Review – Real Friends

Date: Tuesday 22nd October 2019

Venue: Stylus, Leeds University Union

Supports: Belmont, Grayscale

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First on tonight were Belmont bringing their raw and heavy version of pop punk to tonight’s crowd Starting out with big hitter ‘Hollowed Out’ should have been a solid start, unfortunately the band were hampered by the mic being too low in mix which seemed to continue until near the end. Following this it was good to hear new track ‘By My Side’ and despite issues sounded fantastic bringing a similar vibe to later Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! tracks. Switching from old to new the band then jumped in with ‘731’ which mixed really well and saw the band throwing themselves around on stage. Despite there being lots of energy on stage, the growing crowd weren’t quite in the mood yet to cause the carnage that the band wanted – one of the only problems with an early midweek gig. As Belmont ended with ‘Overstepping’ they finally got the movement that they wanted out of the crowd with a small pit opening for the second half of the song. All in all a decent turnout in the end for a band that aren’t too well known across this side of the pond and from the sounds of it, vocalist Taz Johnson seemed happy with just having new people in the room to play to. It was a real shame that they had mic issues as this could have been a stormed of a set if all went to plan, but even still Belmont fought through and delivered a solid set to stir the crowd and prepare them for the two following acts to come.

Belmont

Next up tonight bringing chaos from the outset were Grayscale. Despite being very much on the opposite end of the pop punk spectrum from Belmont, a pit had opened up right from the start of the first track. The band had a very poppy feel to the tracks especially newer ones from their recently released album ‘Nella Vita’. The album seems to have been received really well as they have a huge following in the crowd singing along to every word with ‘Baby Blue’ being a personal highlight for me. Even given the party going off in the crowd, the band managed to match the energy on the stage and putting tons of enjoyment into the performance.  Taking a quick pause in their set as Ben Ray from Slam Dunk stepped on to the stage, the band announced that they’d be back in Leeds next year for Slam Dunk Festival 2020 to huge applause. Following this announcement the crowd kicked it up another gear with circle pits opening up for ‘Fever Dream’ and continued throughout. As the set neared the end you could see the clear happiness on the bands faces as crowd shouted the words back at him. Despite the earlier issues, the mix was perfect for Grayscale and the whole band sounded tight on stage. Delivering a solid support set there wasn’t a single person that wasn’t warmed up for tonight’s headliner as the band left the stage. I’ll definitely be adding ‘Nella Vita’ to my ever growing list of albums to listen to.

Grayscale

As Real Friends took to the stage it was clear that tonight was going to be a fun one. Having seen the band play in Stylus a few years back with Puppy I was ready for a fantastic show and Real Friends certainly didn’t disappoint. Out of the gates there were crowd surfers flying across the barriers and everyone still stood on the ground were moving. Starting out with a bang the band had played through both ‘Summer’ and ‘Mess’ within their first four tracks which set the scene for the incredible set still in waiting. The band sounded amazing and everything seemed to just click into place for them to play a fantastic set. Breaking out older track ‘Maybe This Place Is The Same…’ was a huge highlight for me as that was the album that first got me listening to the band and was played through perfectly to really capture the feeling of the track. With the energy as full whack it was then time for Real Friends to show off their other side as they slowed things down for an acoustic version on ‘Sixteen’. As the phone lights were held high in the sky you could really feel the emotion behind the lyrics and with the whole crowd shouting them back it really made for a very communal feeling that everyone was in this together. After a couple of heartfelt acoustic tracks Real Friends switched it back up in complete contrast to end the set on a high launching into penultimate track ‘Me First’. As the song went on the crowd kept getting rowdier even forming a wall of death before the final chorus to really make the most of the rooms’ energy. With the majority of tracks being from new album composure it only felt right for the band to end with opening track ‘From The Outside’ which sounded incredible live and definitely ended the set in fashion.

As the band finished up the final chorus it was obvious that everyone was left in awe of what they had witnessed tonight. A flawless pop punk set from a band that are no strangers to putting on a great show. For one final touch before finishing vocalist Dan Lambton left the crowd with the parting words of ‘If you get the chance to be kind then take it with both hands’ which is a fantastic message to be sending and really relevant to a band that have helped a lot of people with the music they’ve put out. There is a reason that they are one of the most loved bands in the scene and moments like that really prove why. Following the brilliant release that was ‘Composure’, Real Friends are only going to climb higher and higher and it is very much deserved.

