9 Mar 2015

The NME Tour's Four Bands Smashed It, But Who Smashed It The Most?

Whilst I don't particularly dislike the magazine that is the NME, I've got to concede that the best thing they do every year is put these Awards Tour dos on. Last year they sent Interpol, Temples and Royal Blood across the country, and the year before it was Django Django, Peace and Palma Violets. But this year, they really upped their game - as I'm sure you'll know (and if not, I went and did some writing about it) this year Palma Violets were the headline act, and with them they brought the Fat White Family, Slaves, and The Wytches.

Immediately, it looks like a best band from this bunch will be hard to pick, so I went to not one date, but two to try and find out which of these bands was the best.

Headlining the tour was Lambeth's Palma Violets; clearly one of the most loved bands on the circuit at the minute. They closed the bill each night with a 45 minute set, which was actually the same length as the set that penultimate band on the bill, The Fat White Family played for. Playing 35 and 30 minute sets respectively were Slaves and The Wytches, so each band had a fairly equal platform to exert their musicianship, with a long enough set to blow the roof off the two venues I saw them at - those being Portsmouth's Pyramids and the Kentish Town Forum.
Photo: Andy Ford/NME

The Wytches, it's well documented, are one of my favourite bands to emerge over the past 12 months. They opened both nights, and, proving they're some of the most skilled musicians in UK music, they played completely different sets each night; although both dates did see them smash their way through Gravedweller, new one Horseback and The Holy Tightrope. They were completely stunning each night, and so loud, furious and angry that you can't not take notice of them. However, it seemed like, in Portsmouth specifically, their surf-doom stylings frightened off a fair few of the lad-rock football casuals there only to see Palma Violets. Whilst this is certainly an added bonus, it didn't mean that the band's crowd reaction left a lot to be desired, despite their furious set.

Next was hotly tipped act Slaves, who you'd better get used to, because they're going to be everywhere over the next year. Their set was potentially the biggest surprise, because the band do genuinely really belt it out in a way that's impossible to ignore. Maybe the only criticism is that they didn't mix it up at all; in Portsmouth their phenomenal set knocked me for six, but (bar Isaac's question of "which is the preferred biscuit in Portsmouth?", which didn't make it to Portsmouth) all the on stage chit chat was the same - almost to the word, as I can now almost word-for-word recap the story behind Where's Your Car Debbie? and I'm now familiar with the peculiar ritualistic chanting at the start of Feed The Manta Ray. But not to discredit Slaves, the crowd loved it perhaps more than The Fat Whites and The Wytches, and they were really incredible - they deserve all the fame they're going to get, really.

However, from my point of view, the band that certainly stole the show in London, and maybe Portsmouth as well,  was The Fat White Family. I think everyone will agree that their studio stuff, namely their debut record Champagne Holocaust leaves a lot to be desired on it's own. It's slow, the vocals sound unenthusiastic instead of dark and sinister, and the production really takes the edge of off it. But live, live the Fat Whites' sound is incredible; it's thick, hypnotic, visceral, and of course, it's accompanied by the onstage antics of frontman Lias, who, is a complete genius. The echoey psychedelia of the band was made only better by Lias' manic strutting, stripping, and howling, as he kind of resembled a bit of a squatter Iggy Pop onstage. Their set's highlights (in Portsmouth) involved Lias 'touching himself' up against the drumkit to I Am Mark E Smith, and album tracks Bomb Disneyland and Is It Raining In Your Mouth? were belted out in a way that was almost incomparable to the LP version, but in a really, really good way. Alongside the fact that their roadie threw out a decent amount of free bread, they were the most charismatic, enigmatic performers, and I'd say if the NME tour was a battle of the bands they'd have probably, in London when they were at their greasy best, weaselled the victory.

But then again, would they have won it? Palma Violets closed the tour, and they were everything you wanted from them and more. Maybe they were a bit reluctant to play new songs - Girl You Couldn't Do Much Much Better On The Beach made an appearance in London, and both dates saw incredible renditions of Danger In The Club - and instead composed their sets in a tight, perfectly honed manner, using lots of 180 material. Both nights, they exploded onto the stage with Rattlesnake Highway, immediately making the fizzling chemistry between frontman Sam Fryer and bassist Chilli Jesson the focal point. Their sets took an emphatic, adoring audience through their debut record, and you'd have to go pretty far to find a crowd that love a band that much. Throughout Last Of The Summer Wine, the crowd sat ready to leap up, during Chicken Dippers, a circle pit the size of Lake Superior formed in the middle of the venues, and Best of Friends, Tom The Drum and 14 saw the Palma faithful belt out every lyric. They weren't as energetic as Slaves, as brutal as The Wytches, or as tight as the Fat Whites, but Palma Violets were completely brilliant; as far as indie rock goes, they're the real deal, and their sets on the NME tour were so symptomatic of that. 

All 4 bands, fantastic choices on the part of the NME were great, and the fact that the crowd embraced them all was an added bonus. For sure, they all smashed it, but deciding on which band smashed it most is something I can't quite do. On the first date, Slaves caught me off guard by being so worth the hype that surrounds them, so maybe I'd say that they owned the P'mouth date, but in London for their homecoming, The Fat Whites really took it up a notch to be the best on that night. And both The Wytches and Palma Violets were consistently brilliant, so really, to answer the question I put forward in the title of this post, they were all smashed it the most.

Actually, fuck it, The Fat White Family. They were the best. They smashed it the most.

Photo: Andy Hughes/NME

(written by calum cashin)