Band – Vanilla Nightmare
Support – Monocle Rose, Tasha Fights Tigers, The Rocketeers
Venue – Hitchin Club 85
Cost – Â£7 (with free Vanilla Nightmare album!)
Verdict -What’s the opposite of a nightmare? Actually, don’t answer that…
Thereâ€™s not much to say about Monocle Rose, simply because thereâ€™s not much to them in anyway. The music itself is your bog standard trashy rock that compensates for itâ€™s lack of originality by having the bass turned up too high and washing everything else out with cymbal crashes. The vocalist Rose spends most of her time trying to imitate a drunker version of Karen O and her between song banter is confusing and unfunny. They get some plus points for 1 of their tunes having a decent rhythm, but any hope of improvement is dashed by the grating monotony of Roseâ€™s warbling about how tough it is living in London, or being from London or something equally dull and tedious about LUNNNDDAARRRRNN. Poor.
The second band, Tasha Fights Tigers, drastically improves proceedings by a) not sounding shit, b) having decent songs and c) using synthesiser to add quirky, yet subtle bleeps and bloops to their onslaught of slight-metallic riffage and an almost shoe-gaze wash of sound. Quite why theyâ€™re a support band is beyond me, as their poise, playing ability, on-stage repartee and the racket they create has headliner written all over it. Coming across as some spiralling barrage of spluttering alt-rock, with a frontman who’s toned his wailing larynx so it seems to channel elements of Chris Cornell.
The Rocketeers have only one song, but thankfully that one song is bloody good. Emulating the sort of noise that even Winnebago Deal would shy away from, the trio slam out the same over-driven speed-rock again and again with eloquent precision and a ‘I donâ€™t give a fuckâ€™ attitude. A lot of the vocals are lost in the deafening barrage, but it doesnâ€™t matter, as the flat out grooves smash all thoughts of apathy like a sledgehammer to a watermelon. Imagine listening to the batman soundtrack being played 10 times faster than the normal speed, whilst drinking heavily – that’s sort of what The Rocketeers are like live. Thank Christ for ER-20s.
I can’t remember if I’ve seen Vanilla Nightmare before. There’s a good chance I have, but then sometimes I can’t even remember what I did last week, so the chances of me remembering a band I’d seen for about Ã‚Â£4 back when I was in 6th formÃ‚Â are pretty slim. Vanilla Nightmare deserves this. Their album, which theyâ€™ve obviously put a lot of heart and effort into, leaks the essence of DIY ethics, having been produced and mixed by their drummer (hey, I read inlay sheets). Whilst the sound levels return to normality during their headline slot (although chequered shirt wearing keyboardist Ben seems to have picked the short straw in ‘who gets the dodgy ampâ€™ as his synth is barely audible in some of the more raucous sections and heâ€™s left gripping the instrument and head-banging like some electrocuted lumberjack.
They play though with a somewhat scrappy, yet determined precision, ever thankful for those that have turned up to see them and reward the assembled masses with a brilliant mix of trashy punk. Vocalist Mark Smith has quite an unusual twang to his voice, almost sounding as if heâ€™s sat on a load of frozen drawing pins. His tone reaches incredibly high wails, before descending into a drunken, slurred Joe Strummer impersonation that fits their music perfectly. Whilst their sound could be described as an uplifting mix of ska upstrokes and chunky riffs, the lyrics fall on the side being incredibly bitter and sardonic. Tonight, Smith and co-vocalist Hollis, spit their words in sharp, sneering gestures adding a distinctly brasher sound to tonightâ€™s events. On songs like ‘Mr Hindsightâ€™, Vanilla Nightmare lurch from a jaunty, unpredictable swagger, to quick-fire passages of snapping vitriol, whereas on the more ska approach of ‘Iâ€™m On Itâ€™, they bounce along quite happily in Madness-ville, before slamming home with the zest and disjointed punk of early Rancid material. Set highlights include a boisterous run through of their most famous song, ‘Money Machine‘ (as seen on MTV2), which heralds the biggest sing-a-long of the evening and also the acidic tone of the final track,Ã‚Â (it was introduced alongside a volley of swear words), Ã‚Â seems to reference a failed relationship in quite an acrimonious context. As the last notes ring out and the Nightmare boys leave the stage,they should hold their heads up high for what has been a fantastic album launch party and solid performance. Bravo!