Review: Feed The Rhino at The Joiners, Southampton

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Thursday evening saw Kent-based hardcore group Feed The Rhino take to the stage at The Joiners for the penultimate date of their short UK tour. Their first expedition out of the south east in just over a year, the mini tour took them to Bristol, London, Southampton and Manchester. A few weeks earlier they headlined the Sunday of Underground Festival in Gloucester, but prior to that Feed The Rhino were lying relatively low. They were unable to support Sikth on their UK tour in December 2015, citing the difficulty of juggling simultaneous commitments to family and the band but promising a return in 2016 with live shows and new music. Half of that promise came true in spectacular fashion on Thursday.

Opening for the headline act were Portsmouth electro-hard rock quintet Seething Akira who came blazing out of the night to deliver a groovy and energetic warm up. There were definite stylistic influences from Hacktivist and Enter Shikari through the band’s use of meaty electronic synths and fast-paced rap vocals, which were particularly pronounced on singles ‘Apex Predator’ and ‘Pack Animal’. Overall, however, the synths were refreshingly downplayed in favour of strong percussion and bass guitar. The band maintained an excellent rapport with the crowd, closing their set with ‘Airstrike’, a visceral and chunky Shikari-esque punk song crammed with exuberance that made it their strongest track of the night by far.

Next up were London locals Counting Days who came (quite literally) screaming on stage, blasting the audience back to the ultra aggressive hardcore punk rock of the early 2000s. The shuddering beatdowns and coarse scream vocals held something of Atreyu’s early work in them, offset by bouncy post hardcore grooves and angry whiny cleans on tracks like ‘Beaten & Scarred’. Slightly changing the pace mid set were the gorgeous riffs and epileptic fills of ‘Die Alone’, certainly the most innovative song of Counting Day’s run of tunes. Their closing tracks were much like their opening ones: fast and hard with weighty punk rhythms contrasted against a menacing, atmospheric torpor as the band members methodically stalked the stage during the quiet points. The performance was tight in general, but wanted a little for more songs like ‘Die Alone’, with a little creative spark to them.

The main act came on to a darkened stage before tearing into their savage opening track which saw the audience on its feet in seconds. ‘Featherweight’, the band’s most recent release from the summer of 2015, provided some monstrous weight and searing energy, showing that Feed The Rhino’s raw and abrasive signature sound had certainly not gone unforgotten. There were, however, a number of issues with the microphone feed but vocalist Lee Tobin dealt with them as well as he could, usually by snatching the mic stand from guitarists James and Sam Colley. ‘Left For Ruins’ brought waves of aggressive punk percussion and saw Tobin venting his frustration at persistent issues with his microphone by hanging upside down from the rafters and walking on the hands of the crowd. These troubles were finally rectified by the band’s support team, leaving them free to dive into their final few songs; tried and tested favourites ‘Give Up’ and ‘Tides’ saw the walls vibrate with crushing riffs and haunting clean vocals. The final song of the night, the ever-popular ‘New Wave’ lifted from their 2014 album The Sorrow and the Sound, ended their set on a high despite the technological mishaps. On balance, it’s fair to say that Feed The Rhino came flying back onto the live circuit in spectacular fashion.

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MA English student at the University of Southampton and alternative music correspondent for The Edge.

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