The 29th of January marked the start of Independent Venue Week, a “celebration of small music venues around the UK and a nod to the people that own, run and work in them, week in, week out”. Friday’s gig really encompassed what this event is about for me – a sold out, hugely receptive audience and three bands right at the top of their game made this relatively intimate venue feel like a huge event.
Opening the night was local four-piece Idle Ross – despite only forming in September, they sound like they’ve been playing together for years. Immediately Oasis-esque in terms of their sound as well as the lead singer’s fringe/tambourine combination, there’s also a hint of the Strokes in their sound and some almost Hives-like moments too. All this adds up into a sound so massive and cocksure it deserves its own postcode, led by some great grooves and frenetic guitar solos.
Next was The Wholls, tipped by BBC Introducing and fresh off a big 2017 which saw them release their self-titled debut album and tour extensively. Right off the bat, their stage presence is huge, and they have a sound to match; brooding slow build ups in the verses explode into huge riffs and absolutely killer choruses; X21 and Take Jimi are the best examples of this, and they’re both hits with the crowd tonight – the huge amount of energy the band generates can’t help but transmit to the audience, who give them it back in droves. It’s hard to describe what their sound is like – if Josh Homme joined Peace or Nothing But Thieves the result would be close to their blend of huge anthemic choruses and harder edged rock riffing. Even that doesn’t really do them justice though, so it’s definitely worth listening to their album, or catching them live on their headline tour this March; you might not get many more chances to see them in a small venue, because they could play the main stage of a big festival without changing a thing about their act, and hopefully they’ll be doing just that before long.
Finally, the headline act was Doncaster’s finest Bang Bang Romeo. From speaking to them before the show, I could tell they couldn’t wait to get out there; not only was this (almost) a hometown show, it was their first show of what should be a massive year for them. Lead singer Anastasia Walker described the band as feeling like “a teenage boy who’s been incapable of touching his nether regions for weeks” (her words not mine). Colourful similes aside, you could tell what she meant when they took to the stage later on; the band clearly had a month and a half’s worth of untapped stage energy to burn, making this a special performance even by their own high standards. I’ve never seen another band that can get you exactly where they want you as soon as they walk on stage, and what’s more, they know they can do it. They were on top form, too; a cover of Radiohead’s Creep went down well with the crowd, but if anything, original songs Chemical and Natural Born Astronaut were sung along to with even more enthusiasm, testament to the band’s ability to write huge, soaring pop-rock anthems. There’s definitely a retro feel to their sound, but also a contemporary twist; the resulting sound is equal parts Fleetwood Mac and Florence and the Machine. There’s also the visual aspect; Anastasia Walker is really something to watch, with her natural charisma, effortless ability to connect with a crowd and emotional interplay with guitarist Ross Cameron, whose innovative riffs and fantastic guitar effects create an epic, cinematic soundscape. What really stands out though, is her voice. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before, powerful and bluesy when belting out their up tempo numbers but equally perfectly equipped to handle their dramatic ballads, adding up to one hell of a package that you’ve got to see for yourself to really appreciate.
2018 promises to be a huge year for Bang Bang Romeo; they’re set to fly to America soon to work on their debut album, describing the new material for it as “the Bang Bang Romeo that we know, but with that extra edge to it”, surely an exciting prospect and one the band “can’t wait” to share with their ever-growing fanbase. If nights like this one are anything to go by, then their fans should be very excited by this prospect. I can’t recommend enough supporting your local venues by going to events like this one; despite how regularly they seem to be closing these days, there’s clearly a demand for small venues, and events at them judging by the sell out crowd alone. You’ve also got a great chance of finding your new favourite band; I only first discovered both The Wholls and Bang Bang Romeo by going to see other bands and sticking around to see everyone else that was playing; now I’d rank them as two of the best bands I’ve been lucky enough to see play. If you take one thing from reading this (if you make it this far), then I hope it’s that – go to your local venues, see some bands you don’t know anything about, and you never know who you might discover.
Photos by Rama Alsammoah; check out her Instagram “shotbyrama” for more of her fantastic snaps.