My second trip to the suddenly impossible-to-get-to Bristol Fleece in 5 days sees me following up on the progress of a promising band I’d checked out at my old Level 3 stamping grounds, barely 3½ months ago (gig 1,043 if you’re counting). Inheaven, who’d shimmered, swooped, shoegazed and swaggered into the forefront of my new band radar for 2017 as a result of that, their Glasto warm-up and partial homecoming gig (bassist Chloe being from the ‘don and, indeed, a former Level 3 acolyte, albeit some years after my halcyon period!), had since dropped their eponymous debut album which, happily, delivered fully on all the promise displayed at that gig. Their colourful potpourri of post-punk/ shoegaze/ garage rock in full force, “Inheaven” is full of totally banging tuneage, with not a single duff track on show, and is currently squabbling with Desperate Journalist for my Album Of The Year. Taking in one of their Autumn tour dates was a must, then, and I snapped myself up a ticket, for a solo midweek jaunt down the M4.
A delayed and sodden drive, then a confusing diversion as I eschewed my former route into town in favour of Temple Gate, saw me parking just around the corner and hitting a surprisingly dead Fleece for 8. As quiet as I’d seen it since that fabled El Nino gig some years back (gig 403; I think about 11 people were at that one…!); indeed, there were tables out around the pillars towards the back too! The vocalist of openers King Nun remarked that this was the first time they’d played a seated venue (!), but that was pretty much the last we actually heard from him, as his vocals were so submerged in their mix, underneath the squally, strident guitar riffery and hard-hitting drums, as to be somewhat superfluous. Their second number sounded like a jetplane landing (an actual one, not the band!) and although the set was enthusiastically delivered and deviated later into slower and more melodic territory, it was short on memorable hooks.
Bloxx, next up, had a terrible name but much stronger material, in a languid, slacker rock/ 90’s US college pop vein; as if Juliana Hatfield were fronting Matt Dillon’s band Citizen Dick from the movie “Singles”, perhaps… their sleepy nonchalance however took a turn for the better at the end of their set, with their final 3 numbers “Sea Blue”, “You” and “Your Boyfriend” being groovier and much more upbeat, recalling the likes of Yuck or Pity Sex. A definite work-in-progess (as were the openers), but some decent promise here.
The place was still only about ¼ full – Bristol, wake up! The paucity of the turnout didn’t seem to bother Inheaven, however; on at 9.30 and lining up behind their usual rose-bedecked mic stands, they were once again “on it” from the outset with a burst of light, colour and the strident chorus and militaristic drumbeats of opener “Bitter Town”. Next up, “Stupid Things”, a beautifully observed Jesus And Mary Chain pastiche on record, became a seething, coruscating wall of sound “live”, and by the swaggering, singalong strut of “Baby’s Alright”, it was clear that even in these short months, this band had come on in leaps and bounds “live”, with more confidence, cohesion and audience interaction. They knew it too, with knowing glances and satisfied smirks illustrating the fact they were totally nailing this “live” performance malarkey now.
The thrilling Krautrock metronome glam sleaze of “Vultures” saw some male/ female call and response vocals between Chloe (who wore a huge “fantasy band camp” grin throughout, clearly loving it up there) and main vocalist, the swarthily handsome and more earnest James Taylor, Chloe’s quickfire rapped verse recalling Curve’s Toni Halliday. “World On Fire” featured some vicious riffery, before we were back to the JAMC/ Pixies-ish wall of noise for a superb “All There Is” A later “Treats” saw a hectic moshpit break out to its’ almost American Hi-Fi-like chorus, and whilst “Wasted My Life” seemed a little ragged as the set rushed headlong to its conclusion, “Regeneration” closed it out splendidly with an epic swish and swagger.
Excellent stuff from a band quickly fulfilling on their potential and promise. Caught my breath, then chatted to a fellow music blogger (hey Ryan!), before grabbing merch and a chat and pix with the band, including fellow Swindonian Chloe who remembered me from Lev. Nice! A band clearly in a hurry, here’s hoping they don’t compromise their excellent sound for a quicker ascent to the bigger venues that doubtless await them. There’s more to come from Inheaven, a potentially great band for years to come!