LIVE: COVE / Parting Gift @ Red Room, Nottingham

By Mark Johnson

When a tour offers up two rising stars of the UK alternative scene, it’s a difficult proposition to turn down. There’s the prospect of future bragging rights – if either band goes on to bigger and better things, you can say you were there from start – but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to witness music in its most intimate form. The bigger venues get, the further the crowd gets from the stage, but these smaller venues offer a rare chance to get up close and personal.

This incentive hasn’t enticed the people of Nottingham though, as sadly the audience within the Red Room can be counted on two hands. Unfazed by the turnout, Manchester’s Parting Gift commit themselves fully to their set, producing an exceptional performance to reward those few in attendance. We’ve had our eye on this band for a while, featuring them in our Ones To Watch 2018 and POV sections in the past, yet there’s still little information about the band available, including when we might expect a record from the quintet.

Their enigmatic status is mirrored by the vocalist’s on stage persona, which sees him set up on the floor, away from the stage lights, with his hair fully covering his face at all times. While he may be visually disguised throughout, his voice certainly can’t be ignored; every note is projected with precision, contributing to a flawless performance.

Parting Gift’s ambient post-hardcore draws comparisons to Holding Absence and Crooks and in a similar fashion to the latter’s own frontman Josh Rogers , the vocalist’s vulnerability matches the emotion in the music to create an authentic persona that hits home through the emotionally-charged power of the instrumentals. The Red Room’s small stage presents a challenge for rest of the band, penning them in and restricting movement, and as much as they try to add energy on stage it’s not easy in such a small space.

Holding Absence are doing a fine job of promoting the UK’s ambient post-hardcore scene at the moment and with songs this strong and a performance as well put together as this, there’s no reason why Parting Gift can’t join the revolution with them.

Counteracting Parting Gift’s introverted display, COVE’s vocalist Ben Shorten gets into the faces of the crowd with a more forceful outpouring of emotion. “Well this looks like an intimate one, we should all be friends by the end of this,” he comments in reaction to the smattering of people in front of him. If the band are disheartened by the small crowd, they certainly don’t show it, and to their credit they put everything into the performance, doing a fantastic job of building and maintaining the room’s collective energy levels.

With a slight rearranging of the stage, they’re able to utilise the extra space well and the band bring their full energy to the performance. The addition of fluorescent lights and smoke machines work well, mingling together to create additional atmosphere, and with Shorten doing such a great job interacting with the crowd, COVE distinguish themselves as a band that clearly know how to present themselves effectively on stage.

COVE’s latest EP ‘A Conscious Motion’ is a careful blend of aggressive and ambient post hardcore and in a live setting, it carries a lot more bite. Jack Bowdery is a heavy-hitter behind the kit and the power of his snare acts as a catalyst for the band’s energy levels, relentlessly driving them forward. The band oblige in style with ‘Buried’ and ‘Solis’ which stand out thanks to their huge riffs that get heads bobbing and bodies moving.

Beyond these stellar tracks, there’s not enough to separate each one; Shorten’s vocal tone stays consistent throughout and the instrumentals start to follow a pattern, offering little differentiation between songs. When a big riff hits, it provides a memorable hook to attach to, and these are the moments that really stand out in their set.

COVE are an engaging live act and when they hit their stride with the likes of ‘Buried’ and ‘Solis’ they’re a pleasure to behold.  If the band could capture more of their live performance energy onto record, they could be a real force and with a stage presence as strong as this it would be no surprise to see them appearing on the festival scene in the not too distant future.