Versaemerge - Manchester Club Academy
While their label mates Paramore re-group as a three piece and get on with reclaiming their stadium-filling status, label mates Versaemerge are still working through their own extended game of musical chairs. With drummer Chris Pollock showing uncommon stability at the back and bassist Devin Ingelido departing last month to spend more time with his family, the band return to the UK for their first headlining tour with original member Nick Osborne back on four strings. (Actually, make that five. Show off.) Guitarist Blake Harnage, via painstaking noodling on stage-side keyboards and effects, and commendable choice of axe for the genre (vintage Telecaster), continues to make a claim to be the punk-pop Johnny Greenwood. Sierra Kusterbeck, their fireball vocalist, you will know. Pat Benatar with a 21st century reboot, she may well posses the silliest haircut in the current music scene but, boy, she causes enough commotion to fill an arena; Manchester's dingiest basement, still as vile a room as the city can muster, rolls over.
Given their advancement since a February support slot with We The Kings (an injustice if ever I saw one), Versaemerge double their stage time, knocking off after a whirlwind 70 minutes. Tremendously well judged for a band with a handful of EPs and just one album (Fixed At Zero) to their name, their set exerts an uncommon grip on an (admittedly) partisan crowd. Aside from the ridiculous omission of choice album track ‘Redesign Me’, they deliver some chunky goods. Older heads get early flourishes of ‘Past Praying For’ and ‘Whisperer’ from way back. Newer converts get all horizontal (Sierra: “I demand you let these guys (security) do their job and get f***ing crowd surfing!”) to ‘Fire (Aim Your Arrows High)’ and stone cold signature tune ‘Fixed At Zero’. A mid-set brace of mood pieces (‘Up There’ and ‘Moments Between Sleep’) maintain the breathless pace and a fistful of smart live presentation ensures the haunted house electro-gothisms of their recorded output transfers to the stage intact. (Where their peers have clearly been overfed on a white bread diet of Blink 182 and Jimmy Eat World, Versaemerge come crawling out of the lab after essence of Linkin Park ends up dripping into a large flask of Garbage.)
Again, a big hand for the thoroughly winning performance. The reinstated bassist is industrious, free and funky. Blake avoids genre rockisms and instead conjures sinewy, choppy riffery of an altogether more elementary (and non-bar chord-reliant) nature. Sierra is Serra: she’s trouble and she knows it, the minx. Whether it’s having a dig at the local vernacular (“I’m sorry – I can’t understand what you’re saying!” - boos) or forgetting the name of support noiseniks Marmozets (“That first band who played…erm, that chick was rocking.”), she just about gets away with some genuinely clumsy between-song banter. Silly girl. Still, recommended highly, despite the fact that you never quite know who or what you’re going to get from one gig to the next. No matter. In fact, Versaemerge, could tear a leaf or two from The Other Lot's book and their recently amended, hyper-aware merchandising (‘Paramore is STILL a Band’.) Versaemerge, on this form, can make similar claims of their own.