The prospect of my first real “press pass” gig got me so excited that I raced straight from work to the Louisiana in Bristol (blagging a lift from my oldest friend and forcing her to stop off for a mandatory law-breaking amount of McDonalds on the way, of course). I hadn’t visited the venue for years and it was inspiring to recognise just how much personality and sentimentality the building retained. Posters and signed artwork from bands that had played there previously adorn the walls – it’s a similar situation to Moles in Bath, where I worked for a year and fell in love with, in that huge names played this tiny room before they shot off to stardom: The Killers, Regina Spektor, The Strokes and Muse are a few of the impressive past acts. After taking it all in and sitting down to enjoy my fruity cider (it was a Monday, okay guys?), a stream of hipster students began to wade into the building and up to the square room of musical wonderment so we opted to follow suit. We stepped through the doors as the first support began to play and what a way to start the evening.
Appearing in the form of two awkward, young hairy men, Mont confessed that this was their first ever gig. But hadn’t they admitted it, you would never have guessed. The professional abuse of their sample pads and vocoders paired with the ethereal electronic influence resulted in an immersive sound which encapsulated the entire room. The desert guitar and tinny beats which narrated several of their songs echoed a softer Friendly Fires whilst the pained vocals and haphazard rhythms screamed of a (wonderful) James Blake. Often, their music became serene and tranquil, not unlike whale song or rainforest noise, but as the Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs inspirations shone through, the tribal touch became apparent and the room buzzed with excitement and appreciation. Frankly, hugely impressive especially considering they can only get better with time and experience. Nothing quite prepared us for what came next.
Mont were a tough act to follow and I’m genuinely disappointed that Adult Jazz attempted to do so. The collection of pre-pubescent “lads” took to the stage and, during their opener, slammed laptop buttons and scraped violins bows across electric guitars. The lead singer gargled out words in a strained falsetto and the nursery quality drumming did nothing to veil the band’s blatant inexperience. Perhaps there is a reason bands don’t sound like this: not because it’s “too original” but because it’s just not very good at all. The group seemed as though they had formed that previous night, not unlike Mont, but through a narcotics fuelled evening in their halls, believing they were breaking ground. Throwing in some awkward brass for good measure and swapping band members around the stage, Adult Jazz turned out to be neither very adult nor jazzy. Their lyrics were incomprehensionable, the melodies were non-existent and their sound, caught somewhere between a poor man’s Passion Pit and a drug lord’s Metric, was too deep and complex for everyone involved. Some artists soar and glide through their freedom from conventional beats and rhythms (just look to Kimbra for sheer genius and quality) but these boys should have stuck to the rules. Often sounding like a directionless version of The Kooks, their influences varied from Jeff Buckley to Sinatra but, truth be told, it was a mess. No thank you, not today. Or ever.
After the depressingly eternal, ear crippling set from Adult Jazz, spirits were low in the room. The icy clunks of empty glasses hushed the cruel comments from the crowd (mainly just me, sorry) but luckily Arthur Beatrice set up quickly and raced onto stage to pull the night back from the brink of group suicide. Formed in 2010, the band have already bagged themselves a prestigious “Guardian Band of the Year” Award in 2011. Since then, they have openly spoken about being perfectionists and taking time to ensure every single second of their debut album, Working Out, matches their vision hence their intentional sidle away from fame.
Immediately, the London based four piece looked like a band: Ella, the lead, is an Aluna doppelgänger whilst the three boys are packed with enough style and personality to stand them out in a crowd. Brothers Hamish and Elliot harboured a wonderful family chemistry on stage whilst the group gelled well as a whole. Thundering synth, beats pads and impressive drum solos sung well alongside the silky harmonies as the band started. Once it kicked in, the full pop driven opener tore the audience’s attention away from the dross that had introduced them. The combination of Orlando’s smooth, deep voice and Ella’s Jessie Ware-esque vocals was magical throughout and the moody arrangements of their mature songs offered up a sense of legitimacy in their music. When the band worked together and their noise became whole, they sparked signs of David Bowie; a subtle 80’s influence paired with their modern touches allowed the music to bathe in its originality. What often began as brooding gloom tinged with electro swooped into fully formed darkpop, a sign of perseverance and experience in finding the right sound over time. During their latest single, “Midland“, clouds of Two Door Cinema Club fell from the tinny guitars whilst the James Blake, The XX and London Grammar influences were far from ignorable. A strange love child of sound but one which comes across as fresh, exciting and engrossing.
There were gentle flashes of uncertainty throughout the gig; subtle glances at one another to ensure they were on the same page. Not once did the band fall out of sync though and their signs of inexperience were misleading and endearing. Their professionalism was well translated onto the tiny stage and they dominated the space they and their range of instruments rented. Something which I noticed during each song was the versatility of not only the vocals but the band as a whole: they were able to tackle big moments in their songs with ease and differentiate each track in a tired genre – trickles of Wild Beasts and Warpaint added to their dark side. Finishing with “Grand Union“, Arthur Beatrice were humble and grateful to the gaggle of awkward, emotionally delayed listeners (an unjust few of us) but seemed as though they were ready to take on stages thrice this size with comfort. I’ve no doubt, with the band’s debut album being released in early 2014, they will scale up the venues they play swiftly so find them whilst they’re still gaining momentum once again.
Adult Jazz were bad news, Mont were fantastic and Arthur Beatrice were lightyears ahead. A gig for the musically interested, curious, mature and appreciative.