7 Feb 2015

Wild Smiles, FEVER, Bel Esprit, Kid Ackley & Vicki Musselwhite @ TheJoiners, Southampton (live review)

The last week of January; independent venue week. And Southampton, alongside having some of the best emerging bands in the country, has the very best independent venue in the country.

The Joiners, for 2015's independent venue week played host to Wild Smiles' first hometown show of the year, alongside support from FEVER, Bel Esprit, Kid Ackley & singer-songwriter Vicki Musselwhite.

Opening the night was a 15 minute set by the latter, whose support slot lasted only three simplistic, yet soulful and wonderfully textured, songs, and whilst it was certainly nothing you've never heard before, it was a very promising prologue to a night of noisy local music. (12/20)

Following the solo set of Vicki Musselwhite was local indie guitar-pop from Kid Ackley, another lesser known band with not much material to showcase. Their sound was fun more than anything, but texturally quite interesting because on lots of their songs the sound of each individual member was prominent within the collective sound. Despite this though, Kid Ackley's set - as with a number of local support bands I've seen over the years - was ultimately an early noughties throwback that summoned thoughts of Razorlight, Maximo Park and The Kooks. (13/20)

However, from here the night only picked up; three of the hottest Southampton bands would take to the stage before midnight. Bel Esprit, a band signed to Gary Powell of The Libertines' label, were third on the bill and a seven song set was just the catalyst to ensure that this would be the Joiners finest gig of 2015 so far. Their sound was firmly rooted in indie rock, but energetic, driving drumming and guitars that swirled 'round and 'round made sure Bel Esprit's sound was fresh, and a smashing Palma Violets cover at the end ensured that their vibrant sound was more than memorable. (17/20)

Following them, the band who in my opinion are Southampton's most promising young band FEVER took the stage. Youthful and energetic, their abrasive, lo-fi indie rock was catchy and oddly mesmeric. As you'd imagine, their stunning debut single Shellshock was a notable highlight, as their half an hour set was both danceable and explosive. What made their set, however, stand out is that as a band they're very charismatic, and - because they're Southampton's finest young band - they're very Southampton-ish. The lead singer addressed the audience as 'mate' constantly, and I thought that was nothing short of cool as fuck, and very very Southampton. One for the future, FEVER, and until they make it on a huge national level you can stream their shit here. (18/20)

Not to be outdone, however, the headline act Wild Smiles took the stage pretty shortly afterwards. The three-piece released their debut Always Tomorrow last year, making them one of the city's most successful bands on the circuit. They opened their set with the bombastic The Gun, which both set the tone for things to come and showed the world that the trio were in world beating mode. They're probably in the studio for album number two as I write this, as they explained on stage, is why they debuted a load of new material. Songs like It's You and Cage showed that LP #2 from Southampton's finest will be much of the same; grungy but energetic indie-rock doused in mud and soaked in bleach. Throughout their headline set, Wild Smiles were tight, loud, and right until they ended with the viceral closer to their debut I'm Gone, they were a sonic force to be reckoned with. (18/20)

As always, Independent Venue Week put on some of the best local talent, and showed that increasingly, Southampton is becoming a real hot spot for great bands emerging. It's also worth giving a shout out to The Joiners, for quite literally being the best venue in the world.

(photo creds to 'steve bond media')