Friday 25th September / 93 Feet East
As the bouncer studiously picks through my rucksack, her face tired of having seen it all before, these words run around my mind. It was a quick pack morning. I panicked in bursts. Short sprints took me from bus stops to train stations and finally onto Brick Lane, just in time to watch Shatter Effect headline at 93 Feet East – officially sending their debut album out into the world.
September 25th 2015, the red letter date; We Are Warriors is now available at the end of an Ethernet cable or wireless adapter.
It’s a big day for any band, getting their debut album recorded and released, and I can just about see Shatter Effect in the venue’s courtyard about 10meteres away. They’ll be on stage in less than an hour. I need to get past this door.
Promoted by Symptomatic, tonight is a smorgasbord of five London bands with the Brummie interlopers topping the bill. With the soundchecks over, and tentative arrangements made about amps and drum kit, all that’s left to do is wait. And drink, for those who want to (me) or can (everyone who’s not driving).
Shatter Effect are four firm friends; bonded over their band’s endevour, it is clear and infectious how much they care for each other. And how much they like to poke fun, as their unprintable banter dissects each other’s pitfalls and prizefights for the enjoyment of the table.
From my teenage days of ‘manager’, across my early twenty’s promoter portfolio, and into my older roles of pundit/punter, I’ve spent a fair amount of time with groups of musicians – the words of a certain Mercury Rev song often not too far behind. But out of the countless and faceless, Shatter Effect always struck me as class.
Whether you like or loathe their music, for we live in a world of metaphors and apparent free will, they are a band who work hard and play fair. They are good at what they do and they do it with grace. It’s why I’m in London tonight. It’s why I’ll be in Birmingham tomorrow. And it why they deserve the right place and time to eventually collide. Did I mention they have an album out..?
“Let’s go in, the first band will be on in a minute,” drummer Ricky Hill stands up. In a quick murmur of agreement the rest of the table picks up its drinks and files inside. Like many bars in London, 93 Feet East has a small warren of rooms – with the healthy sized live stage a twist and a turn from the outdoor courtyard.
I’m not sure what’s happening with the running order, something feels already too late or too early for us to still be on schedule, but as we form the front row the first name on the poster, Hold the Dawn, slide quietly on stage – eyes down and no talking, the Catholic guilt of a Rock band performance.
Some discussions are had throughout the set, and with a couple of the (six) bands booked now not able to play, the schedule is officially changed. Shatter Effect opt for an earlier time – their homegrown and big city support coming though the doors in almost scripted timing.
“How you all doing, alright?” Rebecca Davies takes a firm stance on stage – gloriously confident in any room, Shatter Effect’s performance persona is one of their most endearing qualities. They are the kind of band a crowd will actually move to the front for. Even strangers and even in Birmingham.
Launching into the set with their album’s tracklist, ‘Come Again Soon’ and ‘Afraid’ set a strong pace – before ‘L.E.E.D.S.’ proffers a slightly darker edge, both in lyrics and melody. A tough edge and prominent introduction to any room; the promoter leans into my shoulder and talks about their next London booking at the Sebright Arms, in front of a “sold out, industry crowd.” October 21st, the day before my birthday. Hhmmm…
Marching through the set, with a fervor and pace I only see from Shatter Effect when they’re on stage, we get a full belly live showcase of We Are Warriors. I try and keep up with the photography, as Robin Davies and Edd Duffell thrash from one side of the stage to the other (and a somewhat hidden Ricky Hill smashes the pig skin like a meth amphetamine itch) but most of my photos come out like a deleted scene from Jacob’s Ladder.
By the end of the set, I have stood on every bench and the adopted London crowd is calling for more. Success? Someone in this room is winning. And after a well deserved debrief/unwind back in the courtyard, all that’s left is one more band on stage, a long drive to The Midlands, some dubious service station orange juice, and the toil of the impending day job – before Shatter Effect prepare to do the whole night again on more familiar soil.
For more from 93 Feet East, visit http://www.93feeteast.co.uk
For more from Symptomatic, visit http://symptomaticpresents.com/
Saturday 26th September / The Sunflower Lounge
Everybody is walking the other way. Centenary Square is full, with Birmingham and it’s respected other making their way to an outdoor stage or screen – as the Rugby World Cup and Birmingham Weekender spill onto the street and drown out everything else.
As I trawl from Broad Street to the Mailbox, then down John Bright Street, along Smallbrook Queensway and into The Sunflower Lounge, I am officially the only fish swimming upstream. The lone saturday night salmon. The Sunflower Lounge is quiet too, with those performing and their entourages making up at least half the numbers; all we need is Christmas to be brought forward and we could shut down the city.
