Writer Megan Treacy / Photographer Ewan Williamson
Kicking off The Future Sound Project’s takeover weekend at The Sunflower Lounge this Saturday is Josh McQueen, a multi-instrumentalist from Birmingham, and his band. Taking a matter-of-fact approach to his emotions, McQueen prepares us for an original setlist inspired by heartbreak — “If I was happy we’d have no music”.
‘Back To Me’, which will be released in April, recounts a cheating ex over string-bending guitar and a waltzing rhythm. McQueen’s voice has a Billy Joel-esque tone which is complemented well by vocalist Emily Kaye who harmonises on the keyboard.
Next onstage is Ed3n, another Birmingham band fronted by sibling vocalists Eloisa and Kyra Macatlang who bring an energetic performance presence that sparkles from the stage.
Their setlist of covers infuses popular songs with funky basslines — highlights being their renditions of ‘Toxic’ and ‘Pump It’ which get the audience dancing, the rhythm kept tight in spite of some technical difficulties which don’t manage to detract too much from the performance.
Bringing some northern sound to The Sunflower Lounge next it’s Project Nevada, arriving from Liverpool with floppy hair and friendly onstage chat. Light-toned synths on opener ‘Girl Next Door’ bring a summery feeling to Sunflower’s basement, and the slightly heavier chorus of ‘When Push Comes to Shove’ will surely attract moshes in the future.
‘Vampires of Wall Street’ contains darker lyrics — “How will you sleep tonight when there’s monsters in your room?” — and provokes some headbanging in the crowd. Project Nevada leaves us in good favour with some free stickers, hoping their name will stick around, literally, in Brum.
For the next act, the crowd fills up a bit as six-piece student band Red Zest take the stage.
They perform a mostly original set, with songs characterised by twinkling keys and the uplifting tones of two saxophones. ‘Harry and Sally’, a recent release available on Spotify, paints a wholesome autumnal picture of queer infatuation, the quickly rising and falling melody of the chorus audibly illustrating the nervous excitement of discovering a romantic attraction.
Vocalist Beth Tempest is proud to state that the band are an all female and non-binary ensemble, and hopes that if anything is taken from their performance it is this gender representation in the music scene. Disappointingly, much of the audience decides at this interval to dissipate, to their loss.
The Mucks give possibly the best set of the day, a five-piece band from Coventry looking to expand their fanbase further afield. Frontman Dunny’s (Michael Dunn) vocals are incredible, delivered with as much power and passion as if the room were bursting – the whole band undeterred by the lacking audience numbers.
‘Grace’ (or ‘Grayayace’ as the catchy chorus goes) is their latest release available on Spotify, a comparatively softer track to the subsequent ‘One’r’ — an energising ode to good times which summons the freeing feeling of the weekend, “sitting in the pub drinking vodkas and lemonades”.
In between songs, Dunny is offered a beer by a crowd member — “local hero saves small man on stage”. Hopefully The Mucks’ next return to Birmingham will be welcomed by not only drinks but a much-deserved mosh.
Anti-Pallet Gang follow, a recently-formed four-piece indie band from Lichfield who have played gigs in Birmingham, Manchester, and London, recently headlining Notting Hill Arts Club.
It’s not the first time the band have graced The Sunflower stage with their bright guitar tones, but it’s the first appearance of “a punk song about a duck written this morning” which grabs attention with lyrics referencing 2009 classic ‘The Duck Song’.
Anti-Pallet Gang balance out this humour with a more seriously delivered parting message of “Fuck the Tories”.
For the next band, World Speed Record, The Sunflower drum kit is dressed with the flag of the Black Country in a show of Cannock pride.
Performing songs from their 2022 EP Heavy Weather as well as some new songs releasing this year, the band play with clear passion and dedication to their music — charming in sound as well as stage presence.
Three-piece IDIOM soon usurp the stage noisily with a Deftones cover prompting immediate headbanging, then following up with original single ‘lmk’ — a cymbal-heavy track with wailing vocals and clear grunge influences. At one point during the set, a broken pedal mid-song forces drummer George to kick the bass drum, only adding to the DIY nature and energy of the performance as the drum bounces visibly onstage.
IDIOM delivers a loud and intense set to a filled out room.
A distinct change in sound now comes from Beorma, or two thirds of Beorma, as one member is absent from tonight’s gig. Being one man down is no discouragement however, as the band get the audience swaying with songs from their recent album Parting Revelations.
‘Millennial Jesus’ is a laid-back indie track with dreamy vocals which fantasise about a romance — “You could be my wife and we could chill and we could love each other all the time”. While ‘New York’ yearns for an old lover who is now with someone else, displaying more apparent R&B influences.
Beorma leaves the crowd contented with a few beloved Fleetwood Mac covers, before the final act arrives onstage.
Faces from Red Zest’s loyal audience reappear to fill the room for Melts the Band — another formation of students from the University of Birmingham’s Jazz, Funk & Soul Society.
They parade onto the stage in a uniform of eccentric hats and boiler suits of different colours, like a band of jazzy Power Rangers, and delve into a setlist of original pieces that exhibit their musical training.
Their songs seem to seek the audible expression of physical moments and situations: the plodding tuba and trilling saxophone of ‘Sports Night’ look to evoke the atmosphere of uni nights out, and the calming melody of ‘Overlapping Waves’ is described poetically by a crowd member, “this is like a walk in the park”.
The many transitions of The Sunflower stage are to be continued as Day Two awaits.
The Future Sound Project @ The Sunflower Lounge – Day One 18.02.23 / Ewan Williamson
For more from Josh McQueen go to: www.mcqueenmusic.co.uk
For more from Ed3n go to: www.instagram.com/ed3n_official
For more from Project Nevada go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from Red Zest go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from The Mucks go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from Anti-Pallet Gang go to: www.youtube.com/channel
For more from World Speed Record go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from IDIOM go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from Beorma go to: www.beorma.square.site
For more from Melts the Band go to: www.meltsband.wixsite.com/meltstheband
For more from The Future Sound Project go to: www.thefuturesoundproject.com
For more from The Sunflower Lounge go to: www.thesunflowerlounge.com