Rolo Tomassi electrify and inspire at London’s Scala

If one thing was made clear from this gig, it’s that headlining Scala in London was a special moment for everyone in Rolo Tomassi. As the band’s biggest lead performance to date, they used this golden chance to deliver a set that was both emotionally stirring & delightfully high-octane in equal measure, and after roughly 60 mins of vigorous performing, they managed to perfectly explain what makes them one of the most ambitious, artful & biting bands in math-core working today.

They held back zero punches as soon as the set began, opening with the thunderous & violent third track from their most recent record, Rituals. The band has stated that they enjoy opening with this song as it’s the most attention-demanding and dark track in their arsenal, and that was made immediately clear. Their unconventional lighting set up alternating between mostly red & purple did well to emphasise the bleak and destructive horror this song so boldly throws at you, kicking things into overdrive instantly.

All grounds were covered during the set, they managed to successfully balance aggressive cuts like Balancing The Dark side to side with more dramatic and awe-inspiring songs like Opalescent and Contretemps, whilst making sure the melodic sweetness of songs like Aftermath didn’t lose their impact in the process, and Eva Spence’s magnetic lead performance held it all together. As these songs played she danced around the stage in a complete trance, no clear pattern to her movements, displaying a natural harmony between herself and the music, which only made the set feel all the more raw & alluring.

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The most throttling moments of the show were when male vocalist James Spence decided to come forward and take centre stage. The chemistry between everyone in the band was completely tangible from beginning to end but to see James break out of it and deliver his maniacal screams directly to the audience made for some unbridled chaos in the crowd, most notably the point where he stage dived during Alma Mater, only heightening the connection between audience and performer.

The patient & ominous build at the start of Contretemps was performed to full effect, the tension was inescapable as soon as the nimble drums came in and eventually transitioned into the incredibly panicked & distraught opening verse. The keys throughout the whole set sounded gentle & inviting too, which alongside the havoc that you can usually expect from a Rolo Tomassi track was a comforting embrace and only further accentuated the beauty of their more melodic tracks.

This was especially evident during their performance of the incredibly evocative crescendo that occurs midway through The Hollow Hour. It was startling and engaging front to back resulting in a wonderfully opulent climax. There was a charming moment where it was evident that a wrong key was pressed, and the ‘oh s**t’ from James that then followed had everyone giggling.

The touching interval speeches from both Eva & James expressing gratitude for being able to perform here and acknowledging the band members’ family in the crowd brought everything home as they managed to weave in these moments of poignant humbleness seamlessly with the often abrasive song transitions. The fractured, elongated guitar feedback screech that played as they walked off stage left everyone feeling as if they had just witnessed something personal, stirring & dazzling, and they’re absolutely right. – Camden Vale-Smith (@staplebuffalo)

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Gig Review: Twin Atlantic @ Summer Sessions

words + photos fae gregor farquharson (@grgratlntc)

As cliche as it is, Glasgow is always the best place for a gig. Now, put a band who grew up in the city on a massive stage with 15,000 Glaswegians and you’ll be on to a winner. That was exactly the case last night, when Twin Atlantic were main support at Glasgow Summer Sessions.

Opening with the first song off their last album, GLA, the bar was already set high from the start. Lead singer Sam McTrusty graced Bellahouston Park with a beautiful patterned suit and the band stormed through hits from throughout the years. Going straight into Valhalla then The Chaser, it was hard to believe that the band’s latest album GLA has now been out for nearly two years and we can now start to look forward to whenever the band release new material for fans to scream live.

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Tracks from earlier album Free, despite now being 7 years old, still did the job of being massive festival pleasers. The ballad of Yes, I Was Drunk was a real crowd pleaser and had just about everyone screaming every lyric back to the band.

Going from slow to fast, the band dedicated the fast paced indie track I Am an Animal to headliners Catfish and The Bottlemen. The track went off, fans erupted and the atmosphere in Bellahouston Park was colossal. Other tracks from the band such as You Are The Devil and Brothers and Sisters felt like they belonged to be played in this setting: a massive gig in the city the band were born.

Closing with No Sleep and Heart and Soul, the crowd erupted into a sea of mosh pits and bouncing fans. The set was a perfect way to bring day into night, and everyone in the crowd that night would have went home with memories and stories to tell for ages.

