LIVE: Attention Thieves / Hey Vanity / Iris @ Westcoast Bar, Margate [24/07/13]

By Ben Tipple

In a competition between a sunny beach and an underground venue on one of the hottest days of the year, it’s pretty clear which one has come out on top this evening. The reasonably large space facing the stage in Margate’s is populated by only a handful of keen punters, the majority of which appear to be the band completing tonight’s bill. (n.b. Margate was voted one of the top 10 must-see destinations in the world don’t you know).

It’s make or break tonight – there are only a handful of ways of dealing with this unfortunate but all-too-common situation. In our time we have seen bands rise to the challenge and take to the stage as if they are playing to crowd a thousand times the size – but we have also witnessed band’s understandable awkward shuffling around a stage.

Iris know the score. That’s not to say they are used to playing to empty rooms, yet it is immediately clear that they know how to work a small crowd – a skill often lost by bands far more accustomed to busier venues. Playing a short set of their unadulterated pop-punk spliced with emo sensibilities, they even inspire some initially reluctant sing-alongs. Despite fighting against the inevitable poor sound quality that empty venues invite they manage to put the audience at ease, even daring to point out the elephant in the room – or the lack thereof.

Hey Vanity take a similar approach, launching into their set with full gusto before making a few offhand jokes about the unfortunate turnout. The handful of extra souls improve the sound quality, with frontman Marc Halls’ vocals sounding as clean and crisp as they do on record. Angst ridden ‘One More Step’ is delivered in a suitably heart-wrenching style, as the band visibly enjoy their time on stage.

Evidently more annoyed by the sparse crowd, Attention Thieves initially find it difficult to get into their stride. Even their light-hearted comments about tonight’s location have a somewhat subtle spiteful undertone. Musically, this anger is translated into Alex Green’s gruff vocals and hammering guitars, and fortunately as their set continues the on-stage tension eases, with guitarist James Harris responding to those singing along. By the time their set concludes the audience has been won over. Tracks such as ‘Can’t See The Light’ and new single ‘Take A Bow’ sound huge, adding an experimental sheen over the more traditional British rock style of Lower Than Atlantis and their ilk.

It may have proved difficult for all involved to look past the low turnout, but from the stage’s point of view tonight has been great. Showcasing a collection of raw talent this is one exciting bill, and one that allows the British underground to shine.