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Relentless Energy Festival - Highbury Garage, London - October 22nd 2010 (Live Review)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 Written by Ben Bland
Relentless Energy Festival - Highbury Garage, London - October 22nd 2010 (Live Review)

Relentless’ Energy drinks sponsoring of the Garage continues with three days of music at the venue incorporating both the main stage downstairs and the tiny room upstairs. These nights, comprising the ‘Energy Sessions’ feature an array of both upcoming bands and established acts with Friday’s action being co-headlined by the ever rising Band of Skulls and widescreen indie rockers The Boxer Rebellion in what proves to be an entertaining evening of live music.

First up downstairs is the dubious pleasure of local post-punk act S.C.U.M. Arriving onstage, the band looks like they have travelled to the Garage via being nightclub extras in an episode of ‘Ashes to Ashes’. Furthermore they perform with all the charisma you’d expect of extras...none at all. Their set takes place with the band members hidden behind curtains of light that make it impossible to get a clear view of what is going on, although judging from the incredible lack of movement that is slightly visible this is probably no great issue. The music the band performs is almost as dated as the look with the waves of synths doing nothing but rendering all other instruments pretty much superfluous to the mix.

Upstairs are The Violet May whose frontman Chris McClure is the man on the sleeve of Arctic Monkeys’ debut record. His band are unlikely to cause him to be known better for anything else. Their set is mostly spent trying to achieve a heavy QOTSA groove but, despite flashes of promise, nothing really happens aside from McClure spending a substantial portion of the allotted half an hour amongst the rather standoffish crowd instead of alongside his bandmates. It would be unfair to label this a bad set because there isn’t anything bad about it but at the same time it never gets going into something really good either. 

The Boxer Rebellion hit the stage and immediately raise the bar in terms of quality. The shimmering guitar sound of Todd Howe and the earnest vocals of Nathan Nicholson make a beguiling combination and as classics like ‘We Have This Place Surrounded’ and ‘Flashing Red Light Means Go’ surely win over the portion of the crowd that is here more for Band of Skulls than anything else. Despite the melancholic overtones present in most of their songs there is something undeniably uplifting about The Boxer Rebellion’s live show with Nicholson’s pleading voice on ‘Evacuate’ creating a live anthem of the highest order. New songs are gently sprinkled into the set, ‘Memo’ in particular seems set to be a future fan favourite and signals great things ahead of the expected February release date of the band’s new record. This is a band whose sound only works better onstage. They might get a whole lot bigger soon so catch them in venues this size whilst you can.
Why Sucioperro aren’t big enough yet to play downstairs at the Garage is a mystery to their small but dedicated legion of hardcore fans. Their brand of alt-rock is always guaranteed to come with singalong moments via riffs with sometimes bizarre time signatures not unlike the earlier work of their friends Biffy Clyro. Frontman JP Reid wears his heart on his sleeve with his lyrical content and the band can rock out with the best of them when they so choose; see the heavy sections of ‘Don’t Change (What You Can’t Understand)’ as evidence. Meanwhile new songs like forthcoming single ‘Threads’ signal a bright future for the band with their upcoming third album. What is perhaps most impressive about their half hour set however is the fact that, despite there being a tiny crowd present, the band play throughout with a smile on their face and give 150% where most would come close to giving up. They are the best band of the night.

Headlining upstairs are The Domino State, who provide a less gung-ho alternative to the more rocking parts of tonight’s bill. They have been touring with The Boxer Rebellion later and don’t sound all too dissimilar but the addition of violin certainly adds an additional string to their bow (no pun intended). The sextet don’t have anything earth shatteringly original to their sound but they do more than enough by providing an excitingly intense forty minute set that pleases the assembled crowd.

Band of Skulls have grown exponentially in the last twelve months or so. They recently headlined the cavernous auditorium of the Kentish Town Forum and thus a venue of this size provides a more intimate opportunity for some of their fans to witness their favourite band of the moment in action. ‘Band of the moment’ is probably a description that suits the three-piece garage rockers because there really isn’t any apparent reason for their sudden rise. Whilst their music is fun and easy to sing along to, especially the brilliant opener ‘Patterns', there is nothing here that really sets the band apart from any number of other acts. This is a good set but nothing more approaching the spectacular. 

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