It’s a credit to the strength of the current British pop-punk scene that two of its rising talents are able to pack an impressive number of kids into an intimate space on a grim Sunday night in Leeds. And in a venue that’s miles out of the city centre for that matter. But that’s exactly what Victory Lane and Catch Fire did this weekend, and Already Heard also headed to Eiger Studios to see a packed bill of hungry bands tear it up.
Young York pop-punks Safeguard make the ballsy move of pressing ahead with their set despite being without their vocalist due to illness. They smash out a really promising take on the genre, and produce a set that’s significantly better than either it has any right to be or than they themselves realise it is. Bassist Zak Lonsdale shows some serious cajones stepping into the vocalist role. Although he’s clearly not comfortable in the role, he keeps it shouty and excitable enough to limit any vocal shortcomings and does a better job than the full-time singer in some bands. Once they’re back to full strength this lot are definitely an act to keep an eye out for a Deadbolt festival in a few weeks. (2.5/5)
One of the hardest touring acts in the underground UK rock scene, Gloucester’s Elessar brush off the cramped surroundings to put in a composed and effortlessly slick performance. The swagger with which they deliver their songs underlines the value of honing your gig chops whenever and wherever you can. New song ‘Halflives’ displayed a keener edge and more bite and intensity to the riff work and vocals than the older material on offer. If more new songs in this vein are in the pipeline it could be a very interesting few months ahead for the band. (3/5)
When they dropped recent new EP ‘Louder Than Words’, Victory Lane emphatically marked themselves out as an act to watch in the emerging new crop of British pop-punk bands. The release packed in four solid gold bangers, and live the Black Country outfit feel just as essential. Even if on this occasion some technical snafus do their best to hamper he band’s momentum. ‘Said and Done’ provides the undeniable standout, crackling with life and packing infectious riff work by the shedload. (4/5)
Much like their tour mates, Nottingham lads Catch Fire are another act on the verge of making some major waves on the UK pop-punk scene. The quintet have some properly killer jams at their disposal, and here they deliver them with plenty of aplomb and composure. In Miles Kent, they have a frontman that has an intense and attention grabbing stage presence, and an ability to get his audience in the palm of his hand that much older vocalists don’t possess. The relentless guitars of ‘Guilty as Charged’ stirs up plenty of movement in the kids packed into the small space, while the refrain of the excellent ‘Sylvester’ has its refrain bellowed joyfully back at the stage by most of the room.
Just as it seems the set is over, various crowd members begin calling for ‘Wild Things’ and the band immediately cave to the peer pressure. It creates a pretty special moment as half the room loses its mind and turns the space into a blur of flying limbs, as all five members of the band look on delighted at the spontaneous chaos they’ve created. The song ends the night on a major high and underlines that Catch Fire are more than ready to headline much, much larger spaces. (4/5)
At a time when American labels are routinely picking up UK pop-punk bands, both Catch Fire and Victory Lane absolutely have to be at the front of the queue to get their music out there to a much larger audience. Both are ready for it and have the song writing ability to create a great EP worthy of the likes of Pure Noise, Hopeless Records or Fearless Records. If any of these labels are wise enough to pick them up they’ll be adding some major potential to their roster.
Words by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright). Photo credit: George Girvan.