Only a smattering of people makes up the audience for tonight’s opening act, Man Of Moon but they’re lucky they came early.
They begin with a slow-burning instrumental and transition smoothly into song two, which displays Chris Bainbridge’s guarded but gritty vocals.
Though he isn’t completely comfortable on stage yet, he fronts the band with drummer Mikey Reid and they showcase very intelligent songwriting, moving between spacey, reverb and delay heavy sections into tight, powerful grooves that implement, but don’t over use unconventional timings.
Shopping, an arty three-piece from London, blast into their loose set with very lo-fi guitar, angular riffs, and yelping vocals.
In stark contrast to Man of Moon, there isn’t a pedal in sight and barely any full chords are played, so when they finally are (three songs in), it’s a strange kind of relief.
Frontwoman Rachel Aggs shares vocals with both her bandmates and they shoot back and forth amongst themselves and the audience.
Before getting on stage, I watched her sip from a Redbull and this, along with their eccentric and acute set, makes me wonder if the members of Shopping require sleep.
As the show progresses, with each band that takes the stage more instruments appear, Merchandise bring with them an acoustic guitar and a synthesizer for additional textures, which gives them the tools to be the loudest band, by far, of the evening.
Although Man of Moon and Shopping were thoroughly enjoyable, the bulk of tonight’s audience step out of the shadows for Carson Cox’s band.
The venue isn’t close to being half full, but by no means are they letting this dampen their affection for the Florida natives.
With a powerful instrumental to open their set quickly, followed by ‘Enemy’ from their latest album, Merchandise show that they are a tight unit and they get straight to the point by immediately flaunting their classic rock influences and, stylistically, their American roots.
They play anthemic driving song after anthemic driving song, and when this begins to get ever so slightly boring, they change their groove six songs in with ‘Little Killer’, which is led by a more interesting riff that allows the guitars a better chance to weave around each other and blur the line between lead and rhythm, which has been distinct so far.
With almost Joy Division style production on record, Cox swoons with unique warmth but unfortunately tonight his vocals aren’t cutting through the mix and his lyrics are totally indistinguishable.
It’s clear they would benefit from turning down even a little bit or employing the use of a vocal processor for additional presence, the instruments are overpowering to the point that they sometimes get in each other’s way, but maybe this is just the way they deliver a rock show because it’s certainly done with passion.
Cox makes clear that he is in charge and moves about the stage in a way that shows confidence in his ability to perform the songs that he’s been crafting for the last several years and his band, especially guitarist David Vassalotti, match his enthusiasm.
Given the big nature of the songs, it seems that each one could be an encore, but that comes in the form of ‘Time’, a song from their acclaimed 2012 album Children Of Desire and provides a very satisfying ending to a good set.
Words: Greg Murray
Photos: Michael Gallacher