Review: Frequency, October 2011

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The first Frequency of the year was held on Monday 10th October 2011, featuring local band #Tags, Bestival-performing duo Fly, Frankie, Fly, and hometown heroes Arp Attack. With a great turnout of around 100 people, the event split the audience down the middle as enjoyable folk-rock and electropop was brashly divided by a half-hour of slightly out-of-place drum and bass. In a new location, with a new committee, and with a largely new fanbase, Frequency started quite shakily, but still an enjoyable night was had by most.

Against the trend of previous years, AIM kicked off the first Frequency of the 2011/12 year pretty much on time. Faux-local band #Tags (they’re actually from London, but two of their members are at Southampton University) took to the stage around 21:05, opening the new year with their popular single ‘Sick of Heels’, a perfectly quick and upbeat song to instantly pump up the strong crowd. This being their first full band performance in Southampton, the four-piece were understandably a bit nervous, which showed partly during the trademark key changes near the end of the song. The nerves had little effect though, and the performance was still pretty much top-notch. First EP single ‘Some Place New’ followed, filled with epic guitar harmonies and wonderful licks from older McManus brother Ciarán. At this point the group really moved up a gear, speeding up the rest of their set to really energise the new-look Frequency. ‘Kinda Inappropriate’ gave frontman Pat his much-desired excuse to show off his unnaturally high vocals, and gave drummer Mike Smith a decent opportunity to show his kickass skills behind the kit, too. In the absence of the keyboards, Pat did a great job at making the song sound as full as possible.

‘My Father’s House’ followed, which I personally thought was a weird choice considering the number of much better songs on both Summer and No Ball Games. Another relatively weak song, ‘Teardrop in a Petri Dish’ was next, which again the band sped up and mixed around a little bit. It was actually a brilliant performance, and the chorus was really epic. With three songs left, #Tags pulled out only the big guns to finish. Super popular hit ‘I Wanna See You’ (a former Surge chart number ten, by the way) saw Pat really come into his own as a frontman, clearly massively enjoying performing what he called the song which is “closest to his heart“. The crowd obviously enjoyed it too, as the reception was huge. Following the unfollowable was the slower, funkier ‘Summer’, the title track of the group’s first release. Brothers Pat and Ciarán showed off some really interesting vocal interplay on this one, and also placed a really cool breakdown section at the end. With no obvious songs left to play, #Tags gave us all a surprise: a brand new song! Built around some really funky John Frusciante-esque guitar melodies, a super strong chorus and middle eight, and the usual flabbergasting vocal harmonies, ‘Helena’ was a really great choice for a set closer, summing up the performance well and looking into the future of one of the brightest new talents on the local music scene.

Next up were dubstep/drum and bass duo Fly, Frankie, Fly, whose start was delayed by approximately ten minutes due to technical issues. To be honest, the whole experience of FFF was pretty weird — they don’t exactly ‘fit in’ at Frequency. The crowd were surprisingly receptive though, and if anything the levels of dancing were at an all-time high during the second act, which is maybe when the alcohol kicked in. I couldn’t write anywhere near as much of a review as I have done for the opening act, as the duo’s set was pretty much one uninterrupted wall of electronic noise. Aforementioned technical issues continued in the form of feedback, which definitely put a few people off the performance, although by the end of the first song this was sorted out. FFF’s set opener was actually pretty impressive: they started with a fresh-sounding electro dubstep track, which slowly built up to a crescendo of epic synth melodies. The ‘cool electronic’ feel was short-lived, however, as the majority of the set mixed heavy dubstep beats with almost screamo vocals, which really put a few people (including this reviewer) off. Combined with the confusing breaks in songs when the frontman asked the audience whether “We got beef?!”, Fly, Frankie, Fly really were a bit all over the place.

