Palma Violets - The Cluny, Newcastle
The shelf life of new guitar groups these days tends to be pretty short, with bands often embracing a brief and fickle reign as the ‘next big thing’ before being spurned by scathing hipsters and disappearing into a purgatory - neither commercial enough for the everyman, nor unknown enough to be cool - and never to be seen again. For psyche-garage quartet Palma Violets, who graced the cover of NME recently without even having released a single, the hype is a little justified.
There’s no nerves, no awkward crowd interaction, and speaking to them before the gig, they tell me that their debut is going to consist of ‘just number one hits’. It sounds cocky in print, but in reality it’s wry, blithe. Tonight is their eighth gig in October, part of their frantic headline tour that boasts twenty four dates over the course of thirty-one days. Even so, there is no evidence of tiring, their on stage presence is electric, and they play with an infectious, unpretentious enthusiasm that so many bands lack or over-exploit these days. There isn’t even a denim, or leather jacket in sight.
Beginning with a cover of ‘California Sun’, they warm up the crowd whilst bassist Chilli Jesson intermittently jabs his forefinger in the air and shouts ‘turn the reverb up Jim!’ The keyboard is set to organ mode, and Pete Mayhew hammers the keys and nods his head contently, whilst frontmen Chilli Jesson and Sam Fryer display something of a pre-violent Barât and Doherty chemistry front of stage, thrusting their guitars together, wobbling into each other and whispering in each other’s ears between songs. Fryer’s harmonies have something of Jim Morrison or Wu Lyf’s Ellery Roberts quality to them, his vocals dueling with Jesson’s shrieks that he leans down and projects into the faces of unsuspecting front row crowd-goers. Later, he bounces in and out of the audience like an over-excited Jack Russell whilst Fryer majestically stands atop the drum kit.
Despite not being able to download any of the band’s tracks, it’s clear the crowd have been watching the plethora of tinny YouTube recordings of their gigs online. Soon-to-be-released single ‘Best Of Friends’ has the front few rows bouncing into each other, flailing arms thrusting towards the sky like they’ve heard this a hundred times before. After disappearing, the band return to the stage and Fryer begins to repeatedly howl, ‘I’ve got a brand new song, I’ve got a brand new song, it’s gonna be a number one’. It’s difficult to tell whether this is a pre-constructed masterpiece or a bit of onstage adlibbing, but they pull it off regardless. Whether it will ever actually be number one is another matter, but right now, everyone’s too sweaty to care.