Manchester-based rockers We Signal Fire hosted a fantastic night of hard rocking bands at the Club Academy proving that there’s plenty of life and versatility in a genre so often overlooked for the ‘cool’ kids.
Opening proceedings were Soldato, a four-piece from Leyland (and Lithuania!), whose set was delayed due to the bassist’s ill-timed toilet trip. However, once he found his way to the stage (and had hopefully washed his hands), the glorious riffs and powerful vocals soon have everyone forget the starting faux pas. It does have a knock-on effect, though, as the band’s already short set has to lose a song, stripping us of the brilliant Insane. A mighty mix of traditional rock and groovy, meaty riffs that bring to mind a bouncy Pearl Jam in their heyday, they are instantly memorable and have the crowd on board from the start. Tech problems slightly mare closer Double Time as vocalist John Taylor’s pedals appear to play up, clearly frustrating him but he soldiers on like the pro he is, and it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment.
Next up: Sertraline, who’ve been solidly supporting their latest EP Guilty, playing regularly and building a strong following, and it shows. Brilliant stage presence accompanies the accomplished songs and powerful, infectious riffs. Lizzie’s vocals take the full rock range, from harmonic to full-on screamo. It’s not so much to put off those who don’t particularly like that style, though, as the songs are what matter here, and they are catchy and it’s easy to sing along. It’s great to see female-fronted bands move away from a symphonic style; while that has its place, it’s refreshing for the aggression and power to return to rock. With a mini-European tour to look forward to, Sertraline is certainly going places.
Peur hits the stage with a plume of smoke and saturated lights. In fact, for the entirety of their 25-minute set, we hardly see them at all. It does force one to focus on the music, though. And it’s a brilliantly angst-ridden progression of the likes of Bush and the stoner rock of Queens of the Stone Age. Producing a mighty sound, the three-piece build up a whopping noise thanks to pedals and loops, and the brooding closing number shows a confidence in their material lacking in some mainstream bands.
Lowlives was a last-minute addition to the bill, having found themselves in the UK from their native LA without a tour when The Used was forced to cancel. Pulling together friends and contacts, they managed to get an impressive line-up of gigs in a short time. And they certainly were a revelation. Sounding somewhere between Nirvana and early Foo Fighters but with a spark of their own and certainly not derivative, they lit up the stage and excelled for their allotted time. So much so that many in the audience were hoping for a little more.
It was not to be, sadly, as the downside of a five-band bill is the dreaded short set. So it’s down to headliners We Signal Fire to keep the momentum and rocking going, which they do with ease. On face value, they look as though they’ve just assembled for a rehearsal. Without the usual visual affectations of the wannabe rock star, each member surprises in their ability. Guitarist Pete Clough adds vocals on some songs and is the biggest revelation. Powerful and souring, his voice surpasses his look more than most. They also sound unlike any of the bands that shared the bill. There’s an emphasis on melody but still powerful enough to appeal to the hard rocking audience. Vocalist Chloe Houston commands the stage effortlessly without the need for the overly sexualised posturing so often seen. It’s a sound that could easily crossover like bands such as Evanescence have.
When big bands are commanding vastly overinflated prices for shows at places where the majority would be lucky to make out their faces, it’s even more important to support grassroots bands like the five who performed here. Give some new music a try; you never know when you’ll be seeing the future arena headliners. For less than a tenner, we had five acts who could all individually go places in the future. That’s what makes independent music of any genre so fantastic.