Real Friends

Review – Roam / With Confidence

Date: Saturday 28th September 2019

Venue: The Key Club, Leeds

Supports: The Dead Love, Woes

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As The Key Club celebrated 5 years of being open it was time to head back for the second sold out show in as many days. I know it’s not fair to compare gigs to each other however after the incredible performance from Zebrahead this one has a lot to live up to. As the rain poured down across Leeds, tonight The Key Club had some of the finest Pop punk from the UK and Australia on show for what promised to be a fantastic evening of music.

Taking to the stage first surprisingly early this evening were Australian band The Dead Love. Bringing their own brand of summery Australian pop punk really made a huge contrast with weather outside. Luckily for the surprisingly large crowd the band put on a great performance to start the night off well. A special mention needs to be made to the sound engineer as the mix on stage was incredible. The bass tone coming through on ‘Sugarcoat’ sounded amazing. Being the only band on the bill tonight that I wasn’t familiar with it was great to see them play live as my introduction to them. With their distinctive sound, it was a breath of fresh air to hear some pop punk that strayed from the usual. The energy in the crowd during ‘Wake up’ was incredible to see and really set the precedent of what was to come for the rest of the evening. Another highlight for me was new track ‘Skeleton Key’ from their new album ‘The Extinction of Unicorns’ which will definitely be a record that I’ll be giving a spin after tonight’s performance.

Next up tonight were Woes. It may have still only been 7pm but that wasn’t stopping Leeds from bouncing. The band seem to be constantly touring at the moment after just finishing a tour with Trash Boat as supports but it was clearly working out for the band as the singalong the band got for new track ‘Fake Friends’ was deafening. By the time the band were three track in with ‘Suburbs’ you’d be hard pressed to find a single person in The Key Club that wasn’t moving. As the set went on, it was clear that the energy was here to stay with ‘Fancy’ being dedicated to Leeds and crowds ability to be involved. Finishing off their set they stepped back in time for final song ‘Don’t Change’. From the crowd’s reaction they definitely left an impression on them and for the few that didn’t know them it was certainly a quick learning curve. The mixed vocals from both singer DJ and bassist Sean worked really well and allowed the energy to fly off the stage. A solid set to get the crowd completely warmed up for the two co-headliners tonight.

Taking things back to the southern hemisphere and keeping everything running at 110% energy were the first of tonight’s two headliners – With Confidence. Starting out with ‘Moving Boxes’ meant carnage and crowd surfers from the very start with the Leeds crowd being completely warmed up from the two support sets earlier on. As the band worked through their set there seemed to be a theme of tracks that hadn’t been played in a while coming out. This was made clear we the crowd were treated to full band version of ‘Pâquerette’ before band launching into ‘Keys’ which really showed off the great vocals from guitarist Inigo. There was a brief respite from all the crowd surfers while the band played slower track ‘Tails’ however this was short lived with the band finishing up with arguably one of the best pop punk songs in ‘Voldemort’. As the band left the stage it was clear just how much they had impacted on their fans with everyone grinning and talking about their set. Safe to say that this was one of the wildest sets I’ve seen in The Key Club and definitely a performance to write home about.

As ROAM took to the stage to close out tonight’s show things seemed to be going fantastic for them! However just one song in an audience member had to be taken out of crowd as they had passed out due to the heat and lack of space. Stopping to allow the crowd to move the passed out person away meant a call from the band to ask for no crowd surfers to avoid people at the front being crushed underneath. A bold call for the band to make and one which showed they genuinely care about the crowd and their safety. Unfortunately when things picked back up again with the band smashing through ‘Flatline’ it was short lived as a technical issue with Alex’s guitar which put another halt to the performance. With a second issue sorted and the technical issue dealt with the band then had the challenge of bringing the waning energy levels back up to a fever pitch. This was easily achieved as the band pulled out the fantastic combination of ‘Dead Weight’ and ‘Hopeless Case’ which had the whole crowd bouncing and the energy sky rocketing back up (but safely this time). As the set progressed the band mixed in tracks front their newer album to a great reception with the crowd singing all the works back to ‘Hand Grenade’ despite it only being released recently. And after an incredible play through of ‘Head Rush’ to finish off their regular set, all that was left was to play the encore of Playing Fiction which had the entire crowd jumping off their feet to finish the night off on a real high. This probably wasn’t the set that ROAM were wanting to have in Leeds to finish off the UK portion of their tour but the band certainly rose to the occasion and dealt with everything thrown at them to deliver a brilliant set. The new album may have introduced some new sounds to ROAMs arsenal but their live show is still as captivating and full of energy as ever.

