So yesterday a well organised trip down (up?) to Bournemouth took place to go and see our nearest branch of the NME’s tour, the four bands on offer being Peace, Palma Violets, Miles Kane and Django Django. Having already seen the first two at The Joiners, I felt confident they would put on a good show and so it was with a generally optimistic air that I left my house. Of Miles Kane, however, I am more skeptical. None of his songs have ever grabbed me at all, and much of his style and attitude makes me think he’s just a poor man’s Paul Weller. So discovering that he had fallen ill and would not be playing didn’t really affect me too much. Although I was disappointed he wouldn’t have the chance to prove me wrong, I expect he knew I was coming and feared my judgemental scorn so chickened out, a reasonable move for anyone in that situation.
So after a minor race for the loo we arrived in time to enter the crowd as Peace took to the stage. They made an odd choice in opening with three songs from their soon to be released debut album, rather than any of their known singles or EP tracks. What made it even weirder is that these songs seemed to tone down a lot of the psychadelic/afrobeat influences that made tracks like ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘1998’ so brilliant. I definitely noticed an unexpected Brit Pop influence on these new songs – 90s revival anyone? However, they were far from bad songs, and Peace are a group that remind me of bands of old, a group of akward, slacker, tech-heads staying inside to make music, and then donning a leather jacket and using their music to become cool. They are also a group that I trust to make the right call with their album, even if they eschewed their known, respected hits for it, I do believe the songs replacing them will be just as good. Once they’d gotten these album tracks out of the way, though, the show really started to kick off. A launch into epic fan-favourite ‘1998’ (only playable thanks to Miles Kane’s illness) brought out the moshing, the dancing and the jumping. They then romped through ‘Wraith’, ‘California Daze’, ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘Follow Baby’, a group of quality songs, all of which were played with fierce energy and a responsive crowd. A tactical bit of mosh-jumping posited co-writer Billy, friend Fahad, and me right on the second row in time to gather our breath for Palma Violets to come on next.
When Palma Violets did come on, they had their own special walk-on music, the only band of the night to do so (it sounded like an old punk single, probably The Clash or The Damned), and this activated the cynic in me. Palma’s are built up, mainly by the NME as the ‘Best British Guitar Band In Years’ and they do put on a hell of a show. But here’s my main problem with them: they only have one cracking song, ‘Best of Friends’, While I do like ‘Tom the Drum’ and ‘Step Up for the Cool Cats’, they aren’t anywhere near as good. As a live band, Palma Violets are phenomenal, and having Harry Violent join our little crew for a few songs was brilliant. A stagedive, singalong, crazy dancing, and charismatic frontmen were all integral to their show, which went off brilliantly, but I can’t help returning to the fact that they do not have enough great songs. The album tracks they played all had some fantastic moments in each of them, but felt more like rough sketches than crafted pop, which leaves me feeling incredibly negative about how their album will be next monday. I also felt the NME has screwed up by not having Palma’s open, giving the band with more, better, and better known songs, Peace, take the second slot. By all means if you want to see an incredible gig, go see Palma Violets, and the smaller the venue, the better, but they just cannot get away with live power alone. I wish the NME and the sodding British Music Industry had chilled out a bit, let them do the same tour they did, but give them longer and much more guidance when it came to making their debut, rather than rush to make money off the same-old Libertines narrative. Now we will have to have to face a barrage of hype-destroying press in the next few months that will ruin the career of a decent band, that could have become an incredible band, with time and guidance.
Hmmm, that’s a very depressing paragraph. Sorry. I am a fan of Palma Violets, I feel I should make that very clear, they know how to rock out and have fun on stage like no one else at the moment. but on to the last band of the day, and band that I wasn’t sure what to expect of – Django Django. While I admired their jangly guitar bopping, nothing aside from hit ‘Default’ had impressed me much, especially when at the time it was competing against Alt-J, so I’d never got the album. So when the first notes rang out of an overdriven guitar riff I was a bit shocked and a bit impressed that they had made their sound heavier and work so well in the arena venue. Their light show was also interesting, using shutters and lights to effectively make the large stage seem much less imposing and put them at the centre of the show. But after a bit more listening I realised that I was completely wrong about Django Django. Yes, they had imposed well with overdrive and power but once their sound filled out (which it did magnificently I should add) it became clear that they are not a rock band. In fact with the way each song is centred on the drums and percussion (they are the leaders in modern tambourine skills) they are far better described as a dance band. Suddenly the choice to make them headliners made perfect sense, after the raucous rock’n’roll, how about a proper dance band to bop to without having some cunt without his shirt come and elbow you in the face in your favourite bit of the song. Django Django also took a dance act’s approach to song structure with EDM’s central theme of lots of small changes taking you somewhere around a central groove as well as a concerted effort to merge their tracks like a DJ mix. This worked really well, particularly on the now stunning ‘Default’ whose stammered chorus I cannot remove from my head. (I should add my companions were not as pleased with my co-writer teasingly saying ‘it’s like Alt-J got even more dull’). I would love to see Django Django in a club, and I can’t help feeling they have far more in common with a group like SBTRKT than with their touring pals of Peace and Palma Violets, especially if you compare what I saw last night to SBTRKT’s Reading Festival set, the use of percussion and massive sound in particular. The set closed, with no encore, despite our urge to boogie.
So, duly impressed by Django Django I picked up their record on vinyl on the way out and we left. A very good value for money gig, even if (or especially if) Miles Kane never showed, with each act putting on a great show.