Nine Black Alps at The Joiners (14/10/12)

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Sunday night saw grungy Manchester quartet Nine Black Alps take to the stage at Joiners, promoting their new album Sirens. This was my first time to Joiners although I’d heard about it’s great reputation as a key venue in the South. We were slightly dismayed to find that we’d be wandering around St Marys after dark trying to find it, but decided we were adults and we would totally just walk anyway. Joiners becomes this little musical haven in the evening, on streets that are almost completely deserted.

I was excited to have the opportunity to see Nine Black Alps at a smaller venue but almost disappointed that it seemed they never quite made it; they’d gone from playing to 2000+ at Hammersmith Palais after their massive debut Everything Is to not quite selling out what is effectively a large room, which at full capacity holds 150 people.

First up supporting were The Lost Souls Club, a local band who, after a bizarre tour of Asia, returned to play Joiners. They certainly looked the part, kind of like if Kings of Leon dyed their hair black and lived in leathers jackets. I’m not sure if this is a good thing, but the songs held up; clearly very musically sound, they bellowed out their bass-heavy rock, for fans of The Gaslight Anthem or Queens of the Stone Age, perhaps. My boyfriend decided that’d he’d see them again “if it was about a fiver”.

Next were Castrovalva, a relentlessly energetic trio from Leeds who played a set largely characterised by a lot of noise, sweat and screaming. Frontman Leemun Smith alternated doing clever things with a looper and hysterically shrieking whilst the bassist and drummer held the mayhem together with catchy, repetitive riffs. The audience however, seemed relatively indifferent. This kind of set needed a response, and they didn’t really get it. In fact I felt all three bands would have benefitted from a slightly more energetic audience. The older crowd at Joiners was a bit of a brick wall at times.

We only had to wait about 15 minutes for Nine Black Alps to take to the stage, looking like a grunge dream in baggy t-shirts, which sparked a little more enthusiasm from the previously indifferent crowd. They kicked off strongly, taking advantage of Joiners’ solid PA system, driving out tight versions of their 90’s influenced indie hits. Inevitably new album Sirens took centre stage; ‘Don’t Forget to Breathe’ and ‘Be My Girl’ are both new, and more of the same solid guitar-based indie. Technically, they were great, but at times I felt as though I could just be listening to them at home. The whole set was a little lacklustre – frontman Sam Forrest didn’t really interact with the crowd and energy lacked on some of the older tracks. This gave the impression they just really didn’t want to play them; a wholly unsatisfying ‘Unsatisfied’ really stood out, however the crowd, who had finally woken up, didn’t seem to mind. An encore of ‘Shot Down’ was a real crowd pleaser (SSX, anyone?) and I was glad they finished on a strong note.

Nine Black Alps’ fourth studio album, Sirens is out now.

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