Review – Zebrahead

Date: Friday 27th September 2019

Venue: The Key Club, Leeds

Supports: The Bottom Line

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After having a month without any gigs, one was definitely overdue and what better way to jump back in than seeing Zebrahead, one of my favourite live bands to watch. After seeing that the show had been moved from the University venue to the smaller Key Club, I was very excited as it meant that tonight’s show would be all the more intimate. Something that is usually a rarity, especially for a band the size of Zebrahead.

First up tonight as the main supports were London’s The Bottom Line. As the sole support tonight they had the unenviable task of warming up the crowd before Zebrahead. Unknown to me beforehand, it was great to see them live and with the crowd clearly in a good mood tonight the energy was matched by the band on stage. There was great crowd interaction and movement from the very first track, ‘She Makes Me’. The Bottom Line have a similar vibe and sound to Sum 41 and delivered an impressive performance. After announcing Leeds’s reputation as one of the loudest crowds, The Key Club definitely lived up to it by shouting back the chorus during new track ‘Over and Over’. As the set went on the energy kept on growing and by the time penultimate track ‘I Still Hate You’ came on the crowd were definitely in the party spirit with a circle pit opening up and everyone else bouncing along. As the band finished the last song it was clear that despite being the only support band they certainly worked the crowd. Definitely one that I’ll be adding to my pop-punk playlist for the future after a phenomenal opening set.
The Bottom Line

As the lights went down after a brief intermission it was finally time for tonight’s headliners to take to the stage. Bringing the party to really complete this Friday night were none other than Zebrahead. Despite seeing the band plenty of times before I’d never caught them on a headline show which mean so much more Zebrahead than I was used to. It was clear from the movement in the crowd during ‘Final Countdown’ before the band were even on stage that things were going to get sweaty real quick. Packing a huge 19 Songs into their hour and a half set list was dream for any Zebrahead fan with tracks coming from everywhere in their discography. When you throw in the bands usual tropes of the “Aliens” drinking and crowd surfing and the band doing shots as well as an on stage proposal (She said yes) and you have what can only be described as a perfect gig.

The crowd were clearly in the party spirit as they surged forward as the band started the show with new track ‘All my Friends are Nobodies’. And continuing the opening salvo with 2012’s ‘Call your Friends’ was a master stroke as everyone was bouncing by the time the band were two songs in. Tonight’s show brought with it a special event – Guitarist Dan Palmer’s Birthday. As Dan was born in Sheffield, the crowd responded perfectly with chants of Yorkshire filling the room while the band did shots before playing the brilliant ‘Sirens’. One notable moment for me was the playing of ‘Hell Yeah from The Phoenix album which was the first Zebrahead song that I ever listened to so it was great to see them play it live again. As the band closed out the main part of their set list it was a nice throwback to go with the one two of ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Falling Apart’ to really bring the crowd up to a fever pitch to end the night in style. You’d be hard pressed to find a single person who was standing still.

As the band left the stage for a brief encore it made for a nice relief for the fans to get their breath back before the band launched into ‘Who brings a Knife to a Gunfight’ to take the energy back up immediately. Ending the night of perfectly Zebrahead finished off with arguably their most famous track the incredible ‘Anthem’. The whole crowd were bouncing in unison and it was clear just how much impact a band like Zebrahead have on their fans, there was a huge sense of community and fun all night. If you haven’t had chance to see Zebrahead live yet, I would recommend catching them at the earliest opportunity as they never fail to put on a fantastic live show.


