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Everything Alyce: Better Than Never - The Bullingdon, Oxford, 03/12/16

Monday, 5 December 2016

Better Than Never - The Bullingdon, Oxford, 03/12/16

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One State Drive were my highlight of the evening. 
From the second 'Nothing Left' started, I was hooked. They're exactly the kind of band I've been looking for, but too often all the bands in the 'easycore' genre sound identical. Luckily One State Drive have a certain something that makes them stand out, and while I can't put my finger on what it was it certainly intrigued me.
I'd chosen one word to describe them after their first few songs: cheesy. Just listen to the lyrics of 'Got It Down', with its "the back of your head has never looked so good" refrain - there's no other word to describe it! So when vocalist Addy Walker mentioned that their recently released EP was called 'It Ain't Cheesy Being Easycore', I was delighted. This band knows exactly who they are. They aren't trying to fool anybody, and they certainly aren't taking themselves too seriously.
Their cover of 'Fat Lip' was a bit of a train wreck, but I mean that in the best, most enjoyable kind of way. It felt more like a karaoke session at the end of the night than a song in the set of the opening band, but it was the perfect way to warm the crowd up: no one was standing still from the moment that iconic riff started. 
The band worked hard to hold the crowd's attention through their closer, 'Keeping Score', and Addy managed to get a lot of people jumping with him towards the end of the song. Compared to the audience's non-reaction to the start of their set, the end was an absolute triumph.
I wish they'd been playing later in the night, because they're so good that they deserved to be higher up the bill. I'm going to keep a very close eye on these guys and hopefully I'll be able to catch them at a few of their hometown shows in 2017. 

Setlist:
Nothing Left
Got It Down
Crowds
It Ain't Cheesy Being Easycore
Cut The Deadweight
Fat Lip cover
Keeping Score

On The Last To Leave's Facebook page they describe themselves as a 'young 5 piece pop punk band from Oxfordshire', and 'young' isn't an understatement. I don't know exactly how old the members are, but I was shocked when vocalist Matty Harris shared that they'd been performing their cover of All Time Low's 'Weightless' for two years: they definitely didn't look old enough to have been in a band for that long already!
The Last To Leave's music is lyrically immature. I enjoyed their set enough to buy their EP, and I think they're already very talented musicians, but their lyrical content needs some serious work. 'The Story' has the chorus "This is how the story ends/This is how we'll start again/This is how the story ends", while 'Reflections' reads more like a suicide note than a break up song with the worrying - and melodramatic - line "You make me want to fall asleep forever".
Ironically, the most developed song was the childish and overly repetitive - yet insanely catchy - 'Never Going Home'. It sounds like it's going to be an instant hit. If you compare it to the pop-punk songs that get radio attention it's up there with the best of them, its "never ever ever, never ever ever going home!" chant looping around your head until you want to scream it back at the top of your lungs (while tearing your hair out from sheer frustration at how simplistically genius it is).
They've already got the stage banter going on - one particularly memorable moment happening while they were trying to convince people to buy their EP and bassist and backing vocalist Sam Jones quipped "One pound will buy me a Pot Noodle. That'll feed me for three weeks!". Onstage charisma and confidence are normally the last thing that a band find, but The Last To Leave have bucket loads of it already: they'll only get better with age.

Setlist:
The Story
Weightless cover
Burning Up
Reflections
Holding On
Never Going Home

I'm still not sure how I feel about Coast To Coast.
Despite the fact that all of the bands had the same amount of time on stage, I felt restless and struggled to concentrate during their set. There's something about Keiran Hyland's vocal that bothers me, in the same way that I struggle to fall in love with Moose Blood, Real Friends and Knuckle Puck. It's nothing against Coast To Coast - in fact, it probably makes them better that they're among such esteemed company! They just aren't the band for me.
They played two brand new songs in their set, 'Ajax' and 'Geranium'. They both fitted well in the set, but I'm not sure if that's because they sounded so similar to the songs they'd already released: they have a style and don't seem too willing to diverge from that. The only exception to the rule is 'Bunkbeds', which was slower and had a more melancholy feel to it, something which I would normally describe as a positive but which just made the set feel even longer.
I'm going to give Coast To Coast's recorded music a try, to see if it's a problem that they suffer with live and not on their official releases, but I'm not holding my breath.

Setlist:
Intro
August
Cornerstone
Bunkbeds
Ajax
Geranium
Bloom

This was a bittersweet night for Better Than Never. It was the release show for their new EP, 'Head Under Water' - a release which has already been getting the band attention from sites including Punktastic and Rock Sound - but it was also their final show with now ex-lead guitarist Max Peniket, who has been with the band since 2014. One door closing and another opening wide for a band who've been working hard for almost four years now.
'Head Under Water' is Better Than Never's second EP this year, following February's 'Homemade Hero'. It's a more polished offering, the past year of touring - including a notable support slot for Courage My Love and a lengthy co-headline tour with Coast To Coast - having done great things to improve the confidence of a band who are rapidly gaining attention in the underground UK pop-punk scene.
The first thing I noticed when the band took to the stage was the surprise addition of a female member, who the band introduced as vocalist and guitarist Will Keating's sister Maisie. She's been filling in for the band since the departure of their previous drummer, and though she's only 15 but she held her own amongst the boys. If she can play like this now she's going to become a force to be reckoned with if she continues playing in the years to come. I've got a feeling the boys are going to struggle to find a replacement who could keep up with her - as they themselves said on stage, "she's sick as fuck!".
The new EP was streamed online for the week prior to this show, but if I hadn't known better I would have assumed it had been out for months. Older songs and established fan favourites 'Slowly Slipping Under' (the first song the band ever wrote) and 'Panama' (the song that really lets Will's vocal shine) both received great reactions because they're already so well loved, a huge amount of people chanting the words back and throwing themselves towards the stage to get closer to the action, but it wasn't until the new songs were played that the night really began.
Vocalist James Harris introduced 'Forty Eight' as "one of the heavier songs [they'd] ever done", and the screaming laced throughout the song meant it wasn't surprising at all when the audience erupted into a moshpit, the biggest I'd ever seen at a show of this size.
The inclusion of a cover of Fall Out Boy's 'Sugar, We're Going Down' drove the crowd further into a frenzy, and even the people stood towards the back of the room couldn't stop themselves from singing along to every word. It also meant that the reaction to 'Learning To Swim' was even better than it otherwise would have been: the cover put everyone on a high that they didn't come down from until long after the set had finished.
When the band finished five minutes early the crowd chanted for one more song, and James joked that it was "physically impossible. We don't have any more songs!" but when the audience continued to demand more he gave Max the chance to choose one song from the setlist to play again, giving him the reins at the end of his last show. He instantly picked 'Sugar, We're Going Down' which James refused, and after a few moments of pondering it was decided that they'd be closing with their opening song, 'Dreamland Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be'. The crowd were much more energetic second time around, giving Max the send off he deserved by breaking out into another mosh pit and yelling the words into the microphone when James held it out into the crowd.
You might not have heard of Better Than Never just yet, but it won't be that way for long. 

Setlist:
Dreamland Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be
Slowly Slipping Under
Deadweight
Panama
Lowhill Lane
Forty Eight
Sugar We're Going Down cover
Learning To Swim
Back Of The Line, Kid
-
Dreamland Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be

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