Band Of Skulls, Birds Of Tokyo, General Fiasco - The Garage London

The Next Big Thing Festival is a ten day, London based event organised by HMV and MAMA group featuring a new generation of breakthrough artists performing at several venues throughout the capital, with the price of each gig capped at a tenner! With the likes of Marina And The Diamonds, Paloma Faith, Ellie Golding and Chew Lips performing it was certainly a great way to check out up and coming talent.

My second trip to the NBT took me to London's Garage to check out a trio of rock bands, with Australia's Birds Of Tokyo opening proceedings. The Perth based band have released two studio albums and have just put out a live CD back home entitled The Broken Strings Tour, featuring acoustic interpretations of their songs. The band were quite a lively bunch with singer Ian Kenny's jerky onstage movements reminding me of a puppet at times, especially with his Brains glasses!

Birds are pretty much a classic tuneful rock band but there were also times when they came across as a slightly more radio friendly version of Bad Religion or a harder Ben Folds Five, though that's probably just my hearing! The Oz expats that predominately made up the front section of the crowd seemed to be lapping it up anyway, with the final song in the set producing a singalong with numerous arms punched in the air, a gesture that was rewarded with a big thumbs up from lead singer Ian!

I enjoyed the band's set enough to check out their material after the fact and they've got a great track in the homeland single "Wide Eyed Boy". I imagine they're the perfect band for a late afternoon set at the likes of "Hyde Park Calling" or "V". I'm certain I'd have a fun time watching them on a hot summer's day, pint in hand anyway!

I really enjoyed Birds Of Tokyo's set but I can't say the same for my picture taking experience. I know I've ranted about it in previous reviews but I just can't understand why certain London venues don't offer decent lighting when they're completely capable of doing so. All three bands on the NBT played in near darkness. I'm not asking for the acts to be lit up like Christmas trees but surely there's a happy medium?

Second band on the bill were Ireland's General Fiasco. I didn't enjoy the Belfast trio as much as Birds but they were fun enough, blasting their way through tracks from forthcoming album Buildings.
I'd deduct a few points for playing a song that reminded me of Big Country though (possibly their last single?) but they kept the youngish crowd entertained, even throwing in a solo acoustic song towards the end of the set.

Band Of Skulls were the evening's headliners. The UK three piece released their debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey to great critical acclaim in 2009 and have built up a strong following through several live appearances and Skulls songs showing up on the soundtracks of huge hit movie New Moon and Drew Barrymore's delightful roller derby flick Whip It.

There was also a bit of a buzz about the band in the capital this week as they had blown their audience away at their show at the 100 Club a couple of days earlier. I must say I'm fairly new to the Band Of Skulls experience, only test driving their debut earlier this year so I was surprised to find their set extremely good indeed!

Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson front the band, both sharing vocal duties, with Matt Hayward keeping the beat going at the back. The band play riff heavy rock with enough song hooks to give them chance to cross over to a mainstream audience. Their set wasn't visually exciting, especially as both performers were shrouded in darkness for a lot of the evening but the tracks on offer certainly made up for any slight lack of stage presence.

Kicking things off with album opener "Light of the Morning", the band pulled their set predominately from their debut. It will come as no shock to regular Fix readers that I warmed to songs focusing on Emma's vocals more than Russell's, especially "Patterns", a track that shares lyrics with the Magpie theme tune if you're old enough to remember that!

Russell had his moments too though with "I Know What I Am" sounding in good shape, especially the glam rock stomp towards the end, with the track probably part responsible for the The White Stripes comparisons that follow the band around. The gig was pretty intense throughout but a mellower moment did come in the shape of a gorgeous rendition of "Fires", showing that even rockers have a softer side! The trio's set really impressed me as it produced some great performances of album faves, including a lively rendition of "Hollywood Bowl", another highlight of the night for me.

I'm really looking forward to catching Band Of Skulls live again so I'll try and fit one of their sets into my busy SXSW schedule next month.

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