Gig Review: Sobriety light up the Hug and Pint

words fae andrew barr (@weeandreww)

Headlining a bill with Milktoast and Public Displays of Affection at the West End’s basement Hug and Pint venue, Sobriety are something of an unknown quantity in Glasgow’s emerging music scene. The only track the band have released is the brilliantly melancholic Ronnie’s Song, boasting production by The Vegan Leather’s Gianluca Bernacchi, but the four-piece (consisting of frontman Benjamin McGirr, guitarist Dan Drennan, bassist JonJoe McGirr and drummer Sean Gow) have generated enough buzz to headline bills such as this one.

When the set starts at 10pm, it gets off to just about the worst possible start. Opener Boys Club begins with finger-picked guitar and sparse drums, building a tense and anxious atmosphere not too dissimilar to indie giants Interpol. However, the track is abandoned due to a problem with Drennan’s guitar. Luckily, someone in the crowd was able to give him a replacement, and the song is restarted. The band appears unshaken, and the track’s paranoia feels more piercing if anything the second time around, building to not a snarling climax but a superb instrumental bridge which doesn’t only echo but screams The National.

As Sobriety gets into the main body of their set it becomes clear that they are an anomaly in the current Glasgow scene; they are far less concerned with writing catchy hooks than writing moody, melodic tracks which, combined with Benjamin’s low, ominous vocals give more than a subtle nod to emo. That’s not to say the tracks are without any payoff either – the live version of single Ronnie’s Song is a testament to that, with frontman Benjamin deviating from his menacing vocal style the track’s end to let out a hugely emotive scream.

That scream seemed to be a sign of things to come, as Sobriety firmly let go of the handbrake for the last 2 tracks of the night, with the funky yet heavy Wreck Myself growing faster and more menacing before building up to even more screams. The short but sweet set ends on a cover of The Killers’ Jenny Was a Friend of Mine, which the band seems to revel in, pushing each other around on stage while playing the final notes of the night.

It’s clear from this set that Sobriety are a band who are determined to stand out from the indie rock crowd and if they go on to realise the massive potential they showed at The Hug and Pint, there’s no reason why they won’t do exactly that.

Gig Review: Miles Kane @ O2 Academy Oxford

words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

The last time I saw Miles Kane perform live, I was in great shape and was wearing a slim fitting paisley shirt. Fast forward four years later, I am in terrible shape and wearing a Metallica t-shirt because I’ve just stopped caring. However, four years between gigs for Miles, and he’s still in great shape as he got the O2 Academy in Oxford shaking, rattling and rolling.

I love Miles Kane, and without sounding too soppy, I’ve missed him. Colour of the Trap and Don’t Forget Who You Are were two fantastic albums, so as soon as he walked on stage with his brand new band and broke into Counting Down the Days, so many memories of Captain Morgan, the aforementioned paisley shirts and being overly handsome (that better be present tense – Ed) came flooding back as the man in leopard print went hell for leather.

Miles Kane’s studio work is good, but his live showmanship is next level; the energy that goes into every song as he bounces about the stage like a man possessed, with all eyes following him around the stage as he played through hits like Inhaler, Better Than That and Taking Over. They sounded inch perfect and studio crisp as a swelling and sweaty O2 Academy bounced around.

The whole purpose of this tour is to get him back up to match fitness and to promote his upcoming album Coup de Grace. The verdict? From what was played last night, Coup de Grace is shoring up to be a fantastic album. On Annie Mac when he was promoting the release of Loaded, he said that you’d see some Ramones influences, which had me sceptical at best. But with Too Little Too Late, you could see what he meant! It was a banger with punk sensibilities and had all the hallmarks of a classic punk track.

The vibe in the Academy was really good as well, it was an exceedingly good, hyperactive crowd, with a good mix of people. You had yer da in his patterned shirt, ready to have an evening before falling asleep by half 10, then there was the young’uns, boys and girls excited by a Saturday night spent in a sweaty room, all having a good time. The moshpits, something we always look for in these reviews, were of a good consistency, everyone was bouncy, respectful and a good clean fight was had, no eye gouging. Everyone was having fun.

