On Wednesday night I went along to 93 Feet East on Brick Lane in the east end of London to see Apollo Withstands again. I left work later than I had planned to. The traffic was awful around Angel. Commercial Road was closed off by the police and I got trapped in a maze of one way streets. I then went into a fashion show. By mistake ! So by the time I finally got to the venue I had missed the first act, Redtrack, which is a shame because by all accounts they had been excellent. I will have to check them out another time. It was £6 entry with the downloadable flyer, and even missing the first band I more than got my money’s worth.
Still, at least I was in time to catch all of the Apollo Withstands set. I had seen them at the beginning of the month at the Purple Turtle and been very impressed, so was keen to take the opportunity to see them again. This was a bigger venue, a bigger crowd, and a bigger stage area, and they took it all in their stride, with a performance which I thought was even better than the Purple Turtle gig, again featuring all their own material. They had also changed the setlist around a bit, which I always think is a good move, and they appear to have a good amount of top class material. They burst straight through the first three tracks, (Not) Maverick having a great, rich guitar sound, and the band clearly enjoying the freedom of the bigger stage and the opportunity to move around, even if Wayne Summers and his drumkit did seem a bit far off – certainly did not detract from his sound – they have a live version of this from the Purple Turtle gig on their MySpace site, so check it out. Fall From Grace took the tempo up another notch, and the sound is really beefy with deep bass from Gary Summers. Will Hargreaves seemed to be having some feedback problems, but he was controlling them and it was not taking anything away from the song. They rumbled on into Teach A Lesson, the first track of the evening from their debut ep (more of that later). It dropped the tempo a little, but not so you would notice, and they were still rocking, still heavy, a great drum sound and a storming finish to the track. According to the setlist, we then had “Danny talking shit (Mention ep, MySpace etc)”, and to be fair, Danny Saunders did not disappoint in that department ! One thing I did notice, and it is something I find in common with many smaller venues, the vocals were lower down in the mix than the guitars, and Danny was having to battle against them the whole time – he produced an excellent performance to win that battle and it was good to hear him without a throat infection. A Million Smiles is also from the ep, a more mellow number to start with, it builds in the middle section and is very well held together by the Summers drum and bass combo. Another break with “more talking from gimpy”, and then Danny was thirsty for some…well, when he said “if anyone’s at the bar”, Will thought he wanted some water, but in fact he wanted Whiskey – and the tempo is back up higher again by more than a few levels, the place is rocking, some great licks from Robbie Dewar, and the track goes down as well as…Whiskey ! They announced that they had finally received the cds they had ordered in August and we were into the heavy riffing of another track from the ep, You Got Me, which has such an infectious chorus, quieter moments which build again, and then the sudden stop…before they rock again. Powerful moments. And straight into the final track of the evening, and a fourth track from the ep, Brothel House Blues, uptempo, rocking, everything there is to like about this band. I bought the ep and listened to it during the long drive home. The tracks are excellent compositions in themselves, the performances from the band are top class, and the production is brilliant, giving a very professional sound – if there is any justice, they should shift all original stock of the ep in no time at all – frankly, if you bought either of the Black Stone Cherry albums, you should be buying this ep. So go and see them at the Tap n Tin in Chatham on 27 February and buy the ep.
I had checked out the Towers Open Fire profile on MySpace before going along to the gig, and was looking forward to hearing the sound behind the words because I was not able to view their profile with the sound on ! They are described as a post-rock/progressive influenced five piece, who aim to create epic, progressive soundscapes arranged in digestible song structures. And I reckon they did just that. David And Goliath is on their ep and has a good beat driven by one of the guitars, underpinned by the keyboard sound and very solid bass, spacey with time changes, jazzy drums holding it tight, and all behind a very dramatic frontman in Gareth Pope. F**k You Buddy has a 2009 demo version on the ep, and sees them moving to 3 guitars and another beat which I would describe as ‘jazzy’, JV Pumphrey on drums and Steve Hepburn on bass both putting in very intelligent and inventive performances throughout their set. On top of that platform the guitar and vocals demand attention, before the track…ends. Which seems to be the dramatic way they like to finish their songs, and I have no problem with that. Distance Is Run is another track from the ep, and after a spot of chaos from the band actually getting into the track, it begins with some staccato guitar and a voiceover track, moves into sharp and mellow sounds, builds and flows, a wonderfully smooth guitar solo from Matt Whitaker, cut into be the bass, and drums which are not mellow at all but bite, melodic guitar parts which then grind down into the end section and drag you with it. Atoms has a slow, vocal entry, a bouncy, thumping bass line, its a slow builder which at times reminds me of very early Genesis but much, much heavier, and again it just ends. Love Hate Money has an uptempo start with lots of cymbals, melodic guitar, wonderful sounds from Daniel J Dalton on guitar, then it calms, jazz rhythms kick in, and the music seems to be fighting with itself, clashing soundscapes, very powerful emotions, the drums get us driving on again with some shuddering support from the bass. And then it ends. There were some very inventive ideas in this set, and a very high standard of musicianship, particularly with the drumming, for me. Another band I will be keeping a close eye on, and you can catch them at the Emergenza battle of the bands on 15 February at the Bull & Gate, Kentish Town.
I have to say, the venue was buzzing in anticipation of Citadels, and everybody I spoke to said I was in for something special. I was not disappointed. They come within the alternative/pop/rock section on MySpace, and that is probably a fair summary of what they do. There is no shortage of melody with 2 guitars and 2 keyboards and some flute, and no shortage of rhythm with many of the band lending a hand on percussion. First up was Don’t Look Down, its mellow sound building soundscapes, the keyboards moulding the song, some flute from the multi-talented Lucy Taylor adding more depth to the melody, and overall this bouncy number reminded me of the Polyphonic Spree, but harder and with an edge. These Veins has a pop sound from the keyboards and some high, striking vocals from Lucy Taylor, a very percussive centre part with extra drumming from Jimmy Lasers, and overall a great feel, a wonderful beat. Jimmy then brought the drum down infront of the stage to more involve the audience, and Battleshy is a more uptempo number, at times a collision of wonderful noises, held together with the rhythm section of Doug Taylor on drums and Chris Sirin on bass, and throughout great riffing from Stef Ferguson. I’m listening and I’m thinking Talking Heads… Sleep Beneath The Trees has already been part of a live session for BBC Radio 1 and I can understand why, with its indie pop feel, and it is followed by what will be the new single, Shape. An interesting drum beat is interspersed with keyboard ripples, then the song builds to its melody with a layer from the flute, the mixture of sounds bounces along and you cannot resist tapping your foot along to it. They close an excellent set with Animals, a rhythmic start, harmony vocals, building with powerful bass lines, drumming to a rocking beat, and a very rhythmic finale – I can see why they describe themselves as the carnival ! They create a wonderful atmosphere, very upbeat, stirring, uplifting – got to be perfect for a summer festival. I had an opportunity to briefly chat with Stef afterwards and he said he thought they had been a little chaotic and were not quite where they wanted it to be just yet – I cannot wait to see how they progress from here then.