Photo: Owen Stav
Sundara Karma + FREAK +The Night Café
O2 Institute, Birmingham
September 20 2016
Words: Rosie Mulhern
Current Reading scene leaders - Sundara Karma took on Birmingham on Tuesday night, where at the O2 Institute they engaged a whole army of support for their mid-tour stop in the city
Liverpool's The Night Cafe took on the seemingly daunting task of being the first support band on for the sold-out show, but their presence conveyed anything but fear. They kicked off their set with 'Time', a chirpy number with jangly guitar riffs a-plenty, bringing the likes of Foals to mind.
This set them off to a good start and they already had the audience fully engaged with rather a lot of movement going on down the front. What was most impressive was the band's harmonies, with voices from both 18-year-old lead singer Sean Martin and drummer Carl Dillon complimenting each other nicely and adding diversity to each of their tracks.
Photo: Rosie Mulhern
They then comfortably rolled into 'Addicted', their jangly guitar track of last autumn, which funnily enough contained the kind of addicting riffs and harmonies (once again) that make you want to keep pressing the repeat button. It was a really tight perfomance as the band ended confidently on their newest track 'Mixed Signals' which gained a fair amount of excited sounding screams and a reassuring indicator that The Night Café will most certainly be welcome back here.
Next striding onto the stage were Essex newbies FREAK. They've been on the rise recently picking up recognition from the likes of Radio 1 after Little Indie and Radio X's John Kennedy discovered them earlier in the year. I was soon to see why Connar Ridd and his bandmates have been picking up plaudits all round after witnessing their live show here: if you wonder what it would sound like if Ratboy and Slaves had a baby, then I'd suggest listening to these guys.
These guys were stopping for no one when they surged straight into 'Floating High' - a track with the kind of heaviness and drive that's able to cause an immediate reaction within a crowd. With reams of dirty sounding guitar solos and straight to the point lyrics, FREAK brutally powered on through the set, playing as if their lives depended on it. It's rare to see a support act gain just as much excitement and rowdiness from a crowd as the main act but FREAK showed that they'd settle for nothing less. Moshpits were heaving with teens determined to tear the place down as they relentlessly powered on as the excitement then evolved into several circle pits and crowd surfers.
Last up and the much awaited stars of the show were Sundara Karma. Considering the short amount of time this band have been together for, it's clear to see the work they've put in through their sheer confidence and tight live shows. Their turnouts at their gigs never fail to impress as despite they don't even have an album out yet, they've still managed to sell out most dates on this tour and have conquered playing the main stage at Reading and Leeds this year. However, the music that they do have out will never fail to get you moving, each track reeking of euphoria and fuelling the thought - "This would sound great live."
Due to the crowd having been well warmed up thanks to the two excellent supports, it didn't take long for the impatient crowd to work itself up into a frenzy even when the quartet had only graced the stage with their presence for a mere matter of seconds. Launching straight into popular hit 'Indigo Puff', a song which the band haven't played live for a while (as they claim they get 'bored' of songs sometimes with the number of times they have to perform them on stage), so you can imagine the audience reaction when the familiar thump of drums and dreamy guitar riff made itself present in the opening seconds.
Photo: Rosie Mulhern
They played a satisfying balance of older and new songs which will be on their debut album, introduced by their humble frontman Oscar Lulu as "I hope you don't mind too much, but we're gonna play some new stuff too." Oh, I didn't mind at all. This included the likes of 'Olympia', 'Deep Relief' and freshly released 'She Said', sounding a lot more mature and stronger than their past material.
Midway through the chaos, the guys unexpectedly whipped out a cover of Luther Vandross's 'Never Too Much' which got everybody moving as the band added their own groove to it which went down exceedingly well (not so much with the younger crowd that had come accompanied with their parents, but it was an interesting and admirable challenge and worked well with Lulu's distinct voice nonetheless.)
Sundara Karma are without a doubt one of the top bands leading the current indie scene across the nation and I'm expecting even bigger things from these guys in the future.