Live Review: New Secret Weapon / Vernon Jane – Button Factory, Dublin 18.12.2022

Words & Photos: David McEneaney

Due to an equal mixture of fog and Sunday drivers on the M1, I managed to arrive at The Button Factory just as Vernon Jane were taking the stage. It had been recommended that I see these guys live, but that’s all I was told. When I saw everyone get in formation, including some brass instruments in the background, I pulled the camera out of the bag and got ready…for what though, I had no idea.

They proceeded to both confuse and impress me, in a good way. They would start a song and it would be driven by a very strong rhythm section, with music and singing that was on its way to being an indie/pop/jazz type song. Then, out of nowhere, it would take an abrupt turn and get extremely heavy and thats when I realised that this is why I was advised to see them. Their singer, Emily Jane, fronted the band with what I can only describe as pure joy fuelled energy, taking the time in-between songs to keep saying how happy she was to be there, and you could tell this was true.

The further into the set they went, the more I was sucked in, and I could see why the room was already full when I arrived, which is sometimes rare for a support act. By the end of the set, she was down on the floor with the rest of us, surrounded by people who were singing her own lyrics back to her, and you could tell that both her, and the band, were where they were supposed to be.

After their set ended, the room cleared just as quickly as the stage, I assume so everyone could go and grab a pint after all that dancing. While waiting for New Secret Weapon to begin, I noticed a guy walk onto the stage and pick up a guitar. He then started to play some riffs over the house music, like someone who was anxious to get playing, even if it was just to make noise. It was only about 5 mins later when the drummer and bass player walked onto the stage (along with 8 cans of Hop House) that I realised he might actually be part of the band. The first thing he said was ‘I’ve got the fear’ (and I could see that he meant it) then they started into their first song.

Whatever he was afraid of seemed to disappear as soon as they started playing. He seemed to be very comfortable on stage, like he knew the place as well as his sitting room or local pub. It was almost as if this was a rehearsal in their own practice room and they had just invited their mates round with a load of cans for a party. In-between songs he kept recognising people he knew in the crowd and asking them how they were etc., with an in joke here or an insult there, depending on how well he knew them.

The drummer and bass player just got on with it, effortlessly playing along to his loud and feedback drenched riffs, or patiently waiting for him to get to the next song after he had a chat with the crowd.
I could tell this was a group of guys who have been playing together for a long time, and this was just business as usual for them. This was also confirmed when the singer, ‘Griff’, explained that they had been playing since about 2009 and would be going through a lot of their old back catalogue for this set, also with some songs from their latest album thrown in here and there for good measure.

I got a very unpredictable or dangerous vibe from both the music and the band themselves, as if literally anything could happen at any moment. There seemed to be a somewhat sinister undertone to it all, which was backed up by both the loud and aggressive playing and also the big red laser beams that suddenly appeared from the ceiling, slowly moving past the band and into the crowd. Almost as if the audience themselves had become a target. Which I guess in a way they were, for the music at least.

This is by no means a negative review, however. There were genuine moments of great song writing, especially in songs like ’The End’ which reminded me of early Queens of the Stone Age and then going into slower, more melodic songs like ‘Collisions’ straight afterwards which showed that this band had some song writing range. What I mean is it was more a feeling of not being able to relax because the music was played in such an aggressive and raw way, and also because, like I said, you had a sense of not knowing what Griff was going to do or say next. Maybe he was somehow transferring his anxious energy to the crowd and making everyone feel on edge as well. That restless energy of someone who has ’the fear’ of standing still and who needs to keep moving and making noise, either with his guitar or in general. Which might well be their not so new, but definitely secret weapon.

Set List:
Full On
New Secret Weapon
State Of It
The End

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