Jamie Lenman + Gender Roles + Loa Loa
The Haunt, Brighton
February 10 2018
Words/Pictures: Steve Willcox
It's a cold, wet and blustery Brighton night as I battle my way through the crowds outside for the warm embrace of The Haunt. Not my favourite venue I will admit, due to its large central pillar on stage and its hourglass standing area. With about 70 people in the audience, local band Loa Loa form a tight heavy indie-rock unit, as they open the evening. With full on thrashing guitars and full metal jacket vocals (that pierced the bejesus out of this reviewer), they are definitely an act of the 'hearing protection required' ilk. ‘Give Me What I Want’ shows us this band can write a tune and play mightly hard, while ‘Monet’ is a notable highlight with its spiky edged chorus and guitar licks throughout.
Yet another Brighton band is on the bill tonight with both doing the whole UK leg of this tour. Garage punks Gender Roles have been getting a fair amount of attention of late, and I’m not surprised with content as good as ‘Skin’ and ‘Chemicals’ under their belt. The boys soon get started with ‘Payrise’, pulling out plenty of reverb guitar from vocalist Tom Bennett and the pounding bass of Jared Tomkins that soon sets the crowd moving. Tom's voice is understated but he can reach those notes when he needs to with great precision, as on ‘Plastic’ and ‘Watered Down’. The former, a gritty little banger of fuzzy guitars, perhaps best exemplifies what Gender Roles are about.
Latest single ‘About Her’ is another that seems to go down well, but my own personal favourite came with the last song of the set. Hearing ‘Skin’ live for the first time with its slow guitar riff intro, the drums and bass that lifts it, and then compounded with catchy lyrics and Nirvana-esque vocals, turns this number from an ordinary tune, into a great song. A Little Indie One To Watch band this year, so keep an eye on where they may be playing next near you.
It’s been almost five years since Jamie Lenman played at Brighton's Green Door Store where he rediscovered himself as a solo artist after disbanding alt-rock band Reuben ten tears ago. Tonight’s crowd is a mix of old fans and new converts no doubt drawn here after the extensive radio airplay through his new album, ‘Devolver’ and its 'Body Popping' single. He cuts something of an eccentric, enigmatic character, that is part dandy, dressed solely in white from shoes up except for dark moustache and a snip of a dark curl on his otherwise shaven head; and part resembling a long lost brother of Sparks' Ron Mael.
This is a stripped to the bone set with just Jamie and Dan Kavanagh on drums. Those thinking he’s lost his mind are mistaken; this is his new found belief and confidence in his ability to perform rather than hide behind other band members.
The loud, racing and oddly titled ‘One Of My Eyes Is A Clock’ soon segues into another headbanger, ‘Waterloo Teeth’, and after its climatic guitar death throes, Jamie calmly puts his guitar down and has a drum battle with Dan on a second drumset. After losing the battle, Dan picks up the guitar and the pair start playing an old Reubens song ‘Eating Only Apples’ with Jamie at the drums, screaming down the mic. As the song finishes he tells the crowd ‘I bet you never saw that motherfucker coming did ya!’ with a wry smile on his face.
One of the highlights of the set was the crowd chanting ‘All Of England Is A City’ in which Jamie showed perfect showmanship in connecting with an audience. After a quick interval he comes back on stage alone with his acoustic guitar to finish off the night with a two song encore. First, of course, is ‘Body Popping’ which must surely have done much to bring his name to a wider audience of late, with its repeated lines and layered chords, though I'm not sure it was quite as effective here live as it is on record.
The last song of the evening was ‘Let’s Stop Hanging Out’ another song from the Reuben years that had longstanding fans in tune as they sang along to the end, before the set was over, and we all had to, sadly, stop hanging out at The Haunt quite literally. But what a welcome back for Mr Lenman.