Venue: The Macbeth, Hoxton, London, UK
Date: March 31st, 2015
Sometimes, I feel that the art of going to a local show where you know none of the bands has been lost over the past few years, at least on the busy streets of London. The experience is a blend of emotions, both curiosity and anticipation, in rocking up to a venue while knowing very little about it, and even less about the bands within. It is a strangely warming sensation, and not just because the pub has the heaters on full blast as I step into The Macbeth on a bitterly cold March night.
First impressions are promising: an abundance of guitar cases are stacked at the end of the long room around a modest stage, with dangling balloon-like lights to illuminate the first band, who are setting up. They announce themselves as Immigrants, and immediately launch into a groove-riddled number borrowing from both Queens Of The Stone Age’s stoner rocking and the laid-back tendencies of ska. The vocalist, with muscles bulging in a vest and sporting a mini-Afro, is quite handy with his guitar, and has a surprisingly clear and melodic voice for this usually grit-filled sound. This is sharply contrasted with unnecessary harsh vocals; that is, they are executed just fine, but hardly fit the music.
His commentary between songs is tinged with more than a little sarcasm; he asks for sympathy for the cold that makes his voice a touch wobbly, but the crowd play along fine… at least until he insists we sing along to one of their songs in a manner more often reserved for bands who have been around for far longer. This misstep aside, the crowd enjoy what Immigrants are plying, especially final track ‘Masquerade’, and give a hearty applause as they say their final thanks.
Next up onstage are Black Seasons, a gritty hard rock outfit out of Liverpool with heavy riffs and copious amounts of hair. They are unfortunately struck down with a muddy mix that buries the lead guitar, but it finally surfaces in time for second track ‘Only The Lonely’. The vocalist epitomizes grunge, managing to look like Chris Cornell and sound like Eddie Vedder as he warbles catchily over the bluesy Graveyard-esque guitar work. The tracks do start to blur together with the quietLOUDquiet dynamic as the set progresses, but the rocking is perfect for the pub setting, especially in the catchy track ‘Maverick’. There’s even a handful dancing up front to it.
The Slow Readers Club are a sharp deviation from the rock norm established, but theirs is the highlight set of the night. Sharply dressed in black from the neck to the shoes, the electro-tinged indie rock outfit inspire an upbeat yet funereal feel, as the effects-laden guitar unveils the gloomy opener ‘Start Again’. In their more despondent moments they evoke memories of Joy Division in their prime, with vocalist Aaron Starkie’s clipped British voice repeating the catchy phrases that make up many of the choruses (c.f. ‘Don’t Mind’).
‘I Saw A Ghost’ is next in line, one of the set highlights with its Ian Curtis-esque chorus and thick rumbling bass, while ‘Plant The Seed’ later pays homage to Depeche Mode‘s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ with its danceable beats. While Starkie’s mumble between songs is unfortunately too drowned out to pick up on, his vocals and stage presence are on point, even when an audience member gets flash-happy on his phone camera. As the band fade out on a 90s synth moment, the roar from the crowd says it all about how The Slow Readers Club’s set goes down.
French-accented Britpop is doubtlessly an odd way to round out this evening, but the simple melodies and catchy singalongs go over well. I only manage to catch a handful of minutes of Yamin Alma‘s first ever London gig backed by The Love Machines, however my impression is that the quartet seem delighted to be onstage with such a receptive crowd. The drummer in particular is strongly invested with his craft, thumping his kit with gusto, while Alma himself comes across a little more rigid, crooning nasally with the help of James Bennett, the other guitarist, on backing vocals. The crowd applaud warmly after each song, and according to their Facebook page, “a gentleman told me: ‘You gave me hope.’” A heartwarming way to round out the evening.
Despite the late running of the event, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night with a diverse range of talent on display. We look forward to following the bands’ development, especially The Slow Readers Club, whose album Cavalcade just dropped a few days ago and comes highly recommended.
Feature image of The Slow Readers Club, credit unknown.
1. Facebook post on Yavin Alma’s page.