Friday 25th August
A warm Bank Holiday Friday in Islington sees the streets and bars crowded with revellers starting a long weekend of fine weather and partying. Across town, final preparations are being completed for the annual Notting Hill Carnival. Running between the bustling Angel and New Cross areas is the relatively suburban Pentonville Road. And nestled amongst the houses and offices is Surya, an unassuming wine bar looking to attract passing customers. At first I thought I had got the address wrong but hidden below stairs of this otherwise unremarkable bar is a small but perfectly formed den of iniquity. Doubling as a club music venue from 11pm until the early hours of the morning, it is also home to a showcase, live music stage of up and coming talent of assorted genres. Barely large enough to hold 100 people, the stage is right on top of you, and the bands are freely accessed as they transition from backstage to the arena of sound. And talking of sound, the sound is excellent – a small nod of approval is hereby given to sound man Simba who manages to produce fine work for 4 different bands in the confines of a small venue – no mean feat. Take a bow sir.
Although my mission, which I had chosen to accept before the instructions spontaneously combusted in true MI style, was to review Go Primitive, I did also enjoy the short performance of Scout Killers, a 5 piece Alt-Rock band from Bristol/Bath. Lead vocalist Scott Cox is the only member without a beard, tattoos and a jaunty haircut. Julien Morrez (guitarist and backing vocalist), Beau Stevens (guitarist), Josh Ellis (bassist), and Chris Phillips (drummer) all do. Nice to see Morrez sporting a t-shirt from headlining band Seasons. Always great to see bands supporting each other. The band were very animated and clearly enjoyed themselves. Sound wise, there was overtones of Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers which is no bad thing. I would have liked to see more of them. And I shall endeavour to do so.
Which brings me to the primary target of my mission – Go Primitive. And to uncover exactly what Alt-Rock means.
Go Primitive are a four piece Alt-Rock band from Warwickshire UK. Consisting of Tomm E. Williams (guitar/vocals), Adam White (guitar), Dan Teale (drums) and Andy Dove (bass) – they have been rapidly gaining recognition for their attitude-fuelled, modern rock style with a slot at this year’s Glastonbury underlining their success. They have been getting some radio and TV airplay too. Citing such diverse influences as Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl, The Offspring, Blink 182, Don Broco, Biffy Clyro, Yellowcard, You Me At Six, A Day To Remember and Of Mice & Men, you can see that they are aficionados of classic and modern Rock and Metal and their sound reflects that. Williams is not averse to a bit of EVH tapping and shredding but they are not a shred band. There’s a cutting edge to their sound, Metal but with a musical rhythm too and Williams voice stays clear, avoiding the guttural screams of so many current purveyors of modern Rock.
Williams plays a beautiful red Yamaha Pacifica (guitar geek alert…) with a humbucker/P90 pick up combo (and again…) through a 5150 head (geek overload…) giving us that EVH American Rock sound whilst White sports a Gibson Midtown – through an Orange Rockverb head (geek saturation…) giving a classic British Rock slant. Together they make a blend of old new British American sound of wonderfulness. With Dove strumming like a good un’ on the bass and Teale battering for all he is worth, I wasn’t sure how long they would last. Long enough it turns out.
I had expected to hear the small back catalogue of hits from their '100 Ways' EP but instead we were treated to a short 6 song set from their new first Album, 'Choices', which is due for release in early 2018. Produced by Romesh Dodangoda (Bring Me The Horizon, Bullet For My Valentine, Funeral For A Friend, Mötörhead) this is some seriously good Rock. Had they been headlining the night, I expect that we would have heard a lot more but what we got was excellent.
Ironic it probably wasn’t that they started their short set with 'Hold Tight' – probably a requirement from the Health and Safety department to put us on notice of what to expect. Elements of all of their influences shone through their set. Williams reverence for Mr. Grohl showed in his ability to front a powerful band yet remain the focus. Anyone not joining in the overall fun and frolics (there were the odd one or two) were roundly accused of being Bieber fans – how cutting can you get? But all in good fun though. His interaction with the crowd was both friendly and enthusiastic, joining the crowd off stage in a headbanging frenzy as he thrashed his way through the rifftastic final song, 'I Want More'. Prophetic indeed. I did. If you like any of the above mentioned bands, give this lot a listen on YouTube, or any other of your preferred media choice. You are bound to hear something you like.
So apparently, Alt-Rock is any underground based Rock that isn’t Mainstream Rock. My next mission, should I choose to accept it, is to work out what the difference is. Buggered if I know – they all sound good to me. Ethan Hunt, move over, I’m on the case.
1. Hold Tight
3. When I drive
4. Dirty little lies
6. I Want More