End of March Gig Rush part 3; a jaunt down to the old Zodiac room to see the latest recipients of the NME’s dreaded “hype”; young English band Palma Violets, being touted by the “last music rag standing” as 2013’s “Next Big Thing”, despite (as usual) being a distillation of a lot of stuff that’s gone before. When I listen to Palma Violets, I hear ragged, ramshackle indie rock’n’roll, recalling harder-edged C86 bands such as the excellent Close Lobsters, mixed with a helping of primal bluesy 60’s howl harking back to early Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground, inviting comparisons to The Vaccines and Howler. Enough to make this cynical old boy curious, so, as I usually ask at this point; can they justify the hype? A spritely debut CD in “180”, full of punky, blastalong tunes and spunky youthful vigour, promises much, so let’s see how they do in front of a sold-out O2…
Similarly curious old boy Beef picked me up early, also grabbing his mates Dean and Mike, before we hit the road proper, parking up in the last Tesco car park space and hitting the venue about ¼ to 8. Despite this being a sell-out, they admirably kept the gig in the smaller but better old upstairs Zodiac room, and I think us 4 old boys doubled the aggregate age when we walked in! Support Baby Strange, a power trio from Glasgow and not to be confused with Boston’s Baby Strange, were on at 8, blasting through some spritely yet formulaic, heavily late 70’s influenced, spunky punk/ new wave nonsense, heavy on guitars and recalling punk one-hit wonders The Drones and the Last Words! An almost Radiohead-like, slower and moodier number was thrown in amongst all the thrash, and they were invaded onstage for their final thrashy number by some red-shirted moshing nutter, whom, it turned out, was Palma Violets’ bassist/ vocalist Alex “Chilli” Jesson! A young moshpit accompanied their set throughout, the vocalist announcing at the last number; “this is your last chance to get warmed up before Palma Violets fuck you all!” Prophetic words, perhaps?
The PVs were certainly out to have a go; they rushed on at 9 to the unmistakable pounding drums of The Damned’s “New Rose”, and were straight “on it”, in a riot of noise, colour, belching dry ice and hyperactive movement. By second number, the droney, Velvets-like “Rattlesnake Highway”, they were locked in, playing their ragged rock’n’roll with bags of enthusiasm and energy, and the young and increasingly large moshpit were going mental. An early, Lobsters-like “All The Garden Birds” was a highlight, main vocalist and guitarist Sam Fryer slurring his vocal lines in a similar style to The Vaccines’ Justin Young, and “Tom The Drum” nicked an obvious riff from The Rolling Stones “The Last Time” to power its’ chuntering bluesy romp along.
Like fellow pilferers The Vaccines, the Palma Violets right now sound like they’ve been rummaging through their dad’s record collections; however, where The Vaccines grabbed Buddy Holly, they’ve gone straight for the psych, punk rock and 60’s Stones/ Velvets sections, mixing it up into a ragged and ramshackle howl, with some simple but naggingly effective hooklines thrown in. “Live”, however, they’re straight out of 70’s punk; cacophonous, chaotic, all over the place, rabble-rousing and amphetamine-fuelled plain mental, and an all-inclusive experience for their rabid moshing fans. “Best Of Friends” was a bellow-along terrace chant, precipitating a huge singalong, and virtually the whole of this packed crowd responded to Chilli’s exhortations to lift their waving arms, “higher! Higher! HIGHER!!!” during the lengthy intro to the chiming, C86-like jangle-along “Last Of The Summer Wine”. Set closer, “14”, was by contrast a slower sway-along, and the encores included a crazy blast through an unfamiliar number which might have come from The Ramones’ songbook, simple and dumb, before a final singalong “Brand New Song” saw a stage invasion from the support band and assorted hangers-on to round off a startlingly fast 50 minute performance.
Caught our breath before heading off. Believe the hype? The Palma Violets are doing everything they can to live up to it, and right now they’re walking the walk, at least “live”, with breathless and memorable punk rock performances like this. Fair play to ‘em!