Frequency at The Union (9/1/12)

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Frequency, the flagship event of the Alternative and Indie Music Society (AIM), kicked off for the new year on the first day of term last night (January 9th), with a brilliant display of diverse and exciting live music. Expectations were mixed regarding potential attendance and reception, owing to the looming January exams and it being the first day back, but the show was a huge success enjoyed greatly by all in attendance.

The first Frequency of 2012 was also dedicated by the AIM team to the Save Our Heads campaign, an attempt by local residents and music lovers to save local venue The Talking Heads from shutting down. All door money from the event went to the cause, as well as donations offered by attendees; in total, over £100 was raised at Frequency, and 100% of it will go directly to the campaign (or to charity, if the campaign is scrapped). If you would like to donate to the Save Our Heads campaign through AIM, you can email the society at aim@susu.org.

First up was acoustic singer-songwriter Charlotte Campbell, a Southampton University student with over 500 likes on Facebook and almost 1,000 subscribers on YouTube. Needless to say, the performance was excellent. Campbell displayed great talent, both in her singing and her strumming, and won the crowd over with her sweet onstage persona and appreciation for the reception she received. Kicking off with a cover of Train’s ‘Hey, Soul Sister’ (check it out on YouTube), Charlotte breezed through a relatively quick set of covers and originals, thanking the crowd at the end of every song. A confident attempt at Damien Rice’s ‘Cannonball’, chosen because she wanted to “do it justice” after latest X Factor products Little Mix covered the song, was unfortunately thwarted when the singer forgot the lyrics. After she played the chorus one last time, Campbell cheekily conceded that “at least Little Mix learned the words, so fair play to them”.

The highlight of her set was, without a doubt, the rendition of Marvin Gaye’s incredible ‘Let’s Get It On’, which Campbell sung with absolute precision and confidence, converting it beautifully for the acoustic medium in which she performed it. The Frequency crowd clearly loved it, and it was an inspired choice for opening a night of live music. Charlotte closed with a brand new original, which she pointed out had not yet been named. A personal and emotive piece, the song was interesting and riveting to listen to, and proved her amazing talent and writing brilliant love songs to a professional standard. One wouldn’t be blamed for suspecting that Charlotte Campbell may one day make it big, but until then I’m happy to see her perform over and over again. Charlotte’s debut EP Stay can be purchased from her Bandcamp page.

Second on the bill were alternative rockers Corolla, a new four-piece band from Watford. A ‘classic AIM band’, one might say, Corolla took to the stage with amazing energy and enthusiasm to onslaught the crowd with interesting melodies, a loud rhythm section, and talented guitarists. It’s difficult to review a band when you can’t differentiate between their songs (bar one, discussed below), but overall it should be pointed out that they were pretty good. Most songs were built around a funky minor-key guitar riff, with the bassist and drummer coming in to back up the frontman in a manner which can only be described as ‘manic’. Of note also was the band’s look: of the four members, each took on the role of a different musician ‘look’ — there was the indie/emo kid, the hippy/hobo guy, the plain one, and the casual-but-with-tie one. Each brought something interesting and important to the band, contributing to their dark, battered, almost post-hardcore (without the screams) sound. Either way, they were cool.

The highlight of Corolla’s set came in the form of a cover they played; as the band expected, no one in the crowd was familiar with the original artist, but the song was catchy and cool, and just that little bit better that you could tell it was written by professionals. A good choice for a cover, because if no one knows the band then it’s essentially like playing an original. The second highlight was saved until the final song, when confusingly the drummer and the second guitarist swapped places, the original drummer taking up the role of saxophonist. The closing song was very cool indeed — it sounded like a reworked jazz classic — but when the frontman sang over the hectic backing instrumentation it became difficult to keep up. The song would maybe have been a lot better, and still easily enjoyable, if either (1) the lyrics were taken out and it was played as an instrumental, or (2) the crazy saxophone solo was stopped while the singing went on. It was a very interesting end to a very interesting set, and I wouldn’t hesitate to see Corolla perform again, but they could do with ironing out a few creases.

The headline act for January’s Frequency was Hair Force One, the winners of the December Battle of the Bands. A six-piece metal band (male vocals, female vocals, guitar, guitar, bass and drums) might not be what you’d expect to see at an AIM event, but they brought with them a great crowd who in turn electrified the original audience. Their material didn’t exactly hinder them, either. Hair Force One are not your typical metal band: they take the cool image of headbangers and juxtapose it against the lame image of 90s (and earlier) pop. Kicking off with arguably their signature tune, a cover of Ricky Martin’s cheesy classic ‘Livin’ la Vida Loca’, the group destroyed the Frequency crowd with hilarious cover after hilarious cover. While most of the material was recycled from their performance before Christmas (this being only their second show), in all honesty no one cared, it was that enjoyable. In fact, their set was so much the same that they did, in their own words, “the unthinkable” — played a Christmas song. Frontman Jack Reynolds proclaimed his feeling that “Christmas is fucking awesome”, and the band went on to play ‘Fairytale of New York’ again!

There were a couple of surprises, though. Hair Force One played at least two new covers (from what I remember): the Britney Spears classic we all grew up with, ‘Oops!… I Did It Again’, and the 1983 epic Bonnie Tyler anthem ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. And if you didn’t fancy that, you could always fall back on another of the band’s early signature covers — the band’s performance of ABBA’s ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’ was as amazing as ever, and introduced brilliantly by Reynolds (“If you don’t like ABBA, you’re a cunt.”). The metal outfit closed with their encore performance of Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, which in fairness to them sounded a lot tighter than the last time they played it. The whole set was incredible, and not one person cared at all that this was the second time in a row they were seeing them at Frequency, and it takes some skill to accomplish that. Hats off to you, Hair Force One! An amazing close to a top-class event.

Photos courtesy of Maciek Kania.

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