It takes a special band to upstage the act they are opening for, but the audience who paid to see Pale Waves this year were treated to exactly that. Though a solid live outfit themselves, the indie pop of Pale Waves was made to seem almost trite by comparison to their support act, the excitingly abrasive King Nun.
Bringing to the stage the kind of lo-fi garage rock that would make Kurt Cobain blush, King Nun are an alternative London-based quartet that exuded a tangible charisma and sense of slapdash fun on stage that Pale Waves, or most other live acts, couldn’t quite match. I could think of no better act to warm up the audience. Led by the enthralling character Theo Polyzoides, the band ripped through a choice selection of melodic, guitar-driven rock with a unique sense of controlled chaos – wailing guitars and crashing drums, whilst Theo sings lyrics such as “Call it a surprise if I can’t see out the back of my head”. There’s a sense of authenticity that is desperately lacking in the guitar rock genre as of late, and King Nun could be the antidote. These are four proficient, talented musicians, making straightforward and undiluted rock music for the love of the genre.
My affinity for King Nun was only strengthened by the apparent nonchalance and breeziness that their set took on. Theo, upon finishing a song, turned to lead guitarist James Upton and said he had forgotten what song was next. Mid-strum during their single ‘Hung Around’, Theo broke a string and delivered the rest of the song in increasingly risky places. Taking his shirt off, he danced around and jumped off amps, clearly having the time of his life. And this sort of indulgence was deeply infectious, worlds away from the very well-behaved and restrained stage presence of the headliners. It was as though the order of the acts had been mixed up.
Perhaps King Nun, emerging in late 2016, are too ‘unpalatable’ for the average listener to warrant more popularity and exposure. That said, the heavy rock genre has performed well above its station in recent years, with acts like Bring Me the Horizon being the flag-bearers. If anything, we as a music consumers should be celebrating the carefree exuberance of the band, if not its anthemic and memorable tunes. With any luck, 2019 could be the year for a band that probably wouldn’t care if their year never came.