Keeping it local with this one, and carrying over a couple of themes from the Swindon Shuffle, last time out; not only a trip up the Castle to see Palm Rose, the Shuffle’s best new discovery for me, but also a free fundraiser gig, this one a “No Plastic Bands” benefit to raise awareness about the environmental impact of single-use of plastic, and subsequently headlined by the appropriately named Canute’s Plastic Army! Palm Rose were however the main attraction for me, and I was looking for a continuation of the Shuffle form from this very new young band.
Took a drive up the hill, parking up and hitting The Castle for just before 9, joining the band plus significant others out in the beer garden. Chatted to Palm Rose vocalist Adam and discovered a bit more about the origins of the band, who were apparently ¾ of former locals Well Dressed Thief, plus drummer and old school friend Rich. Looked as if the WDT split was amicable enough, though, judging by former WDT vocalist James socialising with them tonight! Enjoyed some rock chat before heading in to partake of opener’s Frances The Farmer’s singular musical vision. Two members of Flour Babies (one being recent FB friend Gavin) and a nervous but mesmerising black frontman rapping quickfire over some dour, bleak and libidinous musical backdrops (reminding this old guy of The Fall’s earlier, more stretched workouts – think “Frightened”, “Iceland”, “Tempo House”, that type of thing), this was an uneasy, oppressive and claustrophobic listen, yet very intriguing and attention-grabbing. Later numbers were a bit more bass-led and had a slightly funkier feel, with staccato guitar riffery from Gavin, but never strayed far from this mood-heavy musical template. I couldn’t make out too many of the words – the delivery was tumbling and nervous and the mix a little on the trebly side – but that didn’t really detract from this very favourable impression. First gig too? Impressive.
Had a chat with Messrs. Dyer and Franklin, happily in attendance tonight, as Palm Rose set up, then took a wander further forward as they eased, almost apologetically, into their set opener “Daydream”. Again the opening keyboard flourish initially grabbed the attention, as the song eased into its’ journey, the repetitive building hook driven by Adam’s impressive vocal range and command. “Humid”, next up, featured a more textural keyboard-led opening evoking fresh Spring rain, again building to a dissonant crescendo and ending with the layered acapella hook. A nervous plug from Adam for both his band and the cause tonight – “use less plastic!” – preceded “Goalkeeper”, which was more structured with an almost summery guitar interlude from Aaron, and “Seattle” (“home of my lovely wife – thing – er, I’m digging myself a bit of a hole here…” commented Adam) opened with some almost Pixies-ish growling bass from Chris, before its’ insistent hook lead into a big widescreen middle 8 and denouement, propelled by Aaron’s undulating and intricate fretwork, which revealed he’s probably listened to more than a bit of early U2, which for me is no bad thing…
Overall, this was another excellent set of dreampop/ shoegaze/ post-punk-influenced yet individual and unique indie rock from a splendid young band. Hard to believe this was only their 3rd ever gig as Palm Rose, as they already sound very together and well-practised, and whilst Adam may lack the onstage charisma and persona of his more overt former WDT colleague James, Palm Rose already feel more of a band, the whole being more than the sum of its’ parts. And after the dark oppressive storms of tonight’s opening act, Palm Rose’s set was the point when the clouds broke and the sun shone through!
More rock chat with Mr. Franklin outside and in, and also a discussion about influences with Adam, so I confess I didn’t really pay too much attention to the headliners until their fine reading of Pulp’s classic “Razamatazz”. Sorry guys… Headed off about 11.30 after a highly enjoyable evening. Great stuff – in fact, the highest compliment I can pay to Palm Rose is that suddenly, Raze*Rebuild aren’t the only lot to get me up The Castle on a Friday night…!