Touted in some sections of the music press as the saviours of indie Palma Violets have a lot of expectations to carry for a band so young. Their visit to The Engine Shed gave idp a chance to get his first listen to them live.
They’ve drawn a good crowd so word is clearly getting round and their album 180 seems to have won them a lot of fans. By the barriers at the centre of the stage is a man who looks like David Crosby. I confer with the security guard and we decide it probably isn’t him.
Palma Violets take the stage following a warm up heckle from the merch guy and proceed to blow the place away with an onslaught of old school rock ‘n’ roll so brutal it’s physically exhausting listening to them. Explosive drums, heavy guitars and massive bellowed vocals combine into a wall of noise which the band undercut with passages of immediate and unexpected quiet when the remarkably delicate keyboard motifs of Jeff Mayhew come to the fore before launching once again into their frenzied assault on the music.
There was some debate recently on Louder Than War about what was the loudest gig anybody had ever been to – well for me Palma Violets is it. Possibly I have heard more decibels, but this one has it for sheer unrelenting energy and noise. The sound hits you in the face like a physical force. Every part of the Engine Shed, which is a built to withstand the test of time no nonsense Victorian brick edifice, is vibrating. A black screen has been erected half way down the auditorium since last night’s Fratellis gig. I think at first it is to make tonight’s show feel more intimate, but in fact I think it may just be to protect the bottles on the bar. Palma Violets are the band who bought all the amps that go up to 11 and tonight they have them all plugged in and on full.
There’s a real sense of boundaries being pushed and although most reviews of the band mention the on stage chemistry of bassist Chilli Jesson and guitarist Sam Fryer (and certainly they are the key to the bands on stage persona) musically it’s the explosive drumming of Will Doyle that pulls everything together at times when the sudden changes of volume and tempo threaten to cause it all to topple. Tonight Fryer seems quite reserved. Jesson is a proper little ball of energy however, chucking himself around the stage with abandon and baying the crowd into a frenzy with jolly exhortations. He has a tech working almost full-time to reassemble bits of equipment that he has demolished. He swings a playful boot at my head. I briefly consider dragging him down into the pit and giving him a stern talking to but on balance I decide against. I do, however, retreat to a position of safety sitting on the step of the mojos and while there I receive a lovely head massage from some kind soul in the audience behind me. I think it may be the man who looks like David Crosby.
Highlights from the set are Best Of Friends and Step Up For The Cool Cats, a raucous Tom The Drum and the encore when various members of other bands and the entourage join the Violets on stage for an exuberant version of 14 and a kickabout and some beer throwing. You just know it’s going to end in tears. Hopefully they manage to mend the drum kit before their next gig.
As we leave the yellow lit cathedral is quivering post seismically at the top of the hill.