LUME TitleI’ll be honest with you, music journalists and photographers love to whinge to each other, and anyone else who’s willing to have their ears bent, about venues. We all love a moan about bar prices, surly service, bad sound, not enough light, too much light, red light, white light and so on and so on. While I was watching three bands playing at Surya on Friday November 13, all of this was brought into sharp focus by the events unfolding in Paris coming up on my phone every time I left the basement venue between bands. Initially, I didn’t want to write this review, but as the full horror became apparent later, it was obvious that the only way to react was to keep calm and carry on. I guess the best thing I can do is dedicate this to the memory of all the people who died at the Eagles of Death Metal gig and at other places in Paris on Friday.

The publicity for the gig featured four bands, but only three appeared on the night; a trio of trios, each with the same line-up of guitar, bass and drums, but each with a very different sound and dynamic.

First up were Chapels, an improbably young band that played with huge amounts of enthusiasm combined with a mixture of humour and diffidence. They had loads of good ideas that never seemed to quite mesh into a coherent set and tuning problems didn’t really help. If you’re looking for comparisons, then early Nirvana wouldn’t be too far wide of the mark (they got a few requests for “Smells like Teen Spirit”). The band looked like they were having a good time and it was well received, so it was a good start to the night.

Circus 66 moved things up a couple of gears with their funky power trio setup, harking back to the sixties/seventies feel of Cream and Taste with a more current twist of the funky Red Hot Chili Peppers spicing up the mix. Matt Pearce (guitar), Tom Parker (bass) and Ben Blackman (drums) all have good voices and manage to throw a bit of old-fashioned showmanship into their performance, making complex arrangements look ridiculously easy and apparently having a really good time before passing on the baton to the headliners.

LUME brought along a substantial and enthusiastic following and were obviously top of the bill material. I caught them earlier this year as the first band on the bill at The Garage and it was obvious that they wouldn’t be doing that for long. This time, they sounded like headliners right from the opening notes of “Budapest” (which opened and closed the set). Henry Mata, Alex Holmes and Nelson Taia make the most of the three-piece line-up and show that they’re all about musicianship; Henry only has one guitar effects pedal (a wah-wah which he used to play a fragment of “Voodoo Chile”) and Alex Holmes becomes a second guitar player at times, playing in unison with Henry’s lead lines. The songs are all strong and the band didn’t put a foot wrong, winning over the supporters of other bands on the bill as well, so I guess that’s another step up the ladder.



Review TitleIt’s the hottest July day in recorded history and I’ve chosen to spend ninety minutes on public transport to get to Islington to watch new bands play in a room that’s blacker than a politician’s heart; it could get warm. Thankfully, Upstairs at the Garage is air-conditioned. I’ve been invited along to see Jupe, a group of guys from Dublin, but I’m looking forward to watching all of the bands because it’s always (okay, usually) good to see and hear new bands.

So, a little bit about Jupe then. Well they’re from Dublin and after nine years, their line-up has stabilised at Tim Night (vocal and occasional guitar), Brendon Rennie (drums), Jeff O’Callaghan (keyboards), Kevin Rowe (guitar) and Voodoo Jonesy (bass). Musically they fuse together three strands of popular music to create something powerful and unique. There’s the impassioned, earnest rock (start with The Script and work your way back to U2), dance bass and keyboard sounds and a bit of pure boy band melodic pop. The sound they create is huge and they know how to write a massive, infectious chorus; they’re seriously good musicians writing and playing classy pop tunes and their onstage enthusiasm is totally contagious. They even had followers of the other bands on the bill bouncing up and down, and that doesn’t happen too often at showcase gigs.

And it wasn’t just Jupe that caught the attention. LUME, kicked the evening off with a power-trio set that was listenable and watchable; Henry Mata (guitar/vocal), Alex Holmes (bass/vocals) and Nelson Baia (drums/vocals) have some great songs which move from alternative towards prog territory; there’s probably even a hint of Muse in there as well. I’d certainly go and see them again.

Paper Circus are from East London and had the unenviable task of following a storming set from Jupe, but Alan Shaller (guitar/vocals), Kevin Curran (drums), Sara Shevlin (guitar) and Mickael Blanchet (bass) were up to the challenge with a bit of help from their faithful following. The musical styling was indie/alternative with strong songs and a powerful live performance; this is another band that I’ll be watching out for in future. Top night.

The new Jupe single “Rocket” is out on August 3.