A nice surprise was title track Coup de Grace, which was released as a Record Store Day exclusive, but as is the way, soon found itself on YouTube. Maybe it’s because it was a low quality rip off of a vinyl, but I didn’t really like it, especially after how enjoyable Loaded was. However, taking it from the studio to the stage, Coup de Grace found its feet as a funky, dancey track. Cry On My Guitar was also very enjoyable with its very lounge-esque feel to it, something nice and chilled.

 

This becomes even more interesting considering Miles’ best pal Alex Turner, whose band you MIGHT have heard of just released an album with very similar concepts. Perhaps they’ve been sharing notes, and it’ll be interesting to see what the mix is like on CDG, considering we’ve had two chilled tracks with Loaded and Cry On My Guitar, but we’ve also had two dancier track with Coup de Grace and Too Little Too Late. However, all signs are pointing to the fact that Miles Kane is gearing up to release a fantastic album… at some point this year. Maybe, like, tomorrow would be good?

One criticism of this gig could be is that it was too short, around fifteen songs long and almost exactly an hour on the button, but with such a rich catalogue like Miles’, it’d be impossible to not want more from a setlist, as we were missing Kingcrawler, First of my Kind, Tonight and Bombshells to name a few. Me? I’d have had Kaka Boom, The Competition and Caught In The Act on the setlist as well, so perhaps it was better that he kept it short and sweet, rather than play a set that would just be finishing around now.

However, what did make the setlist was just as tantalising as what didn’t, with Give Up producing a huge reaction, that’s a really good live tune, the way the drums are used in the bridge are fantastic, gives the crowd a chance to regroup and move into the big finish. I’m also glad he played Rearrange as that’s another fantastic track, and closing the set out with Come Closer was the perfect end to the evening.

I’m an old man now, and find it hard to be swayed by people, or influenced by them, but it’s impossible for me to not find Miles Kane ridiculously cool. At the front of a sweaty room, he’s just there, dancing about with a selection of cool guitars, in a flowing leopard print shirt, a fancy pair of jeans and some boots. It’s a look that I’d happily cultivate from now until the end of time. You thought Hugh Jackman was the greatest showman? Guess again.

Maybe it’s because I was on a huge nostalgia bender this weekend, or maybe, Miles Kane is preparing for a thermonuclear assault on the music scene. Whilst nothing’s for certain, Coup de Grace could well be Miles’… er… there’s a phrase for this… it’s French, means a killer blow… nah, fuck, it’s gone.

Gig Review – Car Seat Headrest @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

words + photos fae owen yule (@OwenYule)

With the releases of both Twin Fantasy and Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest has firmly solidified themselves as one of the most exciting bands on the indie rock scene. At the heart of these records is Will Toledo’s brutally honest lamentation and so, Toledo’s personality seems somewhat contrary to the typical characteristics of a zealous performer. In addition, what makes these records so great was the flawless amalgamation of varies styles of rock – Toledo has never shied away from structurally audacious tracks that manage to evoke the whole spectrum of emotion, and it’s for these reasons that I had my reservations upon entering last night’s venue.

Taking the mature decision to relinquish full control of his tracks, Will takes centre stage without a lead guitar. Rather, he performs with a microphone and his eccentricities. Not only is this decision indicative of Will’s efforts to recapture the sincerity of the studio recorded vocals, but also one that enables the flawless execution of the aforementioned complex tracks. This decision is reinforced by the bands performance of Cute Thing, which sees Toledo vocalising harmonies beautifully between the aggressive choruses.

Playing live with a 6-piece outfit, the band makes full use of their camaraderie to recreate the groove of Bodys that invigorates energy throughout the whole crowd. Nonetheless the band was never superfluous with their instrumentation and every note carried weight. The intimacy of tracks like Sober to Death wasn’t lost amongst the 6 members; rather, it was actualised by the efforts of each player. The performance of the track is initially stripped down before coming to full fruition in conjunction with the energy of the chorus.

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Although Toledo’s lyrical poignancy is somewhat derived from his personal anguish and insecurity, he was never a passenger on stage. Instead, he navigated the venue with confidence that brought a new vitality to the music without losing a personal touch. This was foreshadowed in the opening cover of the ever-funky Talking Heads’ Crosseyed and Painless. A track whose reputation is daunting in its gravitas, yet ever so delightfully incorporated into Car Seat Headrest’s live performance. Carrying out the 1980 classic, the band reimagines Talking Heads’ signature groove with cowbell orientated funk.