Shatter Effect sit at a long bench table, their numbers doubled by the friends and family in immediate support. Some I recognise from Friday, some I don’t, as the Christmas day congeniality continues to surround them. There’s some BIG NEWS too, personal not professional, and genuine hugs are passed round the group.
Originally booked by Birmingham Promoters to share the bill with Girl Friend, the Manchester Electro/Disco outfit had to pull out of tonight’s gig due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ – leaving Shatter Effect to mop up the headline slot, with Tokyo Marching Band still in support. And tonight seems to have maintained its air of confused mystery with no one really taking the reins; with that and the mass appeal events happening simultaneously, I am, by proxy, concerned for the attendance figures.
As Tokyo Marching Band get ready for their support set, we leave upstairs to take our place in the crowd below. As both a promoter and punter I like to see a band stand and support those they’re sharing a stage with. It respectful, courteous, and it certainly gets noticed – something worth remembering when you squeal like a frightened mouse for half an hour and then run into the nearest hole. Monster, Tokyo Marching Band’s recent EP is definitely worth a listen – but their actions in the flesh could be a little more rounded.
Rebecca Davies, again, lifts the room from an awkward back room shuffle into a three steps forward, healthy curve of support. It’s a gift, to be able to make strangers feel comfortable, and as the small numbers gather closer to the stage the room feels warmer. And louder. Like a musical David and Goliath, Shatter Effect are now firmly on stage.
Following the same set list as the London showcase, as much as my increasingly addled dark rum mind can remember, tonight’s set has a slightly tighter punch to it. I was also concerned about how Shatter Effect, who really need to be pumping out there Rock/Dance gamma rays from a stage at somewhere like Reading or Leeds (…maybe not Leeds, I don’t want to know about Leeds), would sound in the up close and personal surroundings of The Sunflower Lounge. Shatter Effect are always better live, but would there be a minimum safe distance? Two songs in and apparently not.
The rugby finishes and the room triples in number. Shatter Effect’s set is under halfway through and a noticeable lift comes off stage; I see a band start to enjoy what they’re performing. The room, many of whom are asking questions at the door, move from an initially raised guard to a genuine foot stomp.
I start talking to (shouting at) a rather tall French man about “the banal state of Rock music today”, before squeezing out a mini head bang hair thrash by speaker. ‘Finest Hour’ and ‘Zinnia’ bring a melodic shift into second gear, before ‘Gentle Killer’ reminds us of the ferocious dark matter that Shatter Effect can so effectively scream out. Like a velvet glove punch, you don’t fu*k about with the silk against your skin.
The set rolls through an ever increasing crowd, with the Shatter Effect bass drum and word of mouth bringing The Sunflower Lounge entirely underground. I am sailor high and chuffed to bits by this point, looking across a firmly fixed crowd and wildly (maybe too wildly) moshing to ‘Find What You Love’.
By the time the encore is quite simply demanded, in the shape of the We Are Warriors lead single ‘Make Me Hate You’ (…I think. 90/10 sure – 20/80 sober), I am fifteen years old and back at the Hummingbird. I may have even punched the air with a Judd-Nelson-end-of-Breakfast-Club-Rock-fist; if you were standing anywhere near me, I am eternally sorry.
The set ends, with the room still full and the night is still over; I pick my way the through The Sunflower Lounge and out into the pedestrian traffic, now travelling the right way to carry me home. Fishing in my bag for a jumper I find something else to keep me warm, and dutifully get rid of the evidence (I’d forgotten about since Friday) on my way to the bus stop – running through the upcoming dates on the Shatter Effect tour and potential presents to myself.
I honestly thought one album review and two live gigs in a row would be enough, with my classic overkill approach to music making it a simple chord cut – but I’m more engaged now than I was before. And as I stagger back to Broad Street thinking of clever framing techniques, I know I’ll end up using facile self destruction to bubble wrap my review.
But heed this, my final words after 48hours of The Midlands’ best Rock Vs Rave dichotomy – you should listen to We Are Warriors, then you should see Shatter Effect play it live, then if you should do it again. And possibly once more for luck.
Shatter Effect are a band who have worked hard to get to the first rung on a very promising ladder, with their debut album release being a clear mark in the sand. And with similarities and differences carving up each room I’ve been in this weekend, the sense of camaraderie and catching a wave have both remained resolute.
Shatter Effect, We Are Warriors; a prominent band with a solid debut. And a tour in November. I’m just saying.
For more on Shatter Effect, including full tour details and online purchase points forWe Are Warriors, visit http://www.shattereffect.com/
For more from The Sunflower Lounge, visit http://thesunflowerlounge.com/
For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit http://birminghampromoters.com