LIVE: DZ DEATHRAYS / EMBERS / FAWN SPOTS – 16/05/2012
When I hear word that FAWN SPOTS are coming to Manchester I cancel plans and jump at the chance to go see them. Fawn Spots are Lee Bowden and Jonathan Meager; based in York where they are proactive in the music scene being heavily involved in truly great projects such as Wrong Side of the River and where I had the pleasure of witnessing the birth of Fawn Spots in 2010 at their very first (informal) gig at The Basement. I thought they were ace then but they just seem to get better and better every time I see them and have an amazing ability to keep writing new material, and fast. Tonight is no exception.
I’m a bit worried about my stamina after last night when my ‘just one drink’ led me to hear the start of Princess Chelsea at The Castle Hotel and I was so smitten that I actually couldn’t leave until the end (I definitely recommend). Tonight promises to be loud with the headliners, DZ Deathrays, being described as “one of the most brutal new bands on the scene” in Soup Kitchen’s write-up. Perfect for a Wednesday!
Being first up, Fawn Spots are playing to a disappointingly small crowd. It feels a bit like being in a garage with the bare brick walls but the quality of the music exceeds your typical ‘garage band’. It’s got that raw, lo-fi quality but at the same time Meager does wonderful things with the guitar, creating an impressive array of beautiful sounds that somehow, combined with drums, and teamed with the pair’s complimentary singing styles, all fall nicely into place to form memorable and often catchy songs with a punky edge that you’ll find yourself singing the next day. The pair are very much playing together. It’s tight and you wouldn’t imagine that Bowden had never played drums before getting his spots. Hard, fast, loud, frenetic; the energy is infectious and I can’t help but move in time and forget all about my earlier concerns of being tired/hung over. This concern, however, has been replaced by a new one: You might not think it likely that a two piece would create such a full and interesting sound that they would dwarf a full band’s performance but I have witnessed it before with Fawn Spots and just hope their performance won’t make the following bands seem boring and tame in comparison!
I urge you: GO AND SEE THIS BAND! They are touring soon and playing at Night and Day on June 4th; take the opportunity!
EMBERS take to the stage second; a British based four piece, backed by some interesting and well put together visuals. Although the music is fairly heavy and carries plenty of effects, the vocals, by contrast, are quite light and high. There is something very pop about them. They have a fairly clean sound which is quite melodramatic and epic. Embers don’t interact with the crowd much or with each other but they look like they’re enjoying themselves and the singer is definitely feeling their last song a lot. The set seems to be over really fast and I question how many songs they played.
Next up is the much talked about ‘brutal’, DZ DEATHRAYS. Australian Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley formed in 2008 and have been creating quite a hype in the UK with NME rating them #8 in the “50 best new bands of 2011.” Originally intended for house parties, I think that the Soup Kitchen basement is a choice venue to recreate this kind of atmosphere. An entrance track that sounds a bit like some epic space explorer music introduces the band to the stage. However, all I can make out through all the smoke and epilepsy inducing lights are silhouettes. The crowd has got busy and piled forward with an air of expectancy.
DZ Deathrays are on a bit of a mega tour of the northern hemisphere to promote the release of their new album ‘BLOODSTREAMS’ and they are clearly confident and comfortable on the stage. I find it hard to put my finger on what they sound like. It doesn’t seem very ‘brutal’ to me. It’s quite smooth and tuneful. The guitars are thrashy and remind me of a sped up stoner rock, someone like Queens of the Stone Age for example but with more of a jungle vibe. The vocals are high pitched and screechy. Something along the lines of At The Drive In maybe but this description just doesn’t quite capture it. Others mention Death From Above 1979 a lot in connection with this band. Whatever it is I can see why it was so popular at house parties as it’s very danceable, and the guitarist enters the crowd giving out beers. Sure to be a winner.
They seem to be having a lot of fun and the audience are loving it. There’s a young crowd at the front who are singing along and obviously know the songs. Two guys a bit further back are really going for it; dancing enthusiastically throughout. It’s clear that DZ Deathrays have fans and are well received and that the likes of NME and Q magazine were obviously on to something.