support Deaf Havana + We Dont Dance To Love Songs
author AP date 18/05/10 venue Joiners, Southampton, UK

Originally it was BL that was supposed to be reviewing this gig, but his troubles with meeting the deadline for his dissertation meant that yours truly had to take over. Not that this caused any significant grievances for me. After all, Jonny Craig is in a league of his own as a vocalist, and he has, in his many projects and past bands, managed to make something of an impression on me - and to add some weight to that assertion, post-hardcore is not my scene of preference. Emarosa, Jonny’s main interest, is not music that crosses my speakers very often but when it does, I always find myself intrigued – and naturally, the opportunity to experience them live held as much intrigue. Enough with the banter, here’s the critical analysis:

We Don’t Dance To Love Songs

The United Kingdom is ripe with bands who combine the catchiness of pop punk with the smugness and sharp guitar tone of indie rock, and consequently the likelihood of such an act warming up the crowd for bigger and better bands in the nation’s many venues is relatively high – regardless of whether the headliners play similar music or not. The other consequence is that they all tend to sound almost exactly the same, which is my main concern with Hull-based We Don’t Dance To Love Songs. The band is recognisably experienced and the songs are well written, but both the show and the music lacks the edge needed to engrave the band in the audience’s collective memory. On the plus side the band members come across as a down-to-earth bunch and their performance exhibits a kind of sunny joy that is impossible not to enjoy at least on a casual level – something that the amount of bobbing heads and clapping along near the front of the stage verifies. Still, the band and their show are very, very average.


Deaf Havana

Some readers might recall that when we last saw Deaf Havana, we noticed that the band came across as disjointed and lacking chemistry between the various band members. We suggested that this might all have been because of the shoddy frontman who completely lacked not only charm, but also a reason to exist in the line-up. Well, what medicine the doctor prescribed Deaf Havana have taken, because when the band steps on stage tonight they do so as a four-piece, with guitarist and clean vocalist James Veck-Gilodi on the throne. He explains, with a hint of irony, that Ryan Mellor... err... left the band, and that he is somewhat nervous because he does not know what to expect in terms of crowd response to the minor revolution the band has undergone. Screams are gone; in their place is James' chillingly beautiful singing (with some back-up harmonies courtesy of drummer Tom Ogden); and the difference is breathtaking. The band no longer sounds like a cheap byproduct of the ever-growing post-hardcore scene; they're more emotive, more stimulating and the overall sound has paradoxically become more dimensional without the subpar screaming.

The change in the band's demeanor, too, is remarkable -as though the four remaining members have found new energy in their plight - and this reflects well in the ecstatic joy and chemistry that they now perform with. Like Moneen, the band alternates between being intensely intimate during sung parts on the one hand, and extremely animate during the climactic instrumental passages. Guitarist Chris Pennels in particular gives some of the chaos-consumed stage personas that we hold in such reverence at this webzine a run for their money - he is never still; staging guitar acrobatics unlike anything I’ve seen before. As such Mr. Veck-Gilodi need not worry, because the crowd responds with universal approval. Songs like "Another Day in This House" and "Friends Like These" take on a whole new character without the generic screams, courtesy of James' incredible range and dynamic singing. Where the choruses in these songs used to be infectiously catchy, the songs are now infectiously catchy in their entirety, and, having expected the band to be average at best, I gaze at the band in disbelief and sheer awe as James takes us through the band's material from a fresh angle, even treating us to a new song, "My Life Is Average", a demo of which can be heard on the band's MySpace page.

At this point I was forced to leave the concert due to unforeseen circumstances, but I enlisted our photographer Benji to provide a review of the headliner.


Finding a band that lives up to its hype is rare, and even rarer seems to be a vocalist show sings as well as, or better than on record. Don't believe me; ask the joint-owner of tonight's sweat pit who shares the view that Jonny Craig is one of the best vocalists to ever grace the hallowed Joiners halls. Talking before the show on what to expect from the sell-out crowd, and what Emarosa could do to up the ante from Deaf Havana, the general consensus is that of standing back in awe taking in the note-perfect renditions of songs from the band's debut album "Relativity", as well as a number of new songs which will be featured on the upcoming self-titled successor. And while the awe factor certainly persists, stillness is not on the program tonight, as the audience throw themselves around the venue oblivious to the rising temperature. Emarosa follows suite with an equally energetic stage presence, delivering crowd-pleaser after crowd-pleaser with "The Past Should Stay Dead" concluding the night in an ecstatic display of stunning voices, perfect sound and unmitigated intensity - though in all honesty I was unable to see the entire set simply because of the pressing, humid heat inside the main room. Rest assured though, any taste of what was on offer was simply a joy to behold, and while Deaf Havana delivered a performance that was almost impossible to supersede, Emarosa certainly give them a run for their money - not to mention the audience their money's worth.


More photos from the gig are available here.

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