@Shipping Forecast w/ Stereo Virgins/ Evelyn.Is/ Deaf Club - 13.04.12
The first thing that needs to be said is that the Shipping Forecast is usually defined by excellent sound and a rather tame audience. On this night however the vocals were a little quiet…
I find increasingly often these days that the local support acts which featured lowest down the bill were the ‘surprise’ highlights of the night and this gig wasn’t an exception. First band on were Stero Virgins, a four piece rock band with an old school grungey sound. The night’s theme seemed to be heterogeneous in gender and so Stereo Virgins were made up of two boys and two girls. In the interests of objectivity I should point out that this reviewer has a soft spot for Queens of the Stone Age related bands and female vocalists so this group hit upon both requirements.
The first two songs of the set had a kind of shoe gaze sound supplemented by the ginger lead guitarist playing spacey notes through a Jazzmaster. It was when he switched to a Les Paul that things really took off and the sound became heavy and deep like Kyuss. Because they were first on, Stereo Virgins perhaps didn’t get the audience they deserved and they were the only proper rock band all night. The only fault I can pick out is that maybe the band’s style was a little too close to Queens for them too really pull off anything original; even the guitarist’s solos were pretty close to Josh Homme’s. Open strings detuned to C are unmistakably QOTSA and the variation of having a girl singing only served to make them sound similar to the Desert Sessions’ PJ Harvey collaborations.
Next up were Evelyn.Is, a local group who played the Shipping Forecast not too long ago supporting We Were Promised Jetpacks. They were back with an almost identical set beginning with a minimalist piece consisting of cymbals, harp and a backing track. It’s always impressive to see someone play harp while they sing but the combination of that and reverb-swamped vocals is a device dangerously similar to Florence and the Machine. The rest of the set consisted of professionally-tight atmospheric rock which sounded pretty domesticated standing next to grit of the Stero Virgins. From what I gather, the band were playing their first gig with a brand new drummer who seemed to fit in seamlessly. EI’s real strength is their tall, barefooted lead singer who is able to summon a vast stage presence with seemingly no effort at all.
Judging by appearances Deaf Club were the youngest band of the night so I feel as if I should cut them some slack. Their line up was similar to the rest of the bands on and so was their sound: a guitar-playing female lead singer resonating of shoegazey delayed guitar notes. In terms of musicianship and presentation it was all perfect, which was what was so wrong about it. There were no stand out tracks or unique selling points. Deaf Club are a group of talented individuals playing extremely safe music. Interestingly, there were a few glimpses of the vitality that was lacking on the couple of tracks which featured the drummer playing eighths on the floor tom. Maybe something as simple as that bass-y driving force is all that the music needs; the band may be well advised to employ a mid-toned rhythm guitar rather than have both instruments playing jangled riffs.
I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by the Bristolian headline act 2:54. If you went on some of the videos they’ve released on YouTube you might be drawn into believing that the band are a heavier, more rock-orientated alternative to a girl-group like Warpaint. Unfortunately this didn’t quite manifest itself on stage. The lead guitar was the best thing about the music and was well varied; some songs were chugged out sixteenths, others octaves or shoegaze jangles. However, the ‘heavy factor’ was missing and the guitars were drowned out by the drums and bass guitar, which took a leaf out of the Pixies’ book of straight forward one-note-per-chord rhythms.
There seems to be two vocal schools within the current trend for female-fronted rock bands, either the Florence Welch wail or the Kim Gordon style drawl. 2:54 are in the latter camp. What it was that really set this group apart from the other bands was the quality of presentation. It may be said in general that touring bands are better dressed than local support acts, perhaps even that bands from the South dress better than those from the North. This detail may strike you as irrelevant but certainly part of a headline band’s appeal is their exotic appearance and 2:54 looked the part. Their stage presence was also far superior with the lead singer sporting a certain brand of grungey lipsticked sneer which hasn’t been seen since Catatonia or Garbage.
Whether through practice or sheer attitude the band where just a lot more fun to watch. The only problem is that despite these surface qualities the music just wasn’t anything special. The rock and roll romanticism evoked by their appearance is purely superficial, and while 2:54’s sound is a hell of a lot more authentic than the sewage that’s been polluting the charts in recent years it isn’t altogether too different from an array of smaller bands populating every city in the UK, most of whom cost less to go and see live.
Words: Joseph Smith
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