Upstairs at The Garage, Islington, Wednesday 4th September
A warm night in a tiny, sweaty scout hut. Now all we need is some loud rock and roll.
As if by magic Zoax appear,
Fronted by the engaging and affable Oirishman Adam Carroll who looks unnervingly like Robbie Williams with a strong, enormous hipster beard, the rag-bag quintet take to the tiny stage and deliver a loud, brash, entertaining bag of bombs that veers somewhere between A Day To Remember, LetLive, Black Flag and is even spiced up with scents and hints of Defeater.
And it works. Despite the weird and wooly rag and bone yard of disparate influences, there's enough originality here to raise an eyebrow or two. An enthusiastic crowd laps up moments of old skool metalcore, New Jersey Hardcore, tech metal and bollocks-out punkiness. There's even a bit of Oirish scat/rap (well talking really) thrown in.
Carroll is a born front man, getting right in the bosom of the crowd, firing off quick witted snaps and quips and looks totally at home. His voice ranges between deep, spitfire engine growls and roars to lighter, more melodic stretches. All backed by some fearsome noise, rhythms and, at times, quite techy playing from his bandmates balanced on the low coffee table-sized rostrum.
All good stuff. Look forward to seeing them again in a proper sized venue.
The Safety Fire ***1/2**
As the splendid new Karnivool album being played on the PA fades down, the crowd raises its own noise and welcomes Sean McWeeney and his tech troubadours onto the McWeeniest stage in Christendom.
I'm never sure about this venue. It really has the vibe of a church hall or scout hut with its low, oppressive roof and tiny stage, which is almost a floor show. And I've never really experienced good sound here. Anyway, it's rammed tonight as London's techy metally djenty proggy darlings aim to blow its ceiling skywards.
Opening with the brilliant Yellowism from the stunning new album Mouth Of Swords, the party gets well and truly started.
The sound is huge. But there's the rub. It's just too huge for this outhouse bog of a venue. The space, dynamic, breadth and general force of the beautifully played and intricately delivered wares become a bit of a condensed and compressed din. Backed with harmonies, pads and god knows what emanating from a Macbook precariously balanced next to the actual bog, the overall effect is sadly somewhat disappointing. It's like having a Ferrari in the garden shed or a Eurofighter in a broom cupboard.
Nothing to do with the band or the playing. They're right on it. And stunning. And McWeeny, who boasts one of the most flexible, wonderful and brilliant voices in the biz, is on top form too. Not missing a note. Well, at least I don't think he does; because the muddiness and vastness of the sound renders the whole thing awkward to listen to properly.
The breakdowns and beats are searing enough. The lead guitar shredding work is splendid. But it reminds me of trying to listen to a Stravinksky's Rite Of Spring on a distorting transistor radio turned up to 11. You know the talent and the importance are there, but you're kind of filling in gaps.
That all said, the show goes on apace and the crowd don't seem to care about the ill-fitting tight venue on such a magnificent frame. There are pits aplenty, bouncing and even heaps of old skool headbanging. Beware The Leopard (Jagwar) is a particular highlight (despite the screamy lows of BTBAM's Tommy Rogers being delivered by the Macbook and the crowd as, in the words of McWeeney, the fucker couldn't be here) and along with material from the first album, including the massive and squealy Huge Hammers, the set is a perfect mix of bludgeon, beauty and bollock-squeezing power.
Fabulous band. Just can't wait to see them somewhere where their sound fits properly and they haven't had to squeeze it into a muddy size 6 mini dress. Shame.
More tunes soon. Bwoooar!