On a dark blustery night in the rough end of Bristol, I arrived at the Trinity Centre in complete awe – it’s a huge old church which also functions as a community centre. When you walk inside the first thing you notice are the beautiful stained glass windows full of traditional religious iconography, which feel weirdly in keeping with the almost reverent attitudes of the crowd making their pilgrimage towards the front of the stage. The first act to play this atmospheric venue were Aussie rock duo DZ Deathrays [7/10]. To hear them play, you would be hard-pressed to tell they only released their debut album in 2012. Fast forward 2 years and they are about to release their second album Black Rat, and are on the line up for several British and Australian festivals this year including 2000 Trees and Y-Not. Despite their simplistic two-man set-up consisting of guitarist/vocalist Shane Parsons and drummer Simon Ridley, they managed to fill the room with noise; mostly songs from their first album Bloodstreams. ‘No Sleep’ in particular with its brilliantly heavy riffs was excellent live, as was party-inciting song ‘Cops Capacity’ with its titular chorus “Cops! Capacity! Cops Cops, Capacity!” Though the guys weren’t overly talkative on stage, it was their music and sheer musicianship that really shone through here. We caught up with them backstage before their Birmingham show, and you can listen to that interview here.
Next on were Slaves [9/10], a punk band I’ve seen before at the tiny Birmingham Flapper, and in a larger space they put on a far superior show. With riotous songs including ‘Ceasefire’ and ‘White Knuckle Ride’, anarchic duo Isaac Holmon (vocals & drum smashing) and Laurie Vincent (guitar & shouting) proceeded to rile the whole room up, and even incited a small but respectable mosh pit. During the set, the pair engaged in a lot of onstage banter in comparison to the relatively quiet DZ Deathrays, in particular shout-outs to their merch-guy Mitch, and a long and rambling story about a monster in the woods of Royal Tunbridge Wells which lead up to the catchy ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’. A little innuendo later, they launched into the uproarious ‘How’s Amelia?’ in which the main chorus is “How’s Amelia? Is she still ugly?” after which the band apologised to the Amelia in question. With none of their songs going over 3 minutes, and copious crowd interaction in between, there was not a dull moment. Ending on the ferocious power of ‘Beauty Quest’, Holmon then proclaimed in a strangely profound way, “We all just want to be beautiful. You are all SLAVES. WE ARE ALL SLAVES!” and then abruptly left the stage. An enigmatic but highly talented band whose live show is unlike any other and has to be seen to be believed.
Finally, onto a dramatically blacked out stage came Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell who make up dance-rock-indie-hybrid band Blood Red Shoes [8/10]. From the pitch darkness came the unmistakeable thump and grind of the instrumental ‘Welcome Home’, and when the beat dropped the flashing strobes lit up the church and the crowd went crazy. After thunderous applause, rapid-fire sixteenth notes on the high hats led the way into their hit ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’. In a set which was over an hour long, BRS shoes stomped their way through a good selection of songs from their first three albums, such as ‘Cold’, ‘Don’t Ask’ and ‘Heartsink’, the latter being so well-known that the whole room seemed to be jumping. As well as these, they also performed 5 tracks from their new self-titled fourth album, one of which was lead single ‘A Perfect Mess’ with its catchy distorted guitar riffs. Despite the relative newness of the album, the crowd seemed to know all the words – or at least pretend they did! However the only thing that prevented BRS shoes from getting a slightly higher rating is that their set seemed a little too long; granted, they have a lot of material, but I personally felt that the encore including little-known EP single ‘Red River’ was extraneous in a set which had already finished so strongly.
Overall, this was one of the best line-ups I’ve seen in a while; usually you’ll get a couple of mediocre bands supporting a superior act, but in this case I can honestly say the traditional hierarchy went out the window. DZ Deathrays have toured with Blood Red Shoes before, and the whole lot of them seem to genuinely be glad to be touring with each other – a rare thing in the world of live music.