Zebrahead

Review – Download Festival 2019 (Friday)

Download Festival 2019 – Friday

As June rolled around, a hundred thousand people ventured down to the hallowed turf of Donington Park to attend the UKs best rock and alternative music festival. With headliners of Def Leppard, Slipknot, and Tool there really was something for everyone. After a couple of days camping in the rain, it finally started easing up a little on Friday the bands started to hit the stage.

Kvelertak – Zippo Encore Stage

Opening up on Friday for me were Norwegian rockers Kvelertak on the Zippo Encore Stage! Matching the energy perfectly of Download. Musically the band were very impressive however they were let down at start by vocals not quite keeping to the same quality. It seemed that vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen would rather run round the stage celebrating his birthday a little too hard than sing the songs. After their rough start Kvelertak managed to pull it together by the time they hit their two most known tracks ‘Blodtørst’ and ‘Mjød’ and finished up with the great ‘Kverletak’! A decent band to start of the festival with and one that set the bar pretty high for all bands across the weekend.

Kverletak

Conjurer – Dogtooth Stage

Following up next on the Dogtooth stage were Conjurer, a band that I picked up at 2000trees last year but unfortunately due to set timings missed them. They were one of my must see bands of the weekend and they were certainly worth the wait. To sum their set up in one word it would have to be heavy! Playing a crushing but emotion filled set everything was pitch perfect for the band. Switching between the two vocalists work perfectly and let the bassist run round in the crowd. The drumming was done to perfection and finishing off with a huge circle pit really showed just how impressive Conjurer’s set was. I’ll definitely be catching them at their headline tour in October when it passes through Leeds.

Conjurerer

Clutch – Main Stage

Taking to a packed Main Stage were the rock and roll titans Clutch! Having honed their craft over the years it was no surprise that they sounded incredible. As it had finally stopped raining for the first time of the day they definitely picked up the party mood and the crowd were more than obliged to join in. With riffs for days and some killer solos it was clear to see why they had been moved up from playing the Zippo Encore Stage back in 2012 to high up on the Main Stage this year! Certainly a band to listen to if the Classic Rock N Roll is your choice of music! Finishing off with their masterclass of ‘Electric Worry’ went down a storm and really closed their set out on a high!

Clutch

Zebrahead – Avalanche Stage

Continuing the party theme were none other than ‘Mother Fucking Zebrahead Bitch!’ or MFZB for short! Coming out swinging with huge track ‘Rescue Me’, it was clear that the crowd were in full force at the Avalanche stage this afternoon. With the typical crowd kneeling down and jumping up happening to great effect and circle pits galore it’s clear that Zebrahead are a band in demand and them announcing they’ll be back in September lit the crowd up even more than before! Newer tracks such as ‘All My Friends Are Nobodies’ went down just as well as big hitters like ‘Falling Apart’ and to close things off with a band was their standout track ‘Anthem’. Zebrahead have the mix of singing and rapping really down to a T with the two playing off each other perfectly. This in addition to the huge guitar solos that soar over the top it is the perfect mix for a punk band to really start a party!

Zebrahead

The Interrupters – Avalanche Stage

Having only seen The Interrupters a few weeks back I was interested to see how the Download crowd took to them in comparison to Slam Dunk. Turns out The Interrupters has turned their game up to max, coming out of the gates in the Avalanche stage tent it was clear that the band were having fun and the crowd certainly returned the energy. Unsurprisingly playing a very similar set to the previous week it should have felt a bit off but everything sounded even better and more refined! Huge tracks like ‘She’s Kerosene’ and ‘Take Back The Power’ hit very hard and as the wall of death opened up down the middle it was very clear that everyone was on the same page. Changing things slightly with an Operation Ivy cover went down gloriously with the crowd and the chants to ‘Family’ as the band finished their set were deafening. Definitely one of the top sets on Friday and proof that Ska still has a place at Download Festival.

