What makes a gig of the year? What makes people – seeing you for the first time in a city that’s not Berlin or New York or Austin – lose their shit in a small club? What transforms casual fans into mega fans? What is the definition of a perfect live show?
It not about note-perfection or slickness. It’s not about saving your big hit for last. It’s not about fancy lights. It’s not about sucking up. It’s not about pretty faces. It’s not about whether the music’s ever been done before (because it all has, including for the Palma Violets, who channel 70s UK garage rock mixed with the Libertines.)
It’s about having your hypeman/mate Harry introduce you as if you’re Oasis, then jump into the audience to cheer things on. It’s about having an unmistakable English cockiness that beard-wearing Americana shoegazers should borrow. (Though hat-tip to tonight’s openers Guards for their headliner-sized energy). It’s about having the confidence to look your crowd in the eyes, ask the box to turn up the lights and interact with folks beyond the first row. It’s about leaving the stage and climbing the speakers and shaking your maracas. It’s about asking the crowd to raise their hands aloft and having them comply (see video.)
It’s about locking in: bassist Chilli and guitarist Sam (vocalists, both) playing up against each other to make the music transfer between them. It’s about Pete’s keyboard channeling the Doors. It’s about Will the drummer pounding like chaos. It’s about swagger and drunken abandon but still being able to play your songs well. It’s about kicking off with “Johnny Bagga Donuts” from scratchy debut 180, storming through “Tom the Drum” and the rest, and doing your big hit (“Best of Friends”) in the middle of the set. It’s about the moment when your tour manager likes you enough to do percussion on a song, and the fact that you get sweaty after two.
It’s about being raucous; it’s about being charismatic; it’s about respecting your fans enough to stick around at the end of the show to graciously hug, thank and share beers with all of them them. It’s about capturing the attention of young ladies, but still deciding to go a quick skateboard down the street outside the club.
It’s about being young, but not being a punk. It’s about BEING PUNK while playing a cover of the Hot Nasties’ “Invasion of the Tribbbles” (see video.). And it’s about your own stage turning into a mosh pit of YOUR OWN BAND MEMBERS dancing into each other and grinning wildly.
It’s about your final song, “Brand New Song” inspiring said band members to stagedive and be held aloft, transported to the back of the low-ceiling’ed room on the hands of fans. And, finally, perfectly, it’s about your keyboardist running and diving onto the drummer, knocking him and the kit fully over in the last seconds. It’s all been done before but this, this is what it’s all about.
It’s about rock and roll. And that is why the Palma Violets put on the best gig of the year so far. See them now while they still sweat for it. \m/
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