Camden, London. It’s just gone October, the cold autumn breeze brings a frown to my face, ‘how can it be this cold already?’. Just outside the tube station, greeted by the usual rabble; tourists, panhandlers, ticket scalpers and concert goers. A concoction of smoke, nicotine and more, mixed with kebab, fries and spilled beer invade the senses. The birthplace of punk. Probably no other part of London is more suitable for the equally gritty Australian post-hardcore outfit, The Amity Affliction.
Yes it’s cold outside, but a simple light shirt is enough, it was about to get very, very warm inside the Electric Ballroom. A huge mid-week lineup, Endless Heights (AUS), Dream State (UK) and The Plot In You (USA) each taking the stage in support of the gargantuan Amity Affliction. A huge crowd looking anxious to get rowdy should be enough to keep out the cold.
Endless Heights appear first, a band who’ve undergone a transitional change from a post-hardcore sound through to a more mature indie sound. The set starts to the sprawling soundscape created by an eerie backing track, at once ominous, airy and inviting. The five members walk onto the stage, looking like they’ve just walked out of Beyond Retro or from the cover of hipster magazine. Opening with an upbeat danceable Indie track which the band delivered with plenty of energy and surprising maturity. Both the vocalist and guitarist nailing vocal harmonies as they slowly weave their way through several mid-tempo tracks. Vocalist Joel Martorana, in a classically casual Australian manner eggs on the crowd ‘Everybody put their hands in the air, this is how the Aussies do it’ hands shot up and swayed in unison. The set is authentic, with driving gravelly bass lines, vocal harmonies and layered stratospheric guitar licks. Towards the end of the set, both drummer and bassist sneak off, giving focus to the melodic elements, both guitars and vocals sculpting a sophisticated ballad that sweeps across the audience like a warm blanket.
Appearing next is Swansea born Dream State, having recently been signed to UNFD records, among the likes of huge names like Northlane and In Hearts Wake, it’s certainly been a massive 12 months past for the female fronted five piece. Dream State sits somewhere between indie and post-hardcore, which makes for a subtle step up in intensity from Endless Heights. Their set opens to a purple lit aura, confirming a much darker style than the inaugural band. Vocalist CJ Gilpin enthusiastically takes command of the stage, her presence making it hard to look away to take notes or check the other band members. Now an admiral on stage, Gilpin conveys both confidence mixed with vulnerability, making use of every available inch of space, and then into the crowd, pushing songs through while crowd surfing is an incredible display of trust and companionship with the audience. Want a circle pit? Gilpin asks and the enraptured crowd obeys, such is her influence over the audience tonight. In between songs, Gilpin takes an opportunity to address the issue of mental health, with relatable and personal stories, but with an infectious optimism, ‘We’re all family’ a message which doesn’t go unnoticed. The band is tight, playing with their pre-programmed samples keeping the band grounded and in-time. A missing bass player does leave the sound mix a little empty and the samples do seem to encumber the live performance from reaching its full dynamic potential, but the sheer raw energy from the front(wo)man keeps the crowd engaged and connected. It’s easy to see the potential in this band and why the crowd surges with admiration.
Completing the supporting lineup are American rock group The Plot In You. Lights lowered and spectral samples playing, a sea of phones rise up to capture the opening moments. Landern Tewers, lead vocalist and master of instruments, takes the stage to an eruption of applause. Tewers stands alone as he begins the haunting opening lines of the song “Rigged” from their newest album Disposed. The rest of the band unite on stage and bring the intensity up another notch. The song’s crescendo brings an onslaught of strobe lights and thunderous bass drops only to leave the sound of hundreds of hands clapping from the crowd. The Plot In You play through their more recent back catalogue, the performance is polished and large, but slightly apathetic compared to the uncontained energy of the previous bands. Mostly playing to pre-recorded samples, there’s a slight feeling of apprehension as the band keeps their energy in check where it could become more dynamic and interactive, but is held back by the unforgiving backing track. Tewers guides his band through their classic tracks “My Old Ways” and “Take Me Away” his vocals effortlessly switching between harmonic cleans and chewy growls. The Plot In You deliver a polished and professional performance, missing some of the audience connection delivered earlier in the night, but an example of refined and sophisticated rock performance.
The Amity Affliction (TAA) drop onto the stage with perhaps the most lights anyone has put onto this Electric Ballroom set before. The stage brighter than the sun, their first track darker than the night, “Drain the Lake” off their latest album Misery shows a new side to the post-hardcore band. Trading in their more punkier and brutal sounds for synth and falsetto, TAA have defined a new musical direction on this album and this tour is about bringing their fans along the ride with them. It’s risky because of their truly immense hardcore fanbase, traditionally resistant to any kind of musical divergence. Ahren Stringer, Joel Birch and Dan Brown, all brought their singing voices tonight, vocally playing off each other, with everyone mixing harsh and clean styles. TAA’s powerful presence on stage, led by harsh vocalist Birch, is relatably angry with the world but open and thankful for the ability to share with friends. A real connection between Birch and the crowd becomes more and more tangible as the show moves through timeless brutal sing-a-longs like “I Bring The Weather With Me”, “Shine On”, “Chasing Ghosts” and “Open Letter”. In a moment of quiet while instruments are changed over, Birch takes an opportunity to address the crowd, on theme with mental health he articulately connects with everyone ‘I want you to turn to the person next to you and ask them if they’re alright’. Brown, who just brought out the acoustic guitar, strums the opening riff to “All Fucked Up”, with both himself and Stringer harmonising vocals, to the crowd crooning along. Obviously an important song to a lot of the people watching, a couple start dancing, hand in hand while TAA serenade everyone mid-set. The remainder of the set is dominated by newer tracks, with some like ‘Feels Like I’m Dying’ directed by pre-recorded samples, TAA lose a little bit of their performance rawness and energy, still feeling out the newer material.
The band ‘finish’ with “Set Me Free” with a turbulent sea of moshing, floating crowd surfers towards the stage, Birch rewarding them with a fist bump, before being carried away by security. Red lights engulfe the band, suitably sombre to accompany the gunshot samples and lyrical tone. The last notes ring out, the lights go down. But no house music, it’s still too early to go home, the crowd begins chanting ‘Amity, Amity!’ and it’s obvious they’ll return. Of course they do, it’s cliche but still exciting. TAA close the show with the synth heavy “Holier than Heaven”, before blasting out the crowd favourite “Pittsburgh” complete with bass drops that rattled the fillings from the teeth of everyone within 100 metres. With a wave and a thank you, TAA close for the evening.
The ‘Misery’ tour, Electric Ballroom Camden 4th of October 2018, was a showcase of fantastic international talent and the touring bands’ ability and bravery to develop and diversify their sound, combining energy, talent and courage.