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The Velvetines @ O2 Bar Academy Islington

| On 27, Aug 2010

[cincopa 10729961]

London, 18th August

Last time I was at the Bar Academy, it was the Carling Academy 2, and I was 14 years old and scared of the boozed-up metalheads. Three years later I bring my slightly jaded and much less easily intimidated self back to find that the night’s music may be different, but the alcohol content of the audience remains a constant.

First up was Stereo Juggernaut. Any regulars (hello there) might remember they supported the Justice Force 5 back in July when I saw them play 93 Feet East, and their valiant battle against some truly monumental feedback to convey a sense of passion and belief in their own music that piqued my interest enough to make me want to see them in a better venue. And rewardingly enough my hunch was confirmed: without the layers of sludge plaguing the set, Stereo Juggernaut are a band that have a strong and already distinctive songwriting ability. They are able to combine elements of punk, metal, techno and pop to create a voice that is entirely their own. Recorded the electronic elements can get a little overwhelming but live, they shine as a powerful sonic force, not only writing a fair few headbanging riffs adorned by raw vocals and soaring electronics, but they can vary the emotion and atmosphere between songs and each one will still come across as powerful and heartfelt as the last, whether it be yowling bile through veils of distortion or a moment of melodic introspection. Crunching hooks are given just as much sweat and soul as the breathy techno. Being the opening act, they of course had the usual “ghosts in the machine” to deal with, but they carried on as best they could and they are able to use their charm to build a rapport with the audience through the impact of their music. I’ll say that they are a band yet to stretch their wings fully, as some of their songs begin to get similar, but moments like the standout ‘Defeated By The Sea’ and the heart-tugging ‘Rosie’ are indications of great things in the works for this young and exciting band.

Unfortunately, the rest of the evening slowed somewhat after Stereo Juggernaut’s shining opening. My Echo were the next band up. Purporting to be a grunge/soul outfit, they instead played a slightly lacklustre rock that was good – with stable melodies and a drummer who knows his way around a drumkit with obvious confidence – but there was a feeling of something lacking. Even though they did put effort into their set, it just didn’t quite reach the impassioned vitality of the previous band. Their singer especially seemed oddly devoid of any emotion other than the giddiness of being on stage and this showed as their songs indeed managed to spring from the speakers in a manner that was serviceable but failed to create any strong impressions. As a support act, they were more than acceptable, but I would not feel the need to purposely see them again as they failed to grab me.

The Velvetines capped off the evening, bringing with them their groove-laden party rock sound. Blending elements of scuzzy 80s powerpop with sweetly catchy melodies, they hold a suggestion of what might happen if an underground glam-punk/metal band such as Dogs D’Amour started in our fair 2000s. Fronted by a sultry-voiced frontwoman who oozed confidence, they at least put in a considerable amount more effort than My Echo, and this paid off as the set felt a lot more alive, rescuing the night from going out with a whimper at least. Their songs were melodic and hooky, with one hell of a danceable groove in the bass. However, The Velvetines are very much a good-times band, and the decision to play Aerosmith songs between the sets gives a reasonable indication of what the act was like. Their singer does indeed exude an undeniable allure, and clad in a lace bodysuit and little else she owned the stage with a smoky voice as the band played through their Americana-tinted powerpop. However, the risks of having a scantily-clad frontwoman comes in the inevitable form of the drunken lads’ brigade that pushed their way to the front and proceeded to, well, not quite mosh but throw themselves around a fair amount and bay at the band. The Velvetines took this all in their stride, but this made the whole affair turn from sexy to seedy, and that kind of atmosphere did little to raise the band.

In closing, I can see that with the right kind of crowd The Velvetines could be a good live band, but unfortunately on that night, the Nuts Magazine brigade and the letdown of My Echo meant that I couldn’t get into the set.

Author & Photos: Katie H-Halinski