Live (Beneva / Philanthropy / Bungalow Zen)
Unfortunately, due to the length of time I spent walking between the main entrance and the stage door looking for someone who would let me into the venue, I only managed to catch thirty-six seconds of Beneva’s set. Therefore, all I can tell you is that Beneva are an acoustic guitar and piano led indie band with at least half a minute of decent melody and the sound certainly flooded it’s way through the venue with a professional feel.
Looking like they’d been stuck in a cage for a week prior to the gig, Philanthropy bounded onto the stage with the energy of their diminutive years to commence their three guitar rock set. There was a bit of ska in the mix, but more in the suit and tie uniform than in the music. The early songs didn’t really stand out, the third track contained the first interesting moment with the singer using a trapped cat / scared lady screaming technique that sounded strangely like the end-theme of the first Star Trek series.
The set picked up with a slow-melodic track that contained more creative flair that the whole set previous. Contrast and space was used to create a really atmospheric tune with great vocals. This theme continued for the next track, which was much heavier and my opinion of the band started to slide from flippancy to genuine interest. The primal-screaming vocal breaks and the crashing drums started to come together to create a sound more unique than the songs earlier in the set that seemed to have borrowed riffs from other bands.
All this hard work was almost destroyed with a couple of out-of-kilter decisions to suddenly slip in a Run DMC vs Aerosmith style rock-rap song and the not-so-bright idea to do a comedy cover of the Venga Boys. A serious look at the set list and a bit more of that creativity in the other songs could make this band a serious proposition.
With a bit more experience under their belt, Bungalow Zen are almost old enough to have fathered the youngsters in Philanthropy. This difference in age was demonstrated musically, with a classic old-school rock set. On this basis, it would be unfair to retain any expectation of being surprised or exited by the set, but the performance was slick and ballsy and certainly held the attention of all present.
The music was inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Guns ‘n’ Roses; underpinned by solid drumming, pounding bass, and big guitar riffs. The singer had a vocal so gutsy he threatened to spill intestines all over the stage. Crotch-stretching rock poses were the order of the day for the stadium-ready performance and altogether, it was very entertaining.
The much anticipated headline slot from Caroline Alexander was kicked off dramatically with ‘If You’, which was played with explosive force courtesy of new skins-man, Jeff. Following hot on it’s heels was an excellent rendition of ‘Hong Kong Garden’ pulled out of the bowler-hat with sharp guitars and brave vocals.
The tempo remained high for the first half of the set, with tracks like ‘Yellow Baby’ adding plenty of variety, before things were stripped down for a candle-lit acoustic interlude. The bare nature of this section obviously placed plenty of focus on the vocal, which can never be a bad thing when you have a voice like Caroline’s. The break from the full-band line up stretched the attention span of the part of the crowd that wanted to rock, but other segments of the audience were practically gaping in awe.
Despite some very good songs throughout, the show was well and truly stolen by the last song of the night, ‘Suicide Note’. This is just one of those tracks that has it all. The immediate hooks, the big melody, a great solo, and some thought provoking lyrics. Blindingly brilliant.
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