First up were Palm Reader. Oh dear – a rare occasion where I’ve regretted turning up early to watch all the bands on the bill. The first song appeared to have no tune and just be them all playing their instruments as fast as possible. Things did improve as the set went on, but not by much, and I did wish I had some ear defenders (never mind basic ear plugs). On the plus side they were entertaining to watch as the members leaped around and put in energetic performances. There was cheering from a few people but otherwise the sparse audience seemed more apathetic than enthused.
During the quick changeover before the next band, the venue suddenly filled up (not a coincidence I suspect).
Next up was The Earls of Mars. What can I say – this was bizarre stuff, but exceedingly good. With keyboards and an upright instrument that looks like a modern take on a double-bass they have a slow, prog-like sound that really is distinctive and incredibly good. The vocals have that slightly bizarre theatrical feel that you get with bands such as Hell. Their set just flew past and I enjoyed every minute of it – definitely a band I’d like to see again.
Next up was Leeds band Hawk Eyes, who put in a very good hard rock set, but after The Earls of Mars it just felt a little flat and unimaginative. Had we heard them before The Earls of Mars I think they’d have gone down better with the crowd. Still, despite the slightly flat reception they got , they put in a good performance and I’d be happy to see them again in the future.
Finally it was time for Philm. The stage setup was surprising – instead of the usual arrangement with the drum kit at the back of the stage (at the Underworld that also means “in the dark”), tonight for Philm the drum kit was front and centre. Dave Lombardo played at the front of the stage right up close to the fans, with the other two members of the band to either side of him.
I have to say that this setup worked really well – it wouldn’t work with a larger band but with the three of them then there was enough room for them to move and it gave fans a rare chance to see a drumming legend play up close and personal – although given how hard he hits those drums, I’m not sure I’d want to be standing a foot away without ear protection. It was great though to see up close just how hard a drummer like Dave Lombardo works during a gig. Sadly though for most people in the crowd, watching Dave Lombardo meant watching him on the screen of the mobile phones being held up throughout the gig. I do wish people would be more conisderate – fine, take a photo, or short video clip but then put the damn phone away and let other people have a decent view.
If you haven’t listened to Philm yet, they are an interesting band to listen to – very varied and experimental. Still heavy but not your average metal – there’s definitely a real mix of influences at work here. I’ll definitely have to listen to the new album after watching tonight’s show as I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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