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Missing the majority of Page 44's set, UK alt-rockers Canterbury are the first band I manage to catch good and proper this evening. With the Engine Shed already half full and a large portion of those present crammed by the stage, the four musicians walk out to a very respectably sized audience. As smoke fills the stage which is illuminated predominantly by back lighting, it's an atmospheric scene for Canterbury to perform and apt for their music which, between the more hard-hitting, heavier passages, has some nicely layered guitars to create different moods. The vocal harmonies between Mike Sparks, James Pipe, and Luke Prebble are also very effective. With the crowd already seemingly pumped up from Page 44's performance, Canterbury's infectious tunes and lively presence serve to work them into an even greater frenzy as small pits break out and, clearly pleased by such a positive reaction, Sparks comments that this is the best show of the tour so far and, albeit the first time, they absolutely love playing Lincoln. Just who the "Canterbury rock" they state is for sale on the merch stand is supposed to appeal to is anyone's guess (kids with a sweet tooth I guess) but, gimmick confectionary aside, this bunch of young musicians have an impressive arsenal of tunes from opener 'Peace & Quiet' to set closer 'Friends? We're More Like a Gang', and will surely not remain unsigned for much longer.
Tuesday 1st November 2011
The Engine Shed in Lincoln, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Following Canterbury, We Are The Ocean are up next with their brand of post-hardcore/alt-rock discharge and it seems backlit bands is the lighting engineer's modus operandi as smoke machines spew out more clouds and band members appear mainly as silhouettes. Only formed four years ago but already with 2 albums and a couple of EPs out there in the world, We Are The Ocean have amassed quite a following through extensive touring and some prestigious festival appearances. Such popularity can be witnessed in the Engine Shed tonight as the audience literally go crazy for the band with a huge pit erupting in the middle of the vociferous crowd. And when frontman Dan Brown requests a circle pit later on in the set, a significant portion of the 800-900 present oblige. Brown also seems to enjoy direct contact with the band's fans as he leaps from the stage at one point and sings up against the barrier as kids tug at his t-shirt and, later in the set, two roadies appear to hold the mic lead so that he can jump over the barrier right into the middle of the audience (who seem reluctant to let him go as his band mates have to request - "let him back up here!"). Whilst We Are The Ocean's music is not particularly for me, I can't help but admire the raw energy they convey and sustain through their performance. An overly loud, muddy sound and mix through the PA abates the overall clarity of their songs so perhaps tonight isn't the best of shows to make a judgement as to just how effective We Are The Ocean are as a live act.
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With a longer change-over time than the three preceding bands, crew members prepare the stage and gear for the imminent arrival of The Blackout, rising stars of the post-hardcore/alt-rock fusion scene that seems to be rife at the moment. And with the venue no more than half-full, as has been the case all night, when the Welsh sextet eventually hit the stage, what the audience lacks in size they make up for with ubiquitous deafening cheers and are vivacious in their movement as hands are raised high in the air and the front half of the venue becomes a sea of bodies jumping up and down with occasional pits breaking out. It's a positive reception for The Blackout who commence attack with set opener 'This is Our Time'. As with We Are The Ocean, everything is probably cranked up far too loud through the PA for the venue's size but where that stripped said band's music of much clarity, it seems to work to The Blackout's advantage, giving the music a lot more weight than it has recorded. My only real criticism is the 'choked' snare sound of Gareth Lawrence's kit which really does come across as quite amateurish, particularly at this level, and deprives the songs of some of their bite. Still, the crowd either don't seem to mind or even notice as the band plough their way through an eighty or so minute set that sees new tracks such as 'Ambition is Critical', 'The Devil Inside' and 'You're Not Alone' mixed up with much older material from their debut mini-album like 'I'm a Riot? You're a Fucking Riot!' and 'It's High Tide Baby'. Echoing Canterbury's sentiments, Sean Smith informs the audience that, although Lincoln isn't the biggest audience, this is the best show of the tour so far "because you're all so mental". This seems to spark an even livelier response from the Engine Shed crowd from thereon and Smith's command that as many people as possible circle the sound desk during the band's next song, only to withdraw his request by saying "actually, don't do that, it probably isn't safe"...too late, the sound desk and engineers are suddenly encompassed by a fast moving circle of a couple of hundred people! Stating with pride that they'll adorn the front cover of Kerrang the following day, it seems The Blackout are a band continually on the up although it's nice to hear Smith and fellow vocalist Gavin Butler tell the audience in a sincere tone that they're all so thankful of such success as they never expected their current level of popularity from what were humble roots in South Wales when they originally formed back in 2003. Eschewing the encore formality, The Blackout conclude their set with 'Higher and Higher' after which lights are promptly turned on in the venue and the crowd immediately disperse. Snare drum issues aside, the Welsh musicians' set in Lincoln has been a successful one and it's refreshing to hear a heavier side to the band in a live environment. While not the best example of the post-hardcore/alt-rock fusion (Waterdown's 2003 album 'The Files You Have On Me' epitomises the genre in my opinion), The Blackout undoubtedly have a long career ahead of them and perhaps we have yet to see their best. Live, though, can't fault 'em.
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