The Interrupters

Slash feat Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators – Main Stage

Taking a short break from the Avalanche Stage and returning to the Main Stage I went to catch Slash feat Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Given the opportunity to not only catch one of the most famous guitarists live but also one of rock’s most incredible voice, I couldn’t turn it down. Coming out the gates strong with ‘Call of the Wild’ it really showed that everyone was continuing the day’s theme and being on top form. After a few tracks the weather gods had decided a brief rainstorm was due but Myles Kennedy was on hand to dedicate a song to Lemmy and by the time the band started ‘Driving Rain’ it had stopped completely. With a huge sounding version of ‘World on Fire’ to finish the show it really hit home just how good this mix of artists were and why there were so many people watching.

Slash feat Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators

Me First And The Gimme Gimmes – Avalanche Stage

Heading back to the Avalanche Stage, my last band of the day were the very unique Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. A self-proclaimed cover band they took all the classic tracks you know and love and gave them a very unique punk edge. The entire set was a celebration and the crowd were dancing from start to finish. Starting with a version of Cher’s Believe will give you an idea how this band works. Whilst the music may have been a parody the musicianship certainly wasn’t. Everyone played their instrument to the top level with each track sounding even better than on record. A Supergroup filled with Punk legends such as CJ Ramone (The Ramones) on Bass and up and newer artists like Stacey Dee (Bad Cop Bad Cop) on Guitar and vocals, there really was something for everyone in the set. High points in the set for me had to be the people crowd surfing during ‘Uptown Girl’ (A sentence I never thought I’d write) and the huge singalong to ‘Rocketman’. As the band finished their set there was just enough time for an encore of Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up’ to really finish the party in style for day one of Download Festival 2019.

Me First And The Gimme Gimmes

Review – Live At Leeds Festival 2019

As the first bank holiday of May rolled round it could only mean one thing… The start of festival season!! And as will every year the first one up is Live At Leeds. Showcasing a nice mix of new and upcoming bands from a variety of genres it is definitely one to keep an eye on if you enjoy hearing new acts.

VANT – Dork Stage, The Wardrobe

Kicking off proceedings for day were VANT. Things started off nice and slow to warm the crowd up with a couple of new acoustic tracks before breaking out the electric guitar. Vant mixed older tracks with his newer solo tracks which really worked well to show the mix of his tunes across both incarnations of the band. ‘Peace and Love’ sounded huge and a great reaction from the crowd to newer single ‘Thank Lucifer’. Finishing with a nice combo of ‘Karma Seeker’ and ‘Do You Know Me?’ really gave the crowd a nice chance to return the energy with the first mosh pits of the day. Fantastic set to a packed out crowd to start the festival off nicely and prepare me for the rest of the day.

VANT

Horror My Friend – Gigwise Stage, Leeds Becketts SU 2

Continuing the theme of indie/punk were Australian band Horror My Friend. Despite a few technical issues with their guitars, they managed to show the quality of music a band can make with a guitar, bass and drums. By the time they got into their stride the crowd were banging their heads and as the set went on the crowd grew massively to fill the stage. Finishing with ‘DIYS’ led to a nice heavy end showing their punk side off well. A great new discovery and certainly one I’ll be looking into in the future.

Horror My Friend

Saint Agnes – Upset Stage, The Key Club

Taking things up a notch next at The Key Club were Saint Agnes. Combining powerful vocals, heavy drum beats and jarring guitars shouldn’t have worked but the band smashed it and sounded fantastic! Having discovered them through the festival playlist I was sure how the turnout would be given they were heavier than most bands playing today however from the packed out venue it was clear that this band were high on a lot of peoples agendas, Saint Agnes worked through their hits perfectly with ‘Diablo Take Me Home’ causing the whole crowd to jump and bang their heads before finishing with ‘Welcome To Silvertown’ to really go out in style by diving into the crowd for one final party. Certainly one to check out if you dig the rockier side of things!

Saint Agnes

Lucas Watt – The Social

After the intensity from Saint Agnes it was a huge change to catch Lucas Watt. Armed with his acoustic guitar and a couple of band mates he showed just how impressive a singer/songwriter he really is. Hits like ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Why Do I Call’ showing how powerful his vocals are. The Social was packed out and the whole crowd were bobbing along to his songs. Treating us to some tracks from his new EP also went down a storm and from the looks of the crowd his headline show in Leeds later this year will be very impresive to say the least.