When they weren’t producing an onslaught of ‘filthy’ basslines for the indie hopefuls in the Union, FFF were ripping off classic dance tracks from years gone by (including the very famous ‘Better Off Alone‘ by Alice DeeJay) and adding head-spinning synth lines and inaudible screams. To be fair to them, the second act of Frequency’s 2011/12 reign were really impressive at engaging the crowd, successfully convincing them to “throw [their]fists in the air” during one of the middle songs. Towards the end of the set, the vocalist introduced a “slow one” and asked everyone in the room to sit down, hug the person next to them (surreal, I know…), and prepare to jump up on his count, in a frankly weak attempt at emulating Slipknot’s famous ‘Zero Bullshit‘ feature. The crowd obliged though, and it actually looked pretty awesome. The energetic duo saved the best ’til last, and after a mediocre drum and bass track in which the frontman made his way into the crowd they played a decent electronic song to get the crowd dancing one more time before the headliners. Overall, they weren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, but the people who did enjoy it really enjoyed it.

By the time headliners Arp Attack took the stage in the crowd Cube level of the Union building, the technical problems had escalated to an irritating level. At their fourth Frequency performance, the Southampton locals had to constantly pause their set in order to try and get the sound the way they wanted it, with vocalist Frankie Murdoch becoming noticeably agitated on numerous occasions. Aside from the problems though, the tight-knit three-piece put on a decent performance. From the start the sound was dodgy, with the guitar and synths overpowering Murdoch’s lovable vocals. The opening song was slow and aggressive, a departure from the majority of their material, but without the vocals it wasn’t really that effective. The second song was another I didn’t recognise, but it featured a very impressive drum performance from Kevin Jones and some pretty intricate guitar and synth layering courtesy of Frankie and guitarist Chris Smallwood. Crowd favourite ‘Crocodile Tears’ was next, at which point Frankie took the opportunity to thank SUSUtv for producing the music video for the song, and the University of Southampton in general for the support.

Unfortunately the sound mixing deteriorated further, and communication problems amongst AIM committee members further plagued the headlining act, but Frankie and co. did their best to get past the problems by simply playing their hearts out. Proving themselves as great performers, Arp Attack wowed the crowd with their Surge chart top-ten hit ‘Follow the Rhythm’, with Frankie proving herself once again as an extremely important part of the band’s sound and image. Later in the set, the trio played a long, slow song, which was a nice change of pace and gave each member the chance to really show off. Frankie’s vocals were absolutely stunning, and would easily pass any BBC radio screening process; she’s also damn good on the synths, providing a really cool arpeggiated melody as the backing for her professional vocals and sexy stage image. More impressive guitar licks and drum fills were brought out in the penultimate song, and the final song of the night was Arp Attack’s next single (for which I again missed the title…). Led by a futuristic synth arpeggio, the set (and night) closer really displayed the attitude of Arp Attack, a humble three-piece band who, given the right opportunity, could (and should) really make it big some day. With the promise of big things to come, and more genuine appreciation for the crowd, Arp Attack left their headline slot at Frequency with an extremely happy audience who will know to return next month.

The verdict? In the circumstances, a great night of live music. The first of the new year, in the new location, with the new committee… AIM did a bloody good job. See you (and Soma High) on November 14th!

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4 Comments

  1. avatar

    The sound issues were indeed a shame, but the atmosphere was good and if they can be solved by next time, it will be an excellent Frequency 🙂

  2. avatar

    Seems a little harsh on the #tags, in my opinion they didn’t seem overly nervous and were a really tight outfit throughout. Also don’t consider ‘Teardrop in a Petri Dish’ to be a weak song. Talking to others at the gig, many people considered the #tags to be the best band of the night, which is an opinion I share.

    • avatar

      Have you read the rest of the review? #Tags were awesome compared to FFF, and stacked up to Arp Attack, who are pretty legendary in Southampton. You obviously don’t know how much I love #Tags! They were tight, but definitely stumbled a tiny bit on their first full band gig in Soton, but yeah picked it back up later. I’ve seen them before and since, and they’ve been better, but personally I’d agree they were the best of the night.

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