RX Bandits

support Moneen + Failsafe
author AP date 26/05/10 venue Joiners, Southampton, UK

To my utter dismay, this show was sold out several weeks in advance, but the prospect of turning up anyway to see if there might be some tickets left on the door and having to potentially return home disappointed weighed less heavily on me than the prospect of potentially missing such a fantastic line-up. Indeed, one of the things I will miss about Southampton when I depart for good next week is its music scene, the Joiners venue in particular, and the excellent shows it rooms every day with both local and more established names. This was to be one of the last shows Southampton had to offer to me, so NB and I defied the sold-out sign and showed up at the venue early enough to be lucky and get a hold of two tickets.

Failsafe

Failsafe, it turns out, are on the verge of releasing their third album and have hundreds of notches on their live belt already. So much for the Joiners tradition of showcasing local, unsigned acts at these shows - but then, exceptions do happen and we should feel privileged because of them. Failsafe, at least, unveils from the unexpected a performance which gives even the veteran names on this tour poster a run for their money's worth. Although their alternative rock follows a rather simple formula, the band compensates with stunning tri-harmonised vocals, monumental melodies and impossible catchiness. The vocals in particular drag my jaw to the ground. It's not that Jim (lead vocals), Si (guitar) or Matt (also guitar) are especially able singers, but combine the three and the result is absolutely brilliant, as songs like "Hope", "Only If We Learn", "A Common Goal", "Guilt on Dirty Hands" and "Help Yourself" prove. Alert readers will notice that those five songs must comprise almost a full support-length set and quite right, the point that I am trying to bring across is that with the exception of one or two songs, everything blasting from the speakers before me is, err... music to my ears. Similarly the devotion that has gone into writing these songs has found its way to the performance, which is earnest and heartfelt during the emotional parts, and hyper-energetic in the punk-fueled bridges and choruses. Based on this show, Failsafe comes highly recommended for fans of bands like Moneen, Fastlane, This Is A Standoff and The Swellers.

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Moneen

Despite their cult status, Moneen still seem like they have to work harder than most bands for a crowd reaction. The Joiners attendance is keen to continue the band's uphill struggle by hardly even recognising their presence, but in their usual spirited fashion Moneen couldn't give two fucks about who knows them. No, they are here to give us our money's worth even if the majority of the audience didn't even ask for it and they're having an awesome time doing it - and this, I think, is something lots of bands should take note of. One of the best aspects about it all is that rather than an exponential curve of intensity, the show takes a sinusoidal shape of constant tension and release. Moneen's music demands this: in the quieter indie rock-kind parts their demeanor is patient and serene, with Chris Hughes dropping his guitar and stepping into the crowd to do some secondary percussion on a single tom-tom during "Believe" and Erik Hughes likewise abandoning his primary instrument in favor of the keyboard, and in the explosive instrumental parts Chris' dreadlocks are all over the place (much to the delight of our photographer methinks) while Kenny throws himself and his instrument around the stage like a maniac. As such there is only one complaint, and that is that once again, Moneen's set is much too short for a band of their status. Man do I want to see these guys headlining soon...

RX Bandits

For those unfamiliar with the band, the RX Bandits are essentially an alternative rock band who, after participating in the ska revivalist movement in the 90s, have begun to venture into increasingly more experimental directions by blending pop punk, funk, reggae and jazz into their sound. To stand and watch such a band live is to stand back in awe, wondering where they find the inspiration to craft such intricate, emotionally charged songs, and how much practice it must take to perfect the flawless interplay between the various band members in the countless jams that take place in between songs. It reminds me of the prescient intuition of John Frusciante and Flea when they engage in lengthy, often improvised instrumental duels during Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts. But unlike the infamous Roskilde Festival performance, in which said Peppers used more time showing off than playing songs to a disappointed audience, the RX Bandits have a far greater awareness of what works live and what doesn't, and consequently they come across as infinitely friendlier and more intimate than Red Hot Chili Peppers - and the RX Bandits are not exactly a bunch of newbie unknowns themselves, something which the rammed, sold out venue confirms.

That, and the jams are actually there in the studio recordings too, which makes them sound that much more appropriate. Unfortunately the amount of people inside the Joiners coupled with its poor ventilation systems means that the heat is absolutely unbearable halfway through the set, and in order to survive in this environment yours truly needs to extract himself from the front and watch the remainder of the set through the doorway clutching a delightfully cold beer. But while I am doing so, it strikes me how amusingly well the hot, humid air complements this music; it's like the band takes us into a beach party in some tropical paradise, and the fact that the RX Bandits are more like something to listen to eyes closed and imagine these things while absorbing the soothing melodies and bouncing beats, than to watch eyes fixed for their stage presence makes me not regret my disconnection from the general mass. Not that there is anything wrong with the band's stage presence: you'd be hard pressed trying to find someone more passionate about their music, and this reflects well in the devotion and warmth with which the band performs, however still they may be standing.

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