Despite becoming a little too enamoured with the legendary £3 White Russians at Glasgow’s ‘Nice n Sleazy’ beforehand, I somehow managed to catch all four bands playing this year’s NME Awards Tour at the O2 ABC on Sunday night. All bands involved in the tour have new material due for release and each set offered a vibrant mix of old and new tracks. As you would expect from any NME tour, the gig descended into chaos fairly quickly and highlights from the night included losing a shoe, losing a coat, losing my footing (and by this I mean being knocked to the floor and trampled by at least fifteen people) and emerging the sweatiest and stickiest I’ve been after a gig in a long time. It was one of those gigs that reminded me just how much I love live music. And for that I am grateful.
The first band on the bill was last minute addition Wytches; a grungy, surf-psych three-piece from Brighton. With local boys The Amazing Snakeheads pulling out of the tour only days before due to a ‘change to the line-up of the band’ and later announcing that they have in fact split up for good, Wytches were drafted in to take their place. Deflated by the news of the Snakeheads pulling out, it felt as though there was a slight undercurrent of disappointment coupled with an air of judgement in the Glaswegian crowd. The Snakeheads are one of the biggest local bands in Glasgow at the moment, always great live on their home turf, and it felt like Wytches had big boots to fill.
They did however deliver the goods, and won the crowd round quickly, playing an impressive, noise based set. High energy vocals, heavy guitars and masses of feedback took the audience on a distorted journey of feral, grungy, intensity. For such a short performance, it felt as though there was perhaps an excessive amount of discord and elongated instrumental crescendos but it seemed to go down well, with the die-hards right down at the barrier losing their shit pretty early on (everyone else was either at the bar or getting their photo taken in a professionally lit, fake ‘red carpet’ NME awards booth – when the fuck did that happen?!). Reminiscent of the Pixies and some early Horrors stuff, the three-piece almost seemed to stun at points, with their screaming barrage of sound overwhelming the unprepared in the audience. Singer Kristian Bell and bassist Daniel Rumsey were a flurry of headbanging, their long matted hair pounding back and forth the whole time in true grunge-rock fashion. Most recent single ‘Burn Out the Bruise’ was well received and the deep lyrics combined with a climax of thrashing energy sends the boys out on a high, filling the boots of the Snakeheads with gusto.
The next band on the bill was Slaves. Formed in 2012, this two piece punk outfit from Kent have made waves recently, being nominated for the BBC Sound of 2015 after release of single ‘The Hunter’ late last year. Not the biggest fan of their 2012 debut album, I wasn’t expecting to be as blown away by their live set as it turned out I was. Playing a lot of new material from their forthcoming album, ‘Are You Satisfied’ which is due for release June 1st, Slaves delivered an incredible set and are one of the most exciting live bands I’ve seen in a while.
Storming on stage with the Venga Boys, ‘We Like To Party’ blaring out from the PA system, a tanked up Laurie Vincent (guitar and vocals) and Issac Holman (drums and lead vocals) made quite the entrance. Dressed in skin tight white vests, tucked into high-waisted jeans, these punks thrill the crowd with their ‘This is England’, skinhead type vibes. The band clearly needed no introduction and Holman charged straight up to his drumkit and launched into the shouty, intense ‘White Knuckle Ride.’ In Sex Pistols style, Slaves angrily convey a powerful anti-establishment message, quoting Emiliano Zapata Salazar, the leader of the Mexican revolution, with the powerful anarchic lyrics, “I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees”.
Holman is an impressive front man, handling the lead vocals with gusto whilst standing behind a skeletal drum kit, with no kick drum, throughout the entire set. With no place for playing it cool, these guys instilled a mosh pit in the crowd within approximately 26 seconds; the first pint thrown a couple of seconds later. After ripping their way through a couple of frantic songs, Holman tore off his white vest top, and complemented the ABC’s famous centre piece, “What a lovely fucking glitter ball you have” before the band charged their way through a punk-fuelled set, filled with chaotic energy and anarchy.
Midway through, a trippy looking character wearing some sort of silver ‘superhero-meets-condom’ costume burst on to stage slugging back a bottle of Buckie (that’s Buckfast, a Scottish tonic wine known to send people fucking mental, for those not in the know). Holman then announced ‘give it up for the Manteray!’ and the duo launched straight into 2015 single ‘Feed the Manteray’, sending the crowd into a frenzied mass of heaving bodies, pints and plastic pint glasses flying through the air. Politically defiant, this song is an orgy of conspiracy theories and anti-establishment messages. A crotch-grabbing rendition of ‘Where’s Your Car, Debbie?’ went down well next and the boys then launched into their biggest single to date, ‘The Hunter’ during which, the ABC glitter ball spins and the floor feels like it might give way underneath the surging crowd. It is nothing short of ‘taps aff’, as we say in Glasgow.
