January 23rd 2013
It’s a Wednesday night in Williamsburg, and one of the UK’s buzziest new bands in town. Despite living in the same city as Palma Violets I have not seen them live, either not being on the pulse enough to catch them before gaining the attention of the masses, or quick enough (and bothered) enough to see them now that they have.
In a dive bar on Kent Avenue, from which you can see Brooklyn & Williamsburg bridges, a diverse crowd gathers for respite from the cold and to catch up and coming acts. If this situation were an equation it would be hipsterᶟ. A few bucks for a well spirit, a smudged mark on the hand, and I am ready to explore the scene. Glasslands Gallery is a homegrown space, all arts and enthusiasm, and a rite of passage for many new bands to New York. Overlooking the stage is a mezzanine floor, perfectly situated for those of us who are either short, concerned by personal space, or often find crowd watching as interesting a spectacle as people watching.
The few locals I end up chatting with all earnestly praise this little English band called Alt J, marvelling at the rapturously ascendant chords and intoxicating sounds that have apparently entranced both sides of the pond. I admit to being somewhat surprised at their love for a band whom I would cite as being more abstract and intelligent than the US market demands. But then what do I and my stereotyping self know? I was glad however that I could educate them on the origin of the name Palma Violets, those lilac perfume flavoured sweets that were to be found on the inside of party bags and the outside of comics as children.
Kicking off tonight are The Teen Age, a band who do that very teenage thing of being so very nice one minute and so utterly yobbish the next. One of their very first shows, humming psychedelic riffs and direct dashes, their lyrics are of delight and disconnection, delivered with a heady hormonal delight and brash guitar riffs.
Next up were Canadian Hollerado. A spectacular cacophony of impulsive chords and rampant melodies, accentuated by falling confetti, this was a display straddling the shambolic and self assured. Final song Juliette was a standout, accentuated by the multiple endings – reggae, rock, licks and tricks flinging between the genres.
So, Palma Violets. The frenetic enthusiasm that he music industry has greeted this Lambeth band with has landed them many a magazine cover and radio play. Their first single, Best of Friends as the NME’s track of 2012, and Step Up For The Cool Cats was Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record In The World.. Inheriting some of the best bits of rock’n’roll, there is an excitement and hyperbole that fizzles.
You can’t deny the here’s a Vaccines rip off vibe, but the palpable chemistry between frontmen Sam Fryer and Chilli Jesson helps to dismiss this. Like The Libs before them, they bounce off one another with a fraternal connection. Whether this is a conscious nod to their heroes, or a sly marketing ploy (are they old enough to remember Pete and Carl’s heyday?) the tussling and hugging relationship seems genuine and is inspiring to see. Tunes are simple and direct, but delivered with such defiant scuzz that they inject real excitement.
Let’s face it, Palma Violets may not last, but if they ignite the year of guitar music with as much exhilaration as they put into their live shows, they have certainly delivered their goods.