Live Review: London Calling Festival – 31.10.14

The amount of promising music making its way out of the UK and the US lately has been absolutely incredible. When you have the likes of Alt J and Haim smashing it on a bigger scale, you tend to forget that bands like this all started out playing toilet venues around the world to get somewhere. In and amongst all these tiny venues in dingy, faraway cities you also have the occasional festival which takes these small bands and puts them on the big stage. One of these is the bi-annual London Calling, which takes place in the beautiful surroundings of the Paradiso in Amsterdam. For two nights, the best bands from the UK and the US (and in this case also Australia and Sweden) gather to showcase their music to budding music fans and industry experts. Bands like The Black Keys, Foster the People and even Coldplay have performed at London Calling. All Things Loud was there for Day 1 of the festival, featuring performances from the likes of The Amazing Snakeheads, The Bohicas and Wild Child.

The evening kicked off with raucous Winchester trio Wild Smiles. Having just released their debut album Always Tomorrow, frontman Chris Peden led the band through a powerful 30-minute set in the sparsely populated Kleine Zaal. Evoking memories of London Calling alumni Palma Violets and grunge legends Nirvana, Peden (accompanied by his brother Joe, and drummer Ben Cook) took the opportunity to jump into the crowd as they played the likes of Fool for You and popular track Girlfriend. Wild Smiles showed the crowd how rock should be done, and will definitely follow the same paths of contemporaries Palma Violets if they keep this up. Following them a quick 20 minutes later was Philadelphian electronic musician Gap Dream. A former member of The Black Keys’ live entourage, Gap Dream (real name Gabe Fulvimar) didn’t manage to match the memorability of his recorded material in a poorly executed live set. Opening with the fantastic Shine Your Light, Fulvimar opted to do everything electronically, replacing guitars with synthesizers and programmed beats. Although it makes for a creative approach, Gap Dream really could’ve used an extra live member or two. It was a disappointing set to say the least, with Fulvimar’s vocals not exactly great either. Over in the Grote Zaal a few minutes later were Texan folk sextet Wild Child, whose easy listening folk got the crowd going, slowly but surely. Featuring a whole array of different instruments, the band (who spent an hour after the show talking with fans in the foyer) pulled it off in front of a half-full room. Their upbeat and serene folk was a nice and simple start to proceedings in the Grote Zaal – it wasn’t overthought, nor was it lazy. The band all work well together, with their musicianship shining through.

Back in the Kleine Zaal, Gengahr played a set which was easily the best one of the whole night. Every edition sees one or two bands perform who are truly destined for greatness, and Gengahr is one of them. The London-quartet’s 30-minute set, which climaxed in the anthemic single Powder, showcased songs from their debut album which is due in the spring of 2015. The interestingly titled Fill My Gums with Blood and an untitled new song with an amazing solo stood out in the set, which was only their 2nd time ever playing in Holland. By the time their debut album is released next year, we’re going to be seeing (and hearing) a lot more of Gengahr and their Pokemon-influenced name. Australian sextet DMA’s followed back in the Grote Zaal, with a large portion of the audience looking for the time machine which they arrived in from Manchester circa 1982. The band looked like a Happy Monday’s tribute band, yet sounded like the new Oasis. By the time opener Feels Like 37 had finished up, the whole room was in awe at the epic sounds coming out of the speakers. It might not have been exactly original, but it was certainly interesting enough. Back upstairs, Stevenage-quartet Bad Breeding played the heaviest set of the whole weekend in an explosion of hardcore punk. Bearing extreme similarities to touring buddies Eagulls, the band spent most of the show sprawled across the floor and inciting large pits as the likes of Age of Nothing and Burn This Flag showed that hardcore punk hasn’t died. It might’ve been a popular set with the crowd, but it didn’t feel like it really fit at a festival like London Calling, especially considering the rest of the bands billed.

With the first day approaching halfway, the dreamy and haunting Lola Colt blew away the Grote Zaal with its mixture of folk and pagan-esque rock. A wide variety of unique instruments were used, some dating back to the Baroque era, with the UK sextet opting for an overall darker sound, as opposed to the poppier sounds of Wild Child. Continuing the dark trend up in the Kleine Zaal were Scottish trio The Amazing Snakeheads. Known for their terrifyingly electric and twisted live shows, topless frontman Dale Barclay had a menacing look in his eyes as he held the Amsterdam crowd in the palm of his hands. Playing to an absolutely packed room, the trio played songs from debut album Amphetamine Ballads. Barclay is the only surviving member from those recording sessions, with Jordan Hutchinson and William Coombe having left the band since. Replacements Andrew Pattie and Scott Duff filled the gap nicely, despite all the attention being on Barclay himself. One moment in the show saw him growl down at photographers and smack all the cameras in a fleeting rage, before he played guitar in the middle of a fierce pit which saw one woman punched in the face. Set highlight Here It Comes Again saw the whole room shout along with Barclay, with sweat dripping from the walls by the end of the set. Similar frenetic scenes occurred back in May, when The Bohicas played the same room for London Calling’s May edition. Understandably not as intense as The Amazing Snakeheads, The Bohicas made their return tonight in front of a packed Grote Zaal crowd. Recent double single XXX and Swarm were set highpoints, with their brand of futuristic rock boding well with the crowd. A debut album is expected next spring, by which time they’ll be even bigger and well-received than they were tonight. After The Bohicas rounded their set up, the evening wound down slowly but surely with a sweet set from Southern and beat-heavy sets from Saint Motel and Kate Boy.

You don’t often get to experience a festival like London Calling. It might seem weird now, but a lot of the acts appearing this weekend will be household names by years to come. Judging tonight’s performances, at least Gengahr and The Bohicas will be two names that you can’t forget.

London Calling continued tonight with a headline set from the legendary Spoon.

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