Last night I headed to Winchester to have a go at actually being a proper music journalist for once. The main attraction was Public Service Broadcasting, a duo that merge archive films from WW2 and after with music that references Post-Rock, Radiohead and Krautrock. If you’ve ever wanted to boogie to the blitz this was your gig. Unfortunately unless you’d booked in advance you weren’t going to get in, the 6music favourites had managed to sell-out the venue completely and it was packed tight, a good friend even informed me Matt Horne was there. While I got to pretend to be Lester Bangs going backstage and doing interviews with PSB as well as support band Pivotal (watch this space!), I managed to miss most of the opening act Iain Cooper, who seemed a pleasant enough acoustic guitar man from what I heard.
While I snuck to the front of the ever-expanding crowd, second band Pivotal gatherered themselves on stage. I had caught them once before, supporting Slow Club last year at The Joiners. Back then I’d been mightily impressed and particularly taken with the song ‘Spitting Rivets’, so when frontman Lee announced “Hi, we’re Pivotal and this song’s called Spitting Rivets” I was both pleased and impressed by them throwing their apparent best track up first. Their music is a dark post-punk sound where synth-keys, bass, drums and reverb-laden guitar swirl together while singer Lee Pearce’s vocals alternate between a brooding Ian Curtis-esque baritone and and a powerful anguished shout. Often the transition between these two styles can make for the most captivating moments in their music. They’ve just finished recording a bunch of tracks for an EP, and if they’ve managed to capture half of how good they sounded last night then it will be an incredible record. Their songwriting has improved drastically since they impressed me over a year ago, and their level of performance was astounding. They benefitted from an unusual stage layout whereby drummer Chloe Elliot and keyboardist Lucy Pearce were on the sides allowing Lee Pearce and bassist Ben Johnson to play off each other and the crowd. The new songs they’ve written all sounded fantastic with highlights being a song that moved between being in 3 and 4 (scoring huge drumming nerd points) and their closing number which featured some impressive musicianship from each member. I wasn’t the only one impressed though, as the crowd grew ever more responsive to the songs. After Lee aplogised for having broken his E-bow for a track, its end was met with a shout of “You should break more E-bows” from a man near the front. I have no fear saying Pivotal are absolutely my favourite band to come out of Southampton, their sound doesn’t match any of the music other local acts are making and their songs are pretty damn fantastic. Which makes the wait for their EP pretty exciting. Go like their facebook page here, you won’t regret it.
After Pivotal were a band called JayetAL, an electronic post-rock band who made some damn impressive sounds by merging dense electronics with live drums, keys and bass. The only problem being that with so much of their sound coming from pre-recorded loops and samples it was difficult to connect much to what was going on aside from being fairly impressed at the skill on display. Realising it wasn’t quite my thing meant I decided to head to the bar to grab a drink before the main attraction, Public Service Broadcasting could get on stage. Which they did, to huge cheers, once they’d constructed their set with an enormous projecter dead centre, the two members, J Willgoose Esq., wielding synths and guitars alike, and Wrigglesworth on drums and triggers (Roland SPD-SX, tech-heads). The crowd was packed out and I paid the price for not sticking with JayetAL as the small size of The Railway left much of the projected screen blocked by fans in front. Nevertheless I had enough vision to enjoy the gig and what struck me most was how faultlessly Public Service Broadcasting bridged the gap between their recordings/videos and the energy of a live show. Their intensely crafted music builds and rises wonderfully, the climax of ‘New Dimensions In Sound’ (a track they decided not to add to their upcoming album) was phenomenal, testament to the fact that even without the samples that give the band their name, their music can stand alone.
Another highlight was the way in which Public Service Broadcasting engaged with the audience. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who is yet to see them, but we were laughing and cheering in equal measure. The virtual frontman engaged the crowd better than most rock bands I’ve seen. Their music has found a subtly powerful edge in the way it uses these broadcasts, and a particularly fascinating moment happened with the close of ‘If War Should Come’, where the last seconds of the song announced that war had indeed come, and the audience that was whooping and clapping after every other song, fell akwardly silent, hit by the sheer significance of those words. It was a touching, human moment, and gave a great amount of weight to the (previously thought) tongue-in-cheek motto of ‘Teaching the lessons of the past with the music of the future’. Other highlights were a song which had their name as its main sample and a song about fashion that had great music. The arrival of ‘Spitfire’ gained instant cheers, no doubt due to it’s success on 6music, and new single ‘Signal 30’ went down incredibly well, its heavy rock flavour causing a vast proportion of the crowd to begin to bust a move.
With more of PSB’s unique stage banter signalling the close of their set, the audience resolutely demanded more. In good fashion the duo launched into the optimistic ‘Everest’ for their encore. And as the thronging masses filed out I don’t think there was any doubt that Public Service Broadcasting lived up to their challenge of making their live show far more than what is on the record. Their debut album, Inform Educate Entertain, is fast approaching, and at this rate is going to make quite a splash. Do not underestimate Public Service Broadcasting.