Sunday, June 18, 2006

Live Review - Hope Of The States with Vega4 - Sheffield Leadmill - June 17th 2006

I don't know about you, but when I was sixteen or so, I turned up incredibly early to every gig. Why? Support bands! I mean, I'd paid my ten pounds damnit, and I was going to be down the front for every single note of music that was played.

It goes without saying that ten years later, this is no longer the case.

However - here's the exception that proves the rule. Happily chilling in the Leadmill's back bar, only three songs from tonights support band Vega4 - just visible through the doorway - was enough to tempt us stage front. They sound fantastic - big anthemic rock songs that sound like you've known them forever. Second song "Paper Cuts" (Available as a free download here, sweetly) owes a huge debt to Radiohead's last record for sure, but overall, the band which keeps springing to mind is Snow Patrol. But please, those of you who find the Scottish schmindie standard-bearers too wet to bother with shouldn't dismiss Vega4 because of the comparison... these are tougher, stronger songs than Lightbody and co could ever manage. Singer Johnny McDaid is a great band leader - blessed with an awesome voice and a cheeky Irish charm which brims with confidence but refreshingly lacks ego. Vega4 seem to have all the hallmarks of a band for whom big time success is not far away. Suddenly, I remember that five or so years ago, I saw Muse play a gig on this very stage supported by a band called Coldplay. A fortnight later "Yellow" was released and.... well you know the rest. When you see Vega4 headlining V festival 2008, remember you heard it here first.

And so onto Hope Of The States.... a band in a strange kind of limbo at the moment. Heavily tipped as the next big thing, "The Lost Riots" won critical and fan acclaim but relatively low sales, and after suffering a tragic setback after the suicide of their guitarist Jimmi Lawrence they promptly dissapeared from view. Back with a new album, "Left" after a brace of great EPs, the reaction to their return has been lukewarm at best. And sure enough, the Leadmill is only two thirds full tonight. (a blessing-in-disguise for the crowd, given the soaring tempreatures) But by God, this band does not dissapoint. Whilst the focus undeniably lies on Sam Herlihy, he is an unusual hero. Surprisingly animated and unfailingly polite - despite his general dog-about-to-be-kicked demenour, there is a telling moment only minutes into the gig when, despite his vocals being almost inaudible beneath the bands immense sound, he gestures to the sound guy to lower his mic even further in the mix. Unusual, yes, but it quickly becomes clear that HOTS are not a conventional band. If I can be allowed a tenuous analogy... unlike my partner in crime, the Manchester United obsessed Chad, this half of the IGUN writing team knows precisely sweet FA about the beautiful game... yet seeing Hope Of The States swap both instruments and limelight as the gig progressively becomes bigger and more epic, you can't help but be reminded of the idea of Total Football. And that's what HOTS practice - Total Noise if you like - every element as important as the others, building into a huge, venue filling wall of sound. The real highlight of the gig is when Herily is tucked away behind the piano, for an awesome double whammy of "Black Dollar Bills" and "Enemies / Friends." And by the time the encore comes around, an frantic blast through "The Red, The White, The Black, The Blue" is followed by a track called "Black Stars / Red Stars" (More colours!) which - if I can return to the football analogy - finds the whole band pushed forward on the attack - a rock-solid five man, three guitar offensive which sounds... look, I'm going to have to use the word 'huge' again, cos the IGUN thesaurus has shrugged it's shoulders at me once and for all.

The weight of expectation clearly lies of HOTS - everything from the cool merchandise to the ace micro-cameras dotted around the stage beaming the band onto three big screens (In the Leadmill... Wow!) screams major label support, which raises the uncomfortable prospect of them being dropped like a hot potato if "Left" doesn't sell in huge numbers. Perhaps they would be more at home on an indie label... this band clearly speaks directly to the devoted, to those who yearn for more depth that the 2006 holy trio of Monkeys / Kaisers / Franz. In the mainstream at least, only The Cooper Temple Clause can even come close to such a massive sound - clearly at odds with the current trends in what we loosely call Indie. Triumphant then... for those gathered for one night in Sheffield, Hope Of The States feel like they could be a new hope for just about everyone.

Hope Of The States

Words By Matt, Pictures from The Internet - proper gig pics to follow once I can get them off my phone


Anonymous Chad said...

In the Internet Cafe before The Frats' gig. Fookin excellent review of a band that deserve alot more attention than they recieve. The annoyinglly computer-less Manc says well done !

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im from a small village called maltby few miles down the m18 from the leadmill, it is my favourite all time venue and i went to sheffield hallam uni, i am now well esconced in manchester but i made the trip back over the woodhead pass to see this hots gig and it was utterly spellbinding and magical !! great review, i saw them at leeds fest last friday and they were great, i got back to manc to find out they were bout to split and its a v v v sad day for ambitious rock music indeed... long live hots, lets hope they sort themselves out, cheers lads!!!

12:45 AM  
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