The winter’s dead, long live the Spring King

Ellen Peirson-Hagger’s ears are left ringing after a noise-fuelled night from a trilogy of bands at the Bullingdon

Source: p_a_h

A two-tiered support is just what’s needed to get a crowd riled up on a Sunday evening at the Bullingdon. Kent-based gnarly pop rockers Get Inuit open to a packed-out floor, but it is punchy guitar four-piece The Big Moon who provide the ultimate warm-up for alt-rock Macclesfield titans Spring King.

The highs of The Big Moon’s set come in the chorus-style “ooh” vocal lines, where all four musicians sing unashamedly gutsily into their microphones, lead singer Juliette Jackson’s ponytail flailing out behind her.

Break-out single ‘The Road’ sees Jackson rub foreheads with guitarist Soph Nathan, as the two sway alongside each other in a fiery guitar break. These sweet guitar shreds, all at the top-end of their instruments’ necks, please the ever-livelier crowd after the song’s slower beginnings have thrown the audience’s need for incessant jumping off a little.

The Big Moon are surely not the easiest of bands to mosh to. Their songs suddenly halt with seemingly no warning, leaving the unaware listener balancing on one leg for a little too long. Latest release ‘Formidable’ is similarly, and joyfully, a little rhythmically disjointed, with charming interplay between Nathan’s lead guitar and organ-like electronics from drummer / keys player Fern Ford, as the band prove the worth of their tightly-crafted tracks.

Incredibly, a furious mosh pit breaks out even before The Big Moon take to the stage. Half the room, sweaty in their band t-shirts, jump about to the between-set tracklist which plays out over the loudspeaker. By the time Spring King, the main act and most riled-up band of the night appear, it is surprising the crowd have any energy left at all.

I’m not sure Spring King are quite the “smallscale art-pop-punk project” an online profile announces them to be. What they do bring to your ears is a wall of noise, fiery basslines, pounding drums and bouncy, often aggressive, lyrics. They are a lot of fun, a fact that may be misconstrued behind the perhaps pretentious term “art-pop”.

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“Can I get the lights up for a sec? I wanna see your beautiful faces,” calls Tarek Musa, the quartet’s drummer, singer and producer, as soon as they come onstage. Musa is the life and soul of this set, pelting away at his kit with a sustained ferocity.

Spring King hit straight into it, the fast-paced songs giving them little breathing space at all. ‘Detroit’, the latest single off their Tell Me If You Like To debut, is an irrefutable anthem. “I don’t wanna be / No where else / Except Detroit City” screams not only Musa and his bandmates, but the crowd altogether.

‘City’, too, has the whole room reciting “Who am I? What does it matter?” in a spree of reckless enthusiasm. It is these anthemic lines which carry the band’s fervour: short, snappy motifs which the sweaty crowd latch onto and serve back to the band through their own exasperated chants. The track was, impressively, the very first by any band to be played on Apple’s Beats 1 radio when it first aired in June 2015. Burgeoning drums yet again set Musa out as the heart of this project as he pushes the number into a real driving theme.

Effects are in full spin. This is a band who have toured with Courtney Barnett, Antipodean guitar fuzz queen, after all. And their name can’t ignore the Spring King effects pedal, adding reverb and a real crunchy space echo to vocals and guitars both on-record and onstage.

A lot of what they say is shouted. Live, this detracts from the profundity of many of the lyrics, as the poignant “This is the year of our saviour / 2000 and misery” of ‘Take Me Away’ gets lost under a sheen of smashed-out guitar.

To the guy who takes his top off, and proceeds to wave it, as a flag, over his head, Musa calls, “Just make sure you don’t catch a cold when you leave the venue tonight”. After that wall of gallivanting noise, it’s more my ears I’m worried about.