Next up are the creepy, creepy, creepy Fat White Family. Even the name makes me feel a little unsavoury. The band’s entrance is preceded by a deranged man in a military style uniform, ranting into the microphone and raising his fist in some sort of crazed salute. His rant over, he storms off the stage and the FWF take to the stage. All six of them. Singer Lias Saoudi oozes his way across the stage, topless of course, and the band gradually drift into their opening gambit, ‘Auto Neutrone’, one of the stand out tracks from their 2014 album, ‘The Champagne Holocaust’. The red back lit stage seems to fit the explicit nature of this band and Saoudi thrusts his hips back and forth, in time to the base, like an insatiable devil worshiper. The crowd soon warms up to the unintelligible lyrics; grinding, grunging and sleazing along with them. Deep choruses, muted backing vocals and organ like keys fill and thrill the ABC.
Fat White Family’s visual image matches their sleazy sound. Living above a London pub (which apparently exhibits rectal hand insertions, all in the name of art) they convey an image of squalor, corruption and drug-adled madness in both appearance and musicality. The set was a mixture of tracks old and new, a scuzzy, convoluted mish mash of instruments and vocals merging into a big dirty mess. And the crowd loved it. Dark, satirical lyrics were met with a ravishing acceptance from the Glaswegian crowd who welcomed references to ‘sticky fingers on the dashboard’ and accusations of ‘selling your mother’s cunt to open doors’. Saoudi is famed for his borderline perverse performances, having been known to smother his naked torso in butter on stage in the past. The band once ‘accidentally’ threw a pigs head at a vegan member of the audience.
The penultimate song of the set, and the bands biggest track to date, ‘Touch the Leather’ sent the audience into a frenzy. There is a steady stream of people going feet first over the barrier and Saoudi encourages them, thrashing around like a maniac, jerking and pulsing provocatively to the bassline. The set ends in dirty, discordant mayhem. Dan Lyons stands up and kicks his drum kit to the ground, serving as a cue for the whole family to disappear from the stage, seemingly all melting away in what resembles a deranged acid trip of the mind.
Tonight’s headliners, Palma Violets are a notoriously exciting live band. With a great deal of anticipation from the crowd, these guys entered to a well-deserved classic Glasgow chant of, “Here we! Here we! Here we fucking go!” Adoring fans voluntarily offered their ‘spirit fingers’ as co-frontmen Sam Fryer and Alexander ‘Chilli’ Jenson took to the stage; an action that the band has become known to request from the crowd at their live gigs.
From London, these garage rockers offer the shambolic indie charm of early Libertines. From a distance, Fryer could in fact, be mistaken for a not-quite-so-heroin-ravaged Doherty, with his wide rimmed fedora and unbuttoned shirt. It feels that the Libertines comparison is unavoidable, particularly because of the two-pronged attack on the audience in the form of Fryer and Jenson, a la Pete and Carl.
You could feel the pent up energy in the crowd, like a coiled spring waiting to explode. And explode it did. As soon as the boys hit out with ‘Step Up for the Cool Cats’, the second single from their debut album 180, I was almost taken down by a full pint of lager ricocheting off the side of my head. Straight off the back of this they launched into the band’s signature song, ‘Best of Friends’ which saw the crowd go wild in what was the biggest sing-a-long of the entire night. Raw and shambolic, the band are impossibly watchable as they stumble into one another on stage; delivering good old fashioned indie rock ‘n’ roll. They seem to unashamedly draw from bands like the Clash, the Doors, early Libertines and even a bit of Oasis.
Songs such as (borderline lad-rock) anthem ‘We Found Love’ (during which I lost one of my Converse; recovered again about half a song later), the more melodic ‘All the Garden Birds’ and ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ were all received greedily by the crowd, who couldn’t get enough of the plentiful debut album hits.
As with all the bands on the NME Awards Tour, these boys have a new album due for release. ‘Danger In The Club’ will be their second album and is due out in May 2015. The new single of the same name was a highlight of the set and despite having only been released four days prior to the gig, fans joined in with the chorus seeming to have learned the words already.
A raucous ending was delivered in the form of ‘Chicken Dippers’. (At one point I was literally lying on the floor being trampled to near death – well, at least possible injury…). Sweaty and shouty, this is where the four piece really lived up to the hype surrounding their live shows, with ferocious guitar solo sections and pulverising drums culminating in indie rock ‘n’ roll at its finest.
Fancy some of that? Catch the final leg of the tour at the following venues:
Manchester, Ritz (Feb 26)
Oxford, O2 Academy (Feb 27)
Birmingham, Institute (Feb 28)
Bristol, O2 Academy (March 2)
Portsmouth, Pyramids (March 3)
London, Forum (March 4)