Lucas Watt

Inhaler – The Chapel

Following on from a short much break it was straught back into the music with Inhaler. Pulling sounds from both alt-rock and indie seemed to be keeping the large crowd happy and whilst it didn’t do much for me personally, it seemed to go down well with the rest of the crowd. Taking heavy inspiration from bands like Joy Division and U2 it was clear in their sound musically that they had tried to incorporate them using heavy synths and light guitars. Whilst not a band that I will be following I’m sure that plenty in the crowd will be keeping a close eye on them in the near future.

Inhaler

Hot Milk – Upset Stage, The Key Club

Marked as one of my top bands to see there was certainly an air of anticipation whilst waiting for Hot Milk to take to the stage. Crashing on to the stage they proceeded to blow all expectation out the water in a 30 minute set that seemed to fly by. Whilst Live at Leeds doesn’t usually put on much pop punk it was a breath of fresh air and seemed to be very popular with the crowd. Mixing up the two vocal styles worked really well and certainly set them apart from other pop punk bands coming out that the moment. The crowd were loving it with jumping and bouncing throughout the set with a few small pits opening at the band’s request. I can’t wait to hear more from them as the two unreleased tracks they played sounded brilliant. Definitely a band that I’ll be checking out at Slam Dunk/Download if I get the chance.

Hot Milk

She Drew The Gun – NME Stage, Riley Smith Hall
After their incredible performance at The Wardrobe back in 2017, She Drew The Gun were high on my list of bands to see. Since then the following of the band has grown and it was great to see them playing to a much larger audience. A great set from the political rockers. Their songs really showing off the powerful messages behind their tracks alongside the talent of the band. New track ‘Something For The Pain’ drew singalongs from the crowd and dancing throughout. Unfortunately things took a turn for the worse halfway through when the set was cut short due to illness. Hopefully they’ll be coming back soon as they seem to be going from strength to strength with the release of the new album ‘Revolution Of Mind’.

She Drew The Gun

Fatherson – Dance To the Radio Stage, The Church

After missing their set at 2000trees and their sold out show at Hyde Park Book Club it was about time that I caught these guys live and it was definitely worth the wait. Everything worked perfectly for them and the crowd were clearly on board for the party that Fatherson were bringing. Tracks like ‘Making Waves’ and ‘I Like Not Knowing’ showed them at the top of the game and the brilliant acoustics of Church meant that it sounded just as brilliant. Fantastic vocals soared across the venue and the guitars crashed around it. It was great to see the crowd jump on board with the band banging their heads and dancing around through their slightly longer set. Definitely one of my top bands of the day and certainly one to listen to if you’ve never caught them before!!

Fatherson

The Dunts – The Chapel

Next up it was a short trip from The Church to The Chapel for the penultimate act of the day. Just as the festival was starting to quieten down for the day The Dunts were bringing a huge amount of energy to the chapel. Bringing out their fast paced indie punk tracks meant that the entire crowd had no choice but to move around with a nice pit opening at the front of the crowd. Everything sounded brilliant from the stage and the catchy delivery really worked to build the energy on the stage. The band worked their crowd interaction well getting huge singalongs. Huge tracks in ‘The Birds and Beez’ and ‘Ride The Wave’ showcased their raw talent and showed why everyone had turned up. As a new band for me from the festival they are definitely up there as one of my favourite discoveries from Live At Leeds in a long time.

The Dunts

Jamie Lenman – Upset Stage, The Key Club

There hasnt been a Live At Leeds when my final Act isn’t in the Key Club and this one was no different. When the option is to see Jamie Lenman or not there is only one suitable response. Despite the fact that there was only one guitar and one drum kit on stage we were treated to 40 mins of pure face melting rock to finish the day off nicely! Mixing in a few covers, from his soon to be released album, with hit tracks such as ‘All Of England Is A City’ and ‘Devolver’ really worked amazing to get the crowd moving and banging their heads. Finishing up the class act with the huge sounding ‘Mississippi’ left the crowd screaming M-I-SSI-SSI-PPI as he closed the stage for the day. Originally billed as a special guest, his set certainly lived up to the ‘special’ in its title. A great way to finish the day!

Jamie Lenman