Holy Innocents, Seven Summits
Opening a show at McHughs may not be as glamorous as playing at Glastonbury; the stage may be a little more cramped and the PA system might not have the same oomph. The one constant is that of Seven Summits, causing a fuss and reminding us that they're still knocking around.
We're treated to a mix of material from their debut album and some new tracks that give the impression the band are picking up from where they left off. The Quasi influence is still apparent with dirty, clanging guitar chords mixing with emphatic drumming. It seems that drummer Joe Laverty has musical ADHD, as within moments of settling into one rhythm he attempts to one-up himself with a more complex one.
As the set progresses, you can hear the beginnings of a new release coming together. Fossils has all the hallmarks of an album opener, with soft synth parts and dark undertones leading to something a little heavier, whilst there are lyrical references to Graham Coxon's glasses and even nursery rhymes in Pig Song. It's clear to see that the band are striving to achieve a dense sound, and while the band do an admirable job of multitasking, at times an additional musician could perhaps lighten the load and achieve that goal. Without a shadow of a doubt, Burning Heart is the highlight of the set - impatient, frantic and possessing an infectious chorus, it's very memorable.
The Holy Innocents are another band riding the alt country wave in these parts, bringing an interesting mashup of influences in order to differentiate their sound from the pack. The lo-fi clean guitar tones, the sweeping crescendos and diminuendos, the constant and prominent thud from the bass drum and the understated backing vocals are set out from an early stage and there isn't an effort to try and really mix things up. It isn't quite country-music-by-numbers though. On tracks like Freshly Fallen Snow, the audience are pleasantly lulled by a familiar melody but an unusual chord or two keeps us on our toes, evoking memories of recent Wilco releases. Lyrically the Holy Innocents seem to be bang on the money with an ability to storytell and make witty remarks, yet the dark and deep vocals aren't as prominent as you feel they should be.
The band seem fairly unflappable as they have to restart a track but a little more stage interaction would be nice: their focus is clearly on the music but you can't underestimate the power a few words can have upon creating an atmosphere. For the most part the tempo is relaxed and generally sedate, but there's an occasional upbeat song that grabs your attention. Final track All At Once is a rousing number, allowing a little bluegrass to sneak into proceedings and finally giving us a glimpse of the band's energy bubbling under the surface.