22nd February | Old England
Photos: Jess Greenwood
“You haven’t heard of Lazarus Kane?” asked Richard Walsh, founder of 1% of One and responsible for putting the night together, a grin spreading across his face. It’s not often that the first band of the evening steals the show before it’s even begun, but with a reputation that precedes them – thanks no doubt to their zany demeanour and spectacularly decadent sound – Lazarus Kane are quickly gaining a mass following in Bristol.
“I am Lazarus Kane,” drawled the band’s frontman in a low, mock Southern-US accent – a mirage of ultimate eccentricity, with his green kimono, Agent Smith-esque polarised glasses, bolo tie and wild curly hair – he swooped in directly from the men’s toilets and joined the dynamic array of characters poised theatrically on the stage.
The band share striking similarities with Father John Misty, but are also unlike anything that’s come before. Driving synthesisers captured the atmosphere of the evening, with drum machines that perforated right to the back of the crowd, and deep, resonant vocals swamped amidst a sea of reverb and backed up by a delay that went on for days.
“This song’s about writing songs, because – why not,” quipped the elusive Lazarus Kane, before launching into ‘Nothing More, Nothing Less’, and continuing to writhe and gyrate about the stage for the rest of the set, which was summed up rather succinctly by a disembodied voice from the crowd: “He’s a fucking nutter, isn’t he?”
A four-piece band also hailing from the South West, The Shuks had a much grizzlier sound than their predecessors and featured some pretty impressive slurring guitar. The trudging bass and crashing drums hinted delightfully towards The Strokes, especially in suggestively-named ‘Casablanca’. What’s more, the sliding guitar and psych-rock melding of tracks, ‘I’m No Better’ and ‘Korea’, expanded the timbre laid out by Lazarus Kane, propelling the gig onto another plain entirely, and offering the perfect jumping point between the first and final act of the night – Vinyl Staircase.
The headliner’s onstage presence was flawless: singer and guitarist, Mike Thorpe hanging from the rafters of the stage, and jumping down into the audience was the epitome of punk-meets-kooky-indie; they still have some way to go before their live sound catches up with their image. ‘On the Radio’ and ‘Feel It’ captured the mayhem and energy of their recordings, whereas tracks such as ‘Cherry’ weren’t as convincingly executed in the live environment, and thus lost some of their happy-go-lucky indie quality.
This being said, Vinyl Staircase are just starting out, and it’s remarkable just how far they’ve come entirely independent of any label. In terms of live performance, they may not yet be at the top of their game – but whether that’s down to having fewer miles on the clock, or simply a reflection of the rapidly-changing musical landscape which they find themselves in, is not yet apparent. Nevertheless, Vinyl Staircase took to the stage with the vigour that you’d expect from a band embarking on their first headline tour, and as far as Friday night at the Old England goes, Richard Walsh executed the sold-out event immaculately.
See the video for ‘Last I Heard’ here: