12th April - Tunbridge Wells Forum.
Since discovering 2:54 at the beginning of this year, I've long been waiting to see their blend of lo-fi, fuzzy Punk live. The intimacy of the Tunbridge Wells forum was the perfect place for it, and a welcome journey back to my teenage years of crammed, sweaty gigs. The support from Slaves and Deaf Club was an added, unexpected bonus, and the night far surpassed my expectations.
Slaves were an angry ball of energy from start to finish, with cheeky wit and nonchalance echoing 70's Punk attitude of the Sex Pistols. Swigging beer throughout the set, the two-piece consisted of a stocky guitarist and a lead vocalist/drummer who stood up at his rudimentary drumkit; a novelty which soon seemed completely natural and left me wondering why anyone ever sits down to play the drums. For two people, they made a hell of a a lot of noise, but the simplistic arrangements and direct, sometimes humorous lyrics ("You're so boring when you're nice, I only love you when you're angry"), were well-executed with the drummer's vigorous rhythms the main focus. This is definitely a band to see live!
Deaf Club, a young London band due to play at this years Great Escape Festival, couldn't have been further away from the rawness of Slaves. A sound akin to a more mellow Bombay Bicycle club, the quintet was fronted by a female guitarist/lead vocalist who was absolutely brilliant. Her vocals were near perfect throughout with a beautifully warm tone and delivery. Performing their current single, Sunday/Mirrors, the band filled the small venue with sustained chords and brooding melodies. Their songs and arrangements were engaging with maturity beyond their years; a tight, professional and highly talented bunch. I guarantee you'll be hearing more of them in the coming months.
The Forum slowly started to buzz with anticipation for the headline act, gradually shuffling closer to the stage. Having seen the lead singer of 2:54, Collette, lingering around at the merch stand; a woman who cited so many legendary Punk bands as her biggest influences, she was not what I'd expected. A polite, softly and well spoken woman transformed into a front-woman oozing attitude, charisma, and sex appeal. Collette and guitarist sister, Hannah, were joined by a drummer and bassist to complete the lineup as they belted out tracks from their 2011 Scarlet EP, including their latest single, You're Early.
The long, flowing, white dress that Collette was wearing (with Hannah completely in black) gave a slightly Kate Bush, Florence Welch-esque feel to her performance, along with vocals that shifted from delicate and quivering to powerful and authoritative. The pair gave a very impressive performance, particularly the technical guitar skills of Hannah, although she barely looked at the audience. It was hard to take my eyes away from the stage, intrigued by Collette's impulsive movements and stage presence and hannah's intense musicianship. After each track was played at full pelt, Collette took to the microphone to thank the audience politely and shyly; an odd occurrence after such a self-assured performance.
The grunginess and ambience of the tracks came across well, despite the overall sound not being quite balanced. Favourites of mine were Wait/Awake and Got A Hold with the eeriness and compelling nature of Collette's voice creeping and swelling as she seemed to fade in and out of the atmosphere. While Collette was clearly the front-woman, it was obvious that hannah was maintaining the band's foundations, solidly and rhythmically creating the dark chords and mysterious counter-melodies.
After finally seeing 2:54 live, I almost feel that there was something missing. However, I don't want this to come across as a negative thing, because the gig really was great. Perhaps it was the crowd (not a huge turnout), maybe it was a lull towards the end of their tour, or perhaps I'd hyped them up too much in my head. I think i was expecting a full-throttle performance, when really, they delivered a more subtle, musically refreshing gig, with the sisters' endearing vulnerability helping them along. In order to appreciate the band fully, I really recommend you see them live.