Folly Group live in Bristol: one of the most formidable acts in the UK at the moment

Folly Group promotional shot

Since the release of their full-length debut Down There! back in January, Folly Group have made it clear that they’re on a mission to make 2024 their year.

With the success of their two early EPs, Awake and Hungry and Human and Kind, a debut album was the next clear logical step to demonstrate their rapid evolution as a group, and found themselves a home to release on the inimitable So Young Records.

Having been in Bristol just two months ago on their brief stint visiting the record stores of the country, Folly Group land in the city’s iconic Strange Brew venue for an evening showcasing the immense power of their latest release, and how much of a force they’ve become as a live act.

Opening for them on the first half of their UK tour are rising London trio Ebbb, who specialise in creating an unusual blend of gabber-inspired math-rock, which is remarkably capped off with soaring falsetto vocals that wouldn’t be out of place on something far dreamier.

A combination this confounding could only come from a group that holds members of the likes of Butch Kassidy, Kyoto Kyoto and Enter Laughing within their ranks, but their disparate reference points somehow gel together with ease.

Playing into a smoke-filled room, it’s hard to read the expressions of the crowd (or even see beyond a metre away), but the sense of awe amongst those that are in attendance early to catch Ebbb’s set is palpable.

Scott MacDonald’s frenzied drumming is easy to compare to that of Death Grips’ Zach Hill or Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale, but paired with Will Rowland’s Jimmy Somerville/Robin Pecknold hybridised vocal style, the aggression of his playing and Levent Ceylan’s synths are softened dramatically, and overall they create something truly jaw-dropping.

With a fairly stacked discography behind them now, there’s plenty of potential for a Folly Group setlist to take on many different forms, but after kicking off with a duo of debut EP cuts in ‘Awake and Hungry’ and ‘Four Wheel Drive’, the night primarily consists of material from the album.

This decision ultimately gives the band an opportunity to showcase the evolution they’ve gone through and demonstrate the full range of what they’re capable of, blending their jerkier art rock stylings with some more downtempo moments.

Tracks such as ‘Nest’ and ‘Frame’ are high points from the new material that highlight the versatility in the band, although that’s not to say that the tracks from Down There! don’t slip into sync with their early work, with album opener ‘Big Ground’ being a Gang of Four-esque offering that sits wonderfully well alongside the likes of debut single ‘Fashionista’.

While all of the band are on top form, it’s clear that their strongest asset is their dual percussionist setup which commands the direction of the songs – Kai Akinde-Hummel’s work on pads and percussion add an extra layer of groove through most of the set before he and drummer/vocalist Sean Harper trade places towards the home straight.

To further praise this aspect of the band, the complexity of their rhythms is not to be scoffed at either, and it’s fair to say that Harper puts in the most work when compared to others in the growing breed of drumming vocalists due to how he often diverts his vocal cadences away from what he’s doing rhythmically.

Finishing on ‘I Raise You (The Price of Your Head)’, the band see out the set with them at their most energetic, and while they often focus in on creating tense atmospheres in other fashions these days, it’s these punkier tracks which conjure the most visceral reaction from the crowd.

Folly Group are one of the most formidable acts in the UK at the moment, and seeing how they translate their taut art-punk from studio to stage it’s little wonder that they’ve cultivated such a strong fanbase in such a short space of time.

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