Returning to their roots in Brixton, Palma Violets put on a lively show for their “home” crowd. Just a few blocks away from 180 Lambeth Road, where they first rehearsed and played in public, and which supplied the name for their recent first album, Electric Brixton (revamped from the much-loved but faded Fridge) is a lot smarter and airier than the sweaty basement squat cum art studio – but it’s the perfect venue to capture the band’s intimate, spontaneous appeal.
As the latest band to be acclaimed as the saviours of indie guitar music, Palma Violets have had an impossible weight of expectation foisted upon them by parts of the music press, almost doomed to disappoint. Released by legendary label Rough Trade, 180 is a pretty good debut, mixing up 60s psychedelia, garage and punk expressed with a very English soul, but it’s not outstanding. We’ll see if – like their much-touted predecessors The Vaccines – they develop their songwriting in their second album, but one thing they already are is a great live band.
Unlike so many recent bands, Palma Violets are a bit of a throwback in the sense that they have learned their craft and earned their support by gigging rather than relying on studio production and social media. And it shows. Their pulsating hour-long set is a highly enjoyable performance, partly because they themselves seem to be enjoying it so much. Merging the aggressive edge of The Clash with the casual charm of The Libertines, the band put their modest output through its paces – the likeably laid-back, even shambolic stage presence masks a tight, professional outfit.
The two co-frontmen – Sam Fryer on splintering guitar and Chilli Jesson on rumbling bass – combine husky singing with dynamic movement, like Strummer and Jones, or Doherty and Barat, while Peter Mayhew’s organ playing embellishes the sound and Will Martin’s drumming drives the music along. They make a convincing case that the album’s song were written to be performed live.
Entering to the accompaniment of The Damned’s New Rose, Palma Violets launch into a blistering account of Johnny Bagga Donuts, followed by the equally raucous Rattlesnake Highway. Early favourite Tom The Drum goes down a storm, as do the irresistibly exuberant singles Best Of Friends and Step Up For The Cool Cats, with plenty of singing along to the choruses from the sell-out crowd. The playful pauses and sudden spurts of pace keep things fresh, with a few more spaced out moments of feedback for everyone to catch their breath.
Palma Violets encore with a celebratory cover of the Canadian punk band The Hot Nasties’ Invasion Of The Tribbles, then close with their own album’s final hidden track, the good-naturedly riotous Brand New Song. For this they are joined by support band Childhood (themselves making waves in the indie world), so that the show ends with a chaotic jumble of swaying bodies and stage diving into a welcoming crowd.