The Crescent Community Venue, York – hosting The Blinders, with supporting artists Faux Pas and White Room – 02.11.18
As the saying may go, “all good things come in three’s” – it seemed at first an unlikely aphorism to attach to an evening that staged three bands of such diverse musical and performance backgrounds, and would be a test for the venue and promoters capabilities to attract and contain an audience within the event room so to show respect towards both support bands appearing on the bill, without peeling away to the bar or departing outright, or risking turning up later just for the headliners. However it became clear from the crowd vibe that they were keen to see the whole line-up by arriving early for the opening band – natives Faux Pas, as the almost capacity room attested prior to Faux Pas plugging in.
Opening with released singles ‘Shame’ and ‘Healthy’, both getting immediate audience approval, the band were quick to claim their ground on the compact stage, only slightly hampered by Orange stacks and a covered-up centrepiece expansive drum kit – but not sufficiently as to stall frontman Rueben’s hi-jinx and passionate contortions, in sharp contrast to Lewis’ controlled fretwork and straight-ahead composure between songs. ‘That’s my ego’ is an instant win, demonstrating the bands continuing level of maturity in their compositions and content, perhaps revealing an introspective confessional of sorts, in contrast to Reuben’s animated on-stage persona and customary emotive body scrawling.
Recommended listening: ‘Shame’ – watch / listen here
The unannounced stage presence of headline tour support band White Room was marred only by a bad input jack connection and some god-awful inaudible crunch through the PA, otherwise they may well have started their set before the audience had chance to recompose, complete their hashtagging and status update nonsense, or to purchase a refresher from the side bar. Speedy remedial works, a brief soundcheck – the five-piece-Brighton-based band filed back on to the stage in a visually balanced aesthetic, accentuating the central figure of the slender and striking frontman vocalist/musician Jake Smallwood, accurately dressed in a effervescent white suit, bejewelled with complimentary white tambourine and poised adjacent to a white Mellotron upright.
Showcasing their new single ‘Shoot’, which was a perfect downtempo, pulsating and almost elephantine stomping introduction to immediately grab the attention of the audience and present what became an exemplar performance of how to command a room.
The rhythm section played consistently heavily percussive work, with distinct rounded bubbling bass tones courtesy of the unwavering finger-style of stoic guitarist/singer Josie McNamara, on the distinctive Surfcaster. The opposite side of the stage provided the swirling intertwining and interesting combination of guitars & keyboard swells, offset with irregular and angular stabbing chords adding contrast to the dreamy pop-psyche songs to the likes of ‘Take Me Away’/’Stole The I.V.’ and the faster paced favourite (and danceable!) ‘Cable-Built Dreamland’ – that energised their audience.
With a charming confidence, a self-assured swagger, and a pleasurable respectful and non-arrogant dialogue with the crowd, Smallwood sang and cavorted with all the trademark gallantry, pomp and rhythmic tambourine work to visually entertain. With gentle mid-ranged lyrical tones bolstered by Josie’s soprano vocal additions, the delivery of White Room’s entire set became an accurate yet natural aural/visual landscape, which filled the room with a deep-set joy.
Recommended listening: ‘Cable Built Dreamland’ – watch / listen here
The Blinders performance on this years BBC Introducing Stage at Leeds Festival was one of the most memorable, least of all for the rain that poured hard and fast for 15mins afterward, before clearing and leaving us with a glorious full rainbow arched over the main BBC marquee. This gave a period of respite from the almost impassable human superhighway spine, and a chance to reflect on the outrageous stage antics and skilled guitar work that blasted out from that compact BBC Introducing Stage, an A-grade example of how you introduce yourself to a festival crowd. Say hello to The Blinders.
Back in the now-blackened room of Crescent, where scant light sources came only from pilot lights of those Orange amp stacks, a muted glow from the side stage clock, and the occasional flash from stage technicians torchlights making final preparations, the room infused with an almost cosmic ambience of eclectic sounds interspersed with movie themes and Burroughs spoken word that informed The Blinders entry onto the stage via the tiniest of stairways, provoking the crowd with a startling but surprisingly refreshing splattering of cold beer spray courtesy of drum-smith Matt Neale, in a room where the temperature had already risen to a level far above comfortable.
Engage opener ‘Gotta get through’ which turned up the heat further to an over-eager crowd already jockeying for front-of-stage supremacy, while the sophisticated suited bassman was already affirming his stage prowess by taking up a striding stance over the stage monitors. By the end of round one, the air was already thickening prior to ‘L’etat c’est moi’ which pulsated with a perpetual penetrating bassline and Neale’s driving back beat, while the accentuated blackened eyes of singer/guitarist Thomas Haywood began to pierce from a stage awash with an oxblood red light which remained the default hue for the duration of the set.
Haywoods angry black-stained guitar, stabbed and carved through the song list following the template of their acclaimed debut album ‘Columbia’. The Blinders are there with the forerunners, spearheading a resurgence of politicised tribalistic hard-rock, albeit here with their own personal infused inspirations evoking the undercurrent of blood-lust and echoes of Romanesque rage and debauchery as evident on ‘Et tu’ and the 7-minute headstrong charge of ‘Brutus’. Perhaps then, the sharing of the wine bottle between the band and audience was relevant and justified!
The final scenes of ‘Brutus’ saw the collapse of ’emperor’ Haywood, slain but still grasping his teardrop guitar, a grimaced and tired face, sweat induced straggled hair, the former masked eyes reduced to a visibly stained flow of black mascara tears and black poisoned fingertips.
With the exit of the rhythm section Haywood stood alone for the last stand, performing the solemn ballad ‘Orbit’, a sobering and thought-provoking prose helping to discharge the built-up electrical energy in the room generated by agitated fans who bore witness to another powerful and lingering sonic and visual performance.
Recommended listening: ‘Brave New World’ – watch / listen here
Kind thanks to Dean Shakespeare @ Under The Influence Events
All words and photos © James A Mumby Photography