Their ambition here is carried with momentum all the way through to Toledo’s own rendition of Frank Ocean’s White Ferrari. Well aware of his vocals limitations, Toledo substitutes technical proficiency for heart wrenching emotion that mediates any incapability to recreate Ocean’s vocal expertise (as if one could ever be reprimanded for that shortcoming). Incited, and perhaps somewhat confused by the chants in unison of Glasgow’s very own little concert mantra, the band returned to the stage to encore Nervous Young Inhumans. After moving the crowd with Bodys, inspiring a wholehearted sing along with Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales and awakening mosh pits with Beach-Life-In-Death, Nervous Young Inhumans provokes the very same reactions as all of these tracks in a manner that is equally infectious.

While Car Seat Headrest’s appeal somewhat relies on the expression of alienation on their records, in a crowd of hundreds the band still instigates the same fundamentals of their recordings to their enthusiastic live audience.

Phoenix + The Vegan Leather @ Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow, 26/03/18

photos + words by josh adams (@jxshadams)

Phoenix are in the somewhat unenviable position of being a Big Band Who Make Big Records And Play Big Concerts whilst bafflingly not being a household name. If one takes a brief glance at their coveted list of accolades, it reads like a checklist for a modern rock group to be a dominating world force: hit singles, top 40 albums, sold out shows at Madison Square Garden and headlining appearances at Primavera and Coachella. So it was puzzling to most, if not all, in attendance as to why this seemingly unstoppable powerhouse of pop could barely fill three quarters of Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands. This, coupled with rumours that frontman Thomas Mars‘ voice had been strained with illness, led to a sense of anticipation and worry, with the Barras crowd eager to see if the French quartet could pull it out of the proverbial bag.

First up, though, came support from the ever-reliable Vegan Leather. The Paisley dance-rock group, elegantly dressed and bursting with tunes, took to the stage with a modest sized crowd and ended with almost everyone who had bought a ticket bouncing up and down to their epic, fiery closer, This House (minus one bald man who looked like he’d stumbled in expecting a Wolftones gig). In between, they fused disco, pop, rock, house and new wave like their lives depended on it with recent singles such as I Take American, Shake It and Eyes, never giving the Glasgow crowd a moment to catch their breath, despite the costume changes. Nothing but praise has been heaped upon the band, and there’s a good reason for it – check them out now if you haven’t already, before they hit the big time.

With the Barrowlands considerably warmed up, Phoenix capitalised on the liveliness built up and came on stage shortly after to Prince’s ‘Controversy‘, offering a taste of the playful grooves the band would prove they had mastered on stage throughout the night. Stripped of their elaborate lights-and-mirrors show, it was down to their sheer stage presence, and, most crucially, the songs to do the talking, and boy, did they deliver. Kicking things off with last year’s lead single, J-Boy, its twinkling synthesisers, airy melodies and stomping beats recalling the best of 80s pop and hip hop, the four piece, bolstered by long-time touring drummer Thomas Hedlund and an auxiliary keyboard player, seemed to burst into technicolour before the audience’s very eyes in their stereotypical oh-so-nonchalant French cool. From there, came an opening salvo of Phoenix’s brightest and best songs: Lasso, Entertainment, Listzomania, and Trying To Be Cool all rolled off with effortless ease, almost stunning the crowd into stillness – it was disconcerting to see a Glasgow crowd as calm as they were during this part of the set.

However, with such an astonishing start to a gig, naturally came a dip in energy levels with some deeper cuts from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and latest LP, Ti Amo. Just when you thought the crowd’s patience was beginning to wain with the instrumental medley of Sunskrupt! though, the band roared into life once more with the title track from Ti Amo, and began dishing out their groovier anthems once more, this time with a less dazzled crowd backing them every dance move of the way.  It should be admired at this point the versatility of Phoenix’s instrumentalists, who regularly swapped between two or more instruments mid-song without breaking a sweat or ruining the flow of a song or a set – it was clear to see this was a group refined and rehearsed, but also having fun as they jumped around with grins on their faces.

