We The Kings

support I See Stars + All Forgotten + VersaEmerge
author BL date 14/02/11 venue Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, UK

So its Valentines Day, and I am off to Portsmouth again for an explosive action packed night of heavy... wait no actually looking at the lineup I see a distinctively less heavy roster of bands that all have a big poppy side to appeal to the kids who preferred to spend Valentines at a show (and good on them) instead of in some nice restaurant having dinner. I have to admit that I See Stars were probably the band I wanted to see the most personally, purely because I enjoyed their last album a fair bit and this was their first time in the UK. VersaEmerge were also an exciting prospect nevermind those who put them in the shadow of a band like Paramore when there's plenty to differentiate them. The night didn't actually get off as smoothly as I had hoped when an interview with VersaEmerge failed to 'emerge' (that was terrible, sorry) because I was slightly late to the venue due to transport, but nevermind.

I See Stars

It seemed like a lot of people in the crowd weren't expecting anything remotely close to a band with any heavy elements tonight, either that or not many people turned up for these electro-hardcore guys from Michigan, US. It's a shame really that not many people seemed to get into the spirit of the show (though frankly with most of the floor here to see the other more poppy acts and a lot of them being young teenager fangirls that's not too surprising) because I See Stars did an albeit short but very solid and respectable set. The sound was bright and crisp and packed a punch when it was needed (like the breakdowns), lead vocalist Devin Oliver's voice stood out pretty well and was surprisingly on pitch if you imagine how high those pitches were. Sure okay the formula of post-hardcore with electronics, and even some pop/punk and emo thrown in is hardly one to seem original nowadays considering how immensely popular the genre has become since this band first made it on to the map with "3D", but I can't fault I See Stars for doing what they do with hardly any fault in their performance. They did their best to get the crowd going and despite hardly any movement, people showed their appreciation with their applause and for those who came to see them, got at least their money's worth.


All Forgotten

All Forgotten were the only British band on the bill, and everyone seemed much more keen to get behind the national locals. But as solid as they may have looked as a alt-rock/post-hardcore outfit, boy is their sound utterly pigeonholed into the British stereotype. Everything about the songs they played just seemed like something you've heard before, and there's not a shortage of bands playing the same kind of music ever since You Me At Six exploded into popularity - sure you have some variations and some are heavier than others, but its mostly still the same. I remember on the EP the songs having some screaming here and there but none of that was present in the show, I got told that it might be a different vocalist apparently. This would have been fine either way, but the new singer seemed to occasionally struggle to keep his voice from cracking under the strain of some of the notes - there were some flat sounding moments that did not please the ear to say the least. In terms of crowd response, people sang along and clapped and you could feel the excitement in the air. But I knew better than to be swayed by more than just how everyone else likes it, especially if you can't impress with the music first.



No matter how hard you try the comparisons to Paramore just won't go away despite the stylistic differences, but nonetheless the band had an impressive audience following and you could hear the roar as the lead vocalist Sierra Kusterbeck took to the stage to kick things off quickly. Opening with the album titled track from the recently released in the UK new album "Fixed At Zero" (it had been out in the US for a while), something just didn't seem right. From where I was standing, Sierra's voice sounded faint and lost in the mix and apart from the real power moments where she had to really push herself, it was difficult to get into her performance no matter how much she tried. She seemed to be aware of some kind of technical difficulty and kept trying to adjust her ear piece (she probably couldn't hear herself) throughout, and there were a flew flat notes (probably as a result of the technical issues as well I suspect). The rest of the band did their best in the mean time (including the fill-in drummer) to keep things going with all the energy they could seemly muster, but the whole set just felt incomplete, like a letdown by the end. You can see it on their faces that they knew things weren't going all that well, but credit to them they stuck at it and given the circumstances even though people afterwards seemed disappointed, they still readily cheered them on. I'd say I would be interested to see them again given the chance, since this time had promise but won't be worth remembering for all its glorious details.

We The Kings

The headliners no doubt attracted a mostly female fanbase here tonight, as the noise level of the wailing screams became unbearable as We The Kings appeared, having no hesistation before jumping into "Skyway Avenue". I can't be considered much of a We The Kings if I'm honest, especially after their extremely mediocre last album "Smile Kid", but back when they were all about their self titled album I actually enjoyed a few songs they had. Sure enough its stupidly simple, very poppy and sappy, and and fluffy lyrics all designed as that teen romantic comedy soundtrack that plays when the loser/hero eventually gets the unlikely girl right at the end after suffering misfortune throughout. Its the kind of band that also seems to go with the Valentines Day holiday as well (nice timing with the show date eh?) considering the sort of things they sing about, even more so when they even have a song called "Secret Valentine" (its a good song if you ask me though).

The band live more or less seemed how I imagined, pretty predictable in terms of simple pop rock but also easy going. The sound wasn't perfect and the instruments seemed a bit quiet, but you don't exactly expect crushing thick guitars and furious bass pedal drums with this band, and Travis Clark commanded almost all the attention anyway with his admittedly decent singing performance. The vibe and atmosphere never really seemed to take off all that much though from where I was and I have to say that while We The Kings are competent at their stage presence, its missing that special charisma that a band like this ought to naturally possess considering they're pretty limited in what else they can offer musically.

My familiarity with songs from the new album played being dwindling, I remember at least "She Takes Me High" being the only new song that at least was mildy enjoyable since if you ask me - a lot of the songs from the new album barely stand out and tend to sound even more similar to each other than their already samey discography. One thing that I couldn't get into was how much Travis spent talking about seemingly small details about themselves (or actually about himself in particular), and while the girls in the crowds probably thought it fun - it was eating up precious time that I could spend watching the guys play. Having to catch the last train back I left the venue with a few songs to spare, no doubt missing "Check Yes Juliet" and "Secret Valentine", which are their best songs. But never the less I saw enough to at least know that, I probably am a bit too old to want to see We The Kings again, but I'm sure they'll be back - they seem to enjoy coming to this place.


Photos courtesy of Lauren Harris. To see the rest of the photos check out Lauren Harris Photography's facebook page.

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