7.20pm is an obscene stage time; practically the morning. Yet Brighton’s Dome is already getting cosy as latest hype-victims The Vaccines take the stage to open this year’s NME Awards Tour, pockets of teen girls shrieking from the balconies with a fervour last seen in Nuremberg. It’s something of a mystery why. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with the band as such, but nothing particularly memorable either: if it weren’t for The Vaccines’ name being emblazoned on the drum kit they’d risk being forgotten before they’d left the stage, any lasting imprint lost within their homogenised drear.
Which isn’t a label that could ever be applied to Everything Everything, who if anything suffer from a surfeit of sounds, like Delphic molesting Jane’s Addiction in the Haribo factory. And sure, they’re divisive – many in the audience find Jonathan Higgs’ falsetto too much, and at points it does teeter on the edge of self-parody – but at least they’re interesting. Photoshop Handsome and MY KZ, UR BF elicit the requisite pogoing from those standing, and a bemused captivation from the rest – who, as with a car crash, struggle to turn away.
They’ve barely left the stage before roadies wheel out Magnetic Man‘s three laptops, the glowing Apples evoking an outbreak of frenzied screaming from a disturbing proportion of the crowd. It’s for the band, thankfully, the only act tonight for whom the Dome actually feels sold out, the floor a press of flesh up-lit by the glare of mobile phones.
Questions remain as to why it takes three people to perform a job that, essentially, extends to pressing the space bar at the required time, but hey, there’s no arguing with their volume. It’s unlikely that these rarefied surroundings have ever felt this much bass before: somewhere a seismologist is furrowing their brow and wondering who they should call. “Show us your signal” implores MC Sgt. Pokes several times throughout the set, and it’s tempting to hold aloft a white flag.
Yet cynicism is too easy, and it misses the point entirely. Magnetic Man transcend irony to become something like a force of nature, their abrasive dubstep rhythms not even bothering to attempt anything so antiquated as song structure or nuance. There’s no development beyond the inexorable build-up to the next beat-drop, their dynamics a simple binary between being able to breathe and having the air punched out by the next tectonic shift, but it doesn’t matter: it’s an undeniably exhilarating set.
Moments before the house lights dim for Toronto’s Crystal Castles, the promoter informs us that singer Alice Glass has broken her foot. “Cancel the tour, her doctor told her,” he tells us. “Alice said, ‘Fuck that.’” To be honest, most would see the doctor’s side here. Far from exercising caution Glass marauds the stage, somehow making hopping on one leg seem laced with menace. When she does pause for breath it’s more terrifying still: centre-stage and perched atop the monitors, her crutches like arachnid limbs as she arches out towards the crowd, a more sinuous Marilyn Manson shorn of the pantomime.
There’s little subtlety to Crystal Castles’ set, no attempt at understatement. Between the three of them – Alice with the shrieking, live drummer Chris Chartrand and Ethan Kath, shrouded in a hoodie throughout, on synths and guitar – they make just one sound, a caustic scourge of Nintendo bleeps and pummeling beats that’s matched only by our own between-track tinnitus for sheer intensity. If the machines ever were to rise against us it’s these songs, not the theme from Terminator, that would overture the nuclear fire.
Yet it’s a sound that’s strangely cleansing, so singular and unrelenting that everything else becomes secondary. After the white noise of their entrance it’s fitting that Baptism comes first, a fitting inauguration replete with a lightshow like being interrogated at the Ministry of Truth. An hour later, by way of an awesome Alice Practice and a potent (albeit lacking in Robert Smith) Not In Love, they leave us to our retina scarring and our hearing loss, the world outside muted and bland.