After leaving the stage with Rome, Mars and guitarist Christian Mazzalai returned to the stage as a duo to perform stripped down versions of Countdown and Goodbye Soleil, with a hushed intimacy made all the more fragile by Mars’s insistence on sitting right in front of the barrier, staring right into the eyes of the crowd. Despite his humble admissions that his voice wasn’t up to its usual standard, nobody in the Barrowlands could have told you he was having an off-night at all – he was in complete control of his vocal chords, with no bum notes or tickley coughs in sight. By this point, the Francs had completely won over the audience, and had the support they previously did not have to indulge themselves in a few more deep cuts, and a rallying rendition of Happy Birthday to bassist Deck D’Arcy.

All good things must come to an end though, and Phoenix went out in style with the buzzing bass and chiming guitars of their calling card 1901 ringing out through the venue sending the crowd into overdrive, voices singing in unison and bodies dancing the night out. But the real surprise came when we all thought it was over, but the band clearly weren’t ready to leave – a reprise of Ti Amo that steadily kept growing and growing, threatening to burst into its disco-punk climax at any moment, as Mars clambered over the audience to the sound desk and back again, downing pints as he went. Before he could rejoin his bandmates though, he was dropped right in front of me, and a huge mosh pit opened up around him, ready to swallow him whole. Mars turned back to the stage, shrugged his shoulders with a smile on his face, and the rest of the band let rip as the Barrowland crowd rushed him, dancing as we went. A surreal end to an amazing night, proving that Phoenix have more fight left in them than we might have thought.

Gig Review: Arcane Roots @ O2 Institute2, Birmingham

photos + words by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Way back when, I concluded that Arcane Roots MUST be ugly. Their November show saw them play under the cover of fog & darkness, which really added to their heavy, ethereal sound; however, for their latest tour in support of nearly-new record Melancholia Hymns, the Arcane light show went to the next level and my, oh my, they are some beautiful boys with some beautiful beats.

Taking to the stage in Birmingham’s O2 Institute2, a lovely little basement venue, support from Hyena Kill and Grumblebee were thorougly welcome to whet the appetite of the crowd, serving up hor d’oeuvres of heavy riffs. What’s more, the bass player for Grumblebee looked like a world-class Serie A midfielder; what more do you need? Check them two out – the looks are good but the music is better. It’s actually very rare I enjoy all bands on the billing, so credit to all that took to the stage last night.

Tuesday night’s main event, however, blew everyone and everything out of the water, starting off with Off the Floor, then flying into the riff-tacular Matter. I really enjoy Andrew’s vocals, especially on Melancholia Hymns. It feels like it’s got an Eastern influence in parts. I might be wrong. I don’t know. It’s only because I do this for free I still have a job.

Some things in music are consistent; there will always be fresh & new musical ideas from every genre, and every rock band will have a Spinal Tap moment. Arcane Roots’ was that their magical light show was drinking so much power, the lights went a bit funny. Whilst that was being sorted, we were treated to an impromptu audience with Adam Burton entertaining the crowd, and I mean entertaining. It was a good laugh and a good vibe all night. I perched against one of the pillars towards the back and watched it happen. The crowd were having a great time, so were the band. It was great.

Speaking of fresh & new musical ideas, we were treated to a brand new track called Landslide. It’s really very good, nice riff, the best bit being a big, big scream from your man Andrew from out of nowhere. He said that it’ll be out soon, with “something and another something”. Is that something an EP? Is it another tour? Is it a tasty pizza? Watch this space, sports fans.

The setlist was a real mixed bag, but the sort of mixed bag that is a tasty pick & mix. It was good to see Triptych & Arp on the setlist. On the other hand, it was slightly disappointing to get only an abridged version of Before Me, but understandable considering the length of the song. It worked really well as an opening track, but I don’t write the setlist – I just write about them.

A huge rendition of If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves was the perfect crescendo to the set, with Half the World sending fans home happy, satisfied and rocked out. It was another lightning set from the Londoners, but left me wanting more. Imagine the show they’d put on in a larger venue with a bigger lighting budget. It’d be the best gig in the world! For now, though, an entertaining evening in a Brummie basement is more than enough to put a smile on your face.