Think of ‘Palma Violets’ and for the majority of you reading this will be thinking of those tubes of pink/purple sweets that, despite tasting of soap, you used to cram as many in your mouth as possible at the Youth Club on a Tuesday night before your dad turned up at 8:50pm (traffic was bad at 9pm) to ferry you back home, ready for school in the morning. The reality is, ask the ‘youth of today’ and they will swoon at the name alone. To them, ‘Palma Violets’ conjures images of 4 ‘spunky’ guys who play a spiky brand of indie pop, which causes the entire front row to lose themselves for 90 minutes whilst the band weave their intricate and mesmerizing spell.
I heard a while back that they were playing in Exeter, I remembered seeing the band in Glasgow a few years back when they were on an NME ‘Introducing’ tour alongside other much lauded heavyweights of the ‘scene’ at the time. We thought that as a couple of years had passed, we’d be wise to go and see them and report back to you lovely people who may not have had the chance of checking them out.
It was a regular Thursday evening in Exeter, not a lot was ‘going down’, well, no more than usual anyway. The Phoenix Arts Centre was a hive of activity, even when myself and my photographer arrived, the bar was nearly full and teenagers of all shapes and sizes were huddled outside, sharing roll up cigarettes and exchanging stories of how they had been there since 4pm that afternoon, in the hope of catching a glimpse of one of the band members, I smiled a wry smile, thinking to myself, “Why did I never do that?”, maybe I could have done but I decided against standing out in the cold, waiting for a chance encounter with one of my heroes who, rather than stand gassing in the February rain, would much rather be in the dressing room, gorging on the ‘rider’ until showtime….
There was one support band on tonight’s bill, ‘Yak’, trying to search for the band on social media was nigh on an impossible task, I was getting all sorts of results come up on my ‘Smartphone’, including many images of long-haired bovids, none of them looked like they could play a musical instrument, well, if they did, it would be one HELL of a YouTube sensation! The band in question were infact a trio of humans, who played their instruments very well. Made up of Oliver Burslem, Andy Jones & Elliot Rawson and describing themselves on social media as ‘a band from London’, they entertained the near capacity crowd for the duration of their set. Their new track ‘Hungry Heart’ was full of driving beats, a Zeppelin-esque rolling bassline and a tremendous vocal that slotted perfectly within a stabbing guitar riff, before being drenched in distortion and effects.
Zane Lowe also enjoyed the track and even gave it a spin on his evening show earlier in February.
During their set, I heard glimpses of some classic acts, even a rare nod to Seattle grunge band Mudhoney with singer/guitarist Oli Burslem doing a damned good impression of Mark Arm during a couple of the tracks, never a bad thing, Mudhoney rule!
The remainder of their set was tight, with some great dirty blues licks being presented to the ‘less mature’ audience, I got the feeling that despite being in the room, the output of Yak may well have gone over their heads. All in all, a great band who played a solid set, delivered well and sounded awesome, I think we’re gonna be hearing a lot more of Yak in the not too distant future.
After Yak’s equipment was cleared away, the stage was set for Palma Violets to come and deliver their wares….
I slipped backstage to chat to Oli from Yak for a few minutes and after agreeing to do an interview later on, I was introduced to the keyboard player (Jeffrey Mayhew) from Palma Violets, he mentioned that the Plymouth crowd earlier on in the week were ‘nice’ and the venue (The Hub) was great and he hoped that the atmosphere tonight was going to be on par with it, only time would tell.
They took to the stage and exploded straight into their opening track ‘Rattlesnake Highway’, sending the crowd into overdrive, the mosh pit was in full force, young ladies were pressed against the barrier so hard, I was ready to expect a few limp, overwhelmed bodies to be passed over the top to recover, before being released back into the throng for more.
Sam and Alex were very animated on stage, Sam maybe less so, but Alex was out of control, dropping to his knees, jumping about and leaping from the drum riser before goading the front row of young impressionable ladies who reached out to touch his hand, all whilst the band were lapping up the attention. They played a blinding set of classic 'PV' songs including ‘Step Up For The Cool Cats’, ‘Best of Friends’ and 'We Found Love' which were graciously consumed by the audience
There was a fair amount of crowd surfing going on, quite rare for a midweek gig at The Phoenix which has more recently offered less ‘energetic’ evenings of entertainment where this type of behavior would not be suitable, think of a mosh pit at a nice gentle folk gig, it ain’t gonna happen…. Even so, it was fun to see the fans enjoying themselves, the high energy released by the band being absorbed by the audience who gave it back tenfold.
Midway through the show, I made out a frizzy haired figure who seemed to be asking everyone to sit down during a (rare) quiet section of a track, it took me a while but I soon realized it was a guy called Harry that we had met at the merch table earlier on in the evening, more exploits involving him later on!
More crowd surfers appeared over the barrier, I even saw some dude without any trousers on, unsure if he was stripped of these whilst in mid flight or whether he simply decided that he didn’t need them when he left the house, either way, it was quite amusing….
Harry the merch man then took to the stage and ‘assisted’ with vocals just before the encore, I envisaged him leaping off the stage into the audience and he had that look in his eye, minutes later, he took a run up and launched himself full stretch into the pit, luckily being caught by the pumped up front row who looked petrified! The band said their Thank You’s and left the stage, guitars thrown to the floor leaving a hum of feedback and reverb echoing out into the room.
A few minutes passed, the crowd were again getting restless, the band took to the stage to perform a 3 track encore kicking off with ‘Chicken Dippers’, ‘English Tongue’ prior to ending with their legendary song ‘14’ which, despite the energy expelled by the audience, had them up and jumping about once again, thank the lord I no longer have to stand in the front row, protecting my noggin from flying size 9’s and constantly apologizing to the young lady in front of me that I am involuntarily ‘groping’….
The Palma Violets don’t offer anything new in the field of music, if you’ve heard The Clash, The Libertines or any angsty alt/punk/rock act, you’re not gonna be blown away by their style or output, however, if you’ve never attended one of their live shows….well, I’ll save that for you to experience!