record, for one. “Hit the Wave’ boasts a chorus so huge it would better fit arenas than this small room, but perhaps best of all is the thousand voice singalong to now-established anthem “Captivate You”.

 

Captivating is the perfect word to describe a brilliant set that concludes with consummate crowd-pleaser ‘Why Do You Hate Me?’ and absolute bedlam across the floor. What Marmozets bring to live music is unique and thrilling, and the quintet deserves far bigger venues to slay next time around. Their songs represent everything good about rock – they are exciting, unpredictable, uncompromising, adrenaline-charged and catchy as hell. ‘Weird and wonderful’ indeed, Marmozets are here to stay.

~ Michael Bird

Check Out Marmozets’ single “Move Shake Hide” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8ZPrdAwg3M

Live Review – The Kathryn Wheel @ The Retro Bar, Manchester

kathryn wheel

 

The best sort of gig is always the one in a tiny, dingy underground bar in the back streets of a city – and Manchester is as good as any! I haven’t had time to attend many of these little events recently so it was a welcome change which led to an absolutely fantastic evening in ‘The Retro Bar’. Although a few local bands were on, ‘The Kathryn Wheel’ (who were headlining the evening with an extended slot) are a band particularly close to my heart; front-woman Sarah Woodcock is a close friend of mine, whose gigs I’ve been attending since we started sixth form – meaning I’ve seen her grow and develop as an artist. Sarah has always stood out as she has a really unusual voice – especially now having reached the age of twenty. As I listened to her singing, I really struggled to find artists to compare her to. Her voice is much lower with a more sultry tone than most modern female singers, and a woman at the venue in fact pointed out how it reminded her of Stevie Nicks – which seemed an apt comparison! Top songs of the night were in my opinion ‘Save The World Tonight’ and ‘A World Away’, receiving an impressive response from a very enthusiastic audience.

 

The addition of the country-esque bass and guitar sounds of Peter Woodcock and Geoffrey Peach respectively, give a strong hint of a Fleetwood Mac or REM style, their music sounds so brilliantly raw and perhaps reminiscent of a variety of seventies southern American groups. Tracks are available to listen to on YouTube and their debut album ‘It’s Only Life’ can be downloaded on Itunes or Amazon. My Favorite from the album has to be ‘Welcome to Hell’, definitely worth a listen! For more information visit their website at http://www.reverbnation.com/thekathrynwheel.

 

~ Natasha Barrett

 

Check out “Save The World Tonight” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_k_bFSUdGVA

Live Review: Shy Nature @ Boston Music Room, Islington, 13/02/14

One of the things I love the most about travelling around London to different gigs is the discovery of new gig venues. The Boston Music Room in Islington is now one of my favourites – and that’s before I even get to the music!

Anyway – back to the gig. Opening the bill was Australia’s ‘The Creases’ who brought their jangly indie tunes to the small but gathering crowd in the North London venue. Their debut ‘I Won’t Wait’ sounded fab as it echoed around the room, though I have to say that I was particularly disappointed in the still crowd. Being myself, however, it was easy to embrace the energy and passion of the lads who were having so much fun on the stage in their uniform of (very) messy hair and Docs. A band I would 100% see again – the Shy Nature crowd were definitely a harsh group!

The appearance of Shy Nature on stage generated a little more enthusiasm and a larger crowd had appeared by this stage. Opening with ‘Fine’, a mellow sway started throughout the fans whilst the London lads looked so comfortable on stage. It’s always nice when a frontman has a personality, right? The banter had between tracks at this gig had the crowd literally laughing which was certainly a great change to those bands who look at their feet and avoid all talk during a set. The riffs which come out of the guitars of this band are just brilliant and you can’t help but be happy and up-beat whilst listening to them! ‘Sinking Ship’ was the track which got the crowd moving the most and was possibly the most fun having been the lead single from their debut self-titled EP.

I would definitely recommend a trip to one of their gigs if they’re around again at any time soon – I promise you’d have loads of fun. New single ‘Lie Back’ is out now – the video involves the band hanging round on a farm (for some unknown reason) – check it out!

~ Ceri-Ann Hughes

Live Review: Superfood (Oslo, Hackney, 19/02/14)

It’s very rare that you find a band which entices you so much that you want to see them again and again. There’s just something about Superfood’s nonsensical and seemingly odd lyrics about TVs and bubbles which makes me want to practically live at one of their gigs, especially when the crowd is willing to let go and go a bit crazy.

To start at the beginning, the show was opened by a band called Wild Smiles who were able to get some of the gathering crowd doing a mild sway. I did, however, find their music a little unpleasantly odd at times. My brain just couldn’t understand why the lead singer was making cat and dog noises during the last song, though I must say that the drums in this band stole the show. I’d say that Wild Smiles are a band I’d see again – if not only to investigate whether they were as weird as I perceived them or whether my judgement had been skewed by my excitement for Superfood.

The main thing I love about Superfood is how they don’t care for absolute perfection and so they’re happy to grunge down on stage and just have fun. That’s, after all, what it’s all about. The London crowd were as tame as ever for the first few songs at least and so it really gave me the chance to actually hear and see the band – something I hadn’t experienced in previous Superfood gigs! New single ‘TV’ filled the room with a bold confidence which just makes you just sing (shout) along with the band. Despite the crowd’s unwillingness to get involved, ‘Bubbles’ was able to gain a recognition which sparked the formation of some kind of ‘mosh pit’, whilst chants of lyrics could be heard which made me so happy as it wasn’t just me singing along!

New Superfood tracks sounded brilliant as the band used the gig-goers as guinea pigs for their new album – for which I personally cannot wait. You couldn’t deny, however, after being to this gig, that ‘Superfood’ (the track) stole the show. Who knew a song about raisins and being hungry could make a crowd so brilliantly rowdy? This is what a Superfood gig is all about – leaving the venue looking absolutely hot, bothered, and looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards (bruises are also inevitable). If I were you I’d scoot along to a Superfood gig ASAP – after the release of their album I’d predict that things for this band are seriously going to kick off and small venues such as the Oslo would be a distant memory! Superfood’s ‘Mam’ EP is released on 3rd March – get involved!

~ Ceri-Ann Hughes

Live Review: The Aristocrats (The Garage, London | February 17th, 2014)

The rock/fusion power trio The Aristocrats – featuring Guthrie Govan on guitar, Bryan Beller on bass, and Marco Minnemann on drums – are back on tour in support of their second studio album, Culture Clash, released last summer to serious acclaim. The three players are all well known in their fields, especially Govan, who has built up a considerable and loyal following from his YouTube guitar tutorials and the release of his first solo album, Erotic Cakes, in 2006. But this is The Aristocrats, touring their second album on Govan’s home ground.

I don’t want it to sound like it was a one man show, as the group is a completely collaborative effort (each member has contributed three songs each to both albums so far), but it did almost feel like it. Every skinny and long haired guy in the venue erupted as Govan appeared on stage. When it had died down after a minute or two, the band, in turn, erupted. They began with a notably aggressive version of Furtive Jack from their first self-titled album. After the first couple of lightning guitar scales I found myself laughing in shock at just how madly they all play. It’s quite incredible to see in person so close up.

Each song was preceded by lengthy tales of their creation, which served to add to the audience’s admiration. A memorable story was the naming of Ohhhh Noooo, from their latest album. The story goes that while on tour in mainland Europe, a huge guitar amp fell flat on its face while unloading for a show, to which the usually quiet, reserved and gentle Govan furiously exclaimed “Ohhhh nooo! (pause) This is not good. (pause) In fact, this is quite the opposite of good.”

That said, there’s no lack of communication in the music. The entire set came without muddy acoustics or any distracting guitar sounds. This meant the audience could purely listen to the three elements, drums, bass and guitars, all at once. This is particularly valuable for the material in Culture Clash, that leap all over the place between sections of complex time signatures, changing lead instruments and elements of jazz, fusion, rock and metal. Culture Clash was followed by Flatlands from their first album; a distant, driving and melodic track that allowed everyone to have a breather.

However, the wild personality of Marco Minnemann behind the kit quickly took over. He introduced his song Blues F**kers, in which he took a solo, before each member of the group took out a small rubber toy (featured on the cover of Culture Clash) and began improvising with the various squeaks, squeals and screeches they all made. It appears this is a band that do not take themselves too seriously, although, they have all mentioned that this is their most favourite project they’ve ever been a part of. With the experience they all have, that’s certainly saying something.

And Finally, after an encore that almost didn’t happen (thanks to the hesitant management), the show was over in a flash. In the coming months, The Aristocrats will move throughout mainland Europe with no future date set for England yet, but be sure to check out an album or two for now.

 

~ Joe Burns