Live at Joseph's Well on Wednesday, 24th January 2001
e·mo·tion (-mshn) n. An intense mental state that arises subjectively rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes; a strong feeling
Emo is a type of music that is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK, despite being popular in America for some time now. Bands like The Get Up Kids and At the Drive In are rilly feelin' it, man, and wanna show YOU, The Kids, that you shouldn't be AFRAID to show your feelings. We should ALL share together and coexist in PERFECT HARMONY... it's a good ethic to have, actually: certainly better than the cooler-than-thou indie posturing we're all sick of now. Too many bands pretend to not give a shit about anything, givin' it the Liam/Richard Ashcroft/Ian Brown attitude. That was fair enough for them, but that was then: this is now. Emo has a very 'now' feeling to it as a movement, but this automatically gives the impression that it's going to be merely a phase than something long-lasting. Only time will tell, but on tonight's impressions, it'll be sticking around for a little longer yet.
Brighton band SKUTTLE took to the stage first, and immediately the crowd was hit with boundless energy from all of them but the second guitarist, who didn't look into it at all. The music was heavy yet melodic, which I came to realise is basically what emo is all about. Skuttle need to tighten up quite a lot and develop more of their own sound (occasionally they sounded a little too much like Otherwise or a slower version of Anchorman), but showed promise for a new band.
Next up were the Far-influenced KIDS NEAR WATER, who are gaining a great deal of press and hype from certain quarters. Instant energy hit the crowd again, and the bass player (who looked like a 16 year old with a particularly gruelling paper round) was in serious danger of falling over into the powerful singer. Passionate vocals collided with crashing guitars and thunderous drums to create an original sound featuring the best elements from punk, metal and of course, emo. Some of the songs were a little samey but in a year or so's time when they've had chance to write some more tunes, Kids Near Water have the potential to be brilliant. Finishing with their strongest song (the last track on their Extended One Player EP, Gone), they had the crowd in the palm of their hands by the end. Definitely one to watch.
Third band of the night were FUTURE ADVENTURE. They were musically and theoretically proficient without being widdly or pretentious, and were equal parts emo, rock and... jazz, believe it or not, with key and time changes a-plenty. Future Adventure are definitely not a band for the casual listener. You really have to concentrate on their music as it is so challenging and intelligent - they caught several apathetic toe-tappers on the fly. Some of the quirky guitar riffs reminded me a little of Bis or The Yummy Fur, but as a band they sounded absolutely nothing like these two. One of the most intense bands I've ever seen live, and incredibly tight after a somewhat shaky start, Future Adventure are well worth seeing if you are really passionate about music. Otherwise you'll probably wonder what the hell I'm on about.
Wakefield's DUGONG come on to a smaller crowd and some really bizarre heckling. Their sense of humour was immediately evident and although it was slightly marred by some out of tune guitars, the first song was a good start but not seeming THAT emo... until the fantastic middle eight when split chords over a pounding half speed rhythm create a really atmospheric melody. Dugong strike me as more punk than emo, and proper punk at that - more Bollocks than Blink. The room fills up a little when the folk in the bar realise what they are missing, and Dugong get tighter and tighter the further they get into the set. The last song in particular was impressive.
Then closing the night we had ELLIOT, the Kentucky four-piece fronted by someone who looks suspiciously like Andy who works behind the bar in the Well. Again they had some good tunes and heavier bits but the crowd was left disappointed - they weren't the right band for headlining the night. Frontman Elliot (funny that) had a great voice which sometimes lapsed into Bryan Adams/Bono territory... both have great voices but it just wasn't what the crowd wanted. They voted with their feet, too: the crowd dwindled after a couple of songs. Those open-minded enough to stay however were treated to a show of spacey-rock, influenced by Spiritualized, Verve and U2, with a bit of Andy Summers-esque delayed guitars thrown in there for good measure. The last song was their best: an anthemic call to arms, with passion and guts pouring out of each band member. They hadn't really seemed to enjoy themselves before that, but once they got into it, it was great to see. To be fair though, it did go on a bit long. Elliot are a good band with some good tunes, but they're just not right for this kind of night.
So what now for emo? It looks pretty healthy, and with great bands like d-Rail, Eighty Six and Autumn Night flying the emo flag in Leeds, it would seem to have a future yet. Anyone who enjoyed the gig last night should check out the Leeds emo scene because it's growing all the time.