REVIEW - SHOTAWAY E.P LAUNCH AT ROXX (BY DANIEL JONES)
Standing at the side of The Roxx’s stage while the stomp and holler of close to 450 people echoes like the lasting remnants of a stampede throughout Southampton‘s newest music dwelling, you’d be mistaken to assume G. Barlow and co. are waiting patiently in the wings. Mistaken indeed, because the main attraction is in fact Shotaway, and things are just beginning.
Before they take to the stage, their nervous meandering is temporarily quashed by a myriad of luscious sounds, and Mamas Lips are the first to scrawl their learnings onto the parchment. Led by Jack Birks, an unquestionable talent, their marrying of country, blues and rock and roll sees them stroll, bound and often leg it through a wealth of traditional early 70s rock sensibilities, certainly calling on The Band and their contemporaries, so to label it Americana-influenced, wouldn’t be too far from the truth. But as with all truths, stipulations apply, and there’s soul buried in this like a Muscle Shoals Christmas party, so whether we‘re talking about Free or Jackson Browne, the likes of John Martyn and Sam Cooke equally apply. ‘Take It Easy...’ is a driving howl of richly suave tones and up-start blues, while championing ‘Railroad’ as their final statement hones in on their ability to not only write solidly great songs, but to execute them with the ease of a Morrison verse with the panache of James Brown.
When Pivotal blast into their noir musings, you can’t help but wonder that Matt Berninger has a lot to answer for. There is always the risk of post-punk proceedings like this to fade into monotony, but it’s so cleanly avoided by their continuous acceleration that they’re strangely uplifting. Lee Pearce certainly seemed to enjoy himself at the helm of this relatively new outfit, and without mentioning Interpol (oops), cats like The Walkman, Joy Division and, perhaps, even TV on the Radio, have all contributed to this melange of illumination in the twilight.
And from the lo-toned hum of Pivotal’s lingering feedback comes the ghost of Ian Curtis by way of Leeds’ lost children, The Music, and it’s taken the form of Kassasin Street. It’s intensely apparent that this collection of players are exceptionally educated in the innovations of sonic discovery, fusing the up-tempo vein of electronica with incendiary guitar sounds plucked from Detroit Social Club and The Big Pink. ‘Talk In Riddles’ is a highlight for this writer, it’s kaleidoscopic energy baffles, namely because this fusion of dance and indie attracts and appeals across the board. It’s tough to deny their capabilities, their erratic bass, intensely accurate drumming and utterly lovable front-man. God bless you boys, it was a pleasure.
By the time ’Gimme Shelter’ fades into the beery abyss and out the PA, the twenty seconds of rapturous applause that fills the air is greeted by a stage-bounding Will Porter who is first on to revel in this sensational instant. Followed swiftly by the rest of the boys, ‘More Money’ kicks off proceedings with a hell raising lick and middle finger to accompany the ramshackle street-heavy grit of the urban rock smash’n’grab. Somewhere between Rage Against the Machine, Cage the Elephant and early Keys, their gnarly ambition, coupled with an thoroughly uncontainable stage presence, means this is rock music with a little bit on the side. Fast-paced, screamed through battered lungs, hell bent on carnage, ‘24 Hours Is A Short Day’ and fan favourite, ‘Northern Lies’ cause bodies to be hurled, crushed, pushed and pulled while brick-built security battle to figure out which gobby stoner in the crowd spilt rum down their tank sized sheepskin coat. It’s really is a beautiful mess.
Mark Thompson’s playing has progressed into a more bluesy sphere at points, letting loose every now and then, the gravely licks are traded with hard-hitting skins with the biggest afro in the venue bopping along with each grand beat. Chants of ‘Chase on bass’ solidify the 17 year old bassist’s profile as the coolest fucking kid at any school in the south, while his brother unleashes his raspy vocals centre stage - rarely actually staying centre and seemingly possessed by Robert Plant via Iggy Pop.
And when it‘s over and a brand new song closes this cluster-fuck of rock, the significance of this evening poses as prolific for a number of reasons: a sell out crowd of 400 plus, the christening of a new venue, a culmination of local talent that shouldn’t remain local for long, but perhaps most of all, it’s a temporary community of solidarity and celebration; estranged from the world for the just a few hours to freak out with old friends and new companions, to yell and sing and drink and dance. These are the defining moments. These are the unsung heroics, the materialisation of uncompromising romanticism come to blossom, we don’t need nostalgia because the past is absent and the future is now. And when people finally scatter into the night, trading hugs and handshakes like football stickers in a playground, I feel privileged to be a part of something this inclusive with such a special collection of individuals. We’re proud of these people, the ones we know and the ones we don’t, the players' who continue to dream and breathe life into amps and speakers. Keep it going, keep it alive, dig the new breed.
Welcome to the fucking rock show, it’s good to be back.
By Dan Jones