LIVE: Deference @ The Hairy Dog, Derby

By Mark Johnson

Off the back of their impressive debut EP ‘False Awakening’, Southampton’s Deference set out on a UK tour to support the release and it hasn’t been without its difficulties so far. The previous night’s show in Worthing was cancelled for reasons outside the band’s control and tonight’s show in Derby, scheduled to be at The Sitwell Tavern, was cancelled at late notice by the promoter. Determined to play a show somewhere tonight, Deference contacted local venues and managed to get themselves a slot on an entirely different gig at The Hairy Dog, thus ensuring that the show could go on.

If the band were feeling disheartened or irritated by the events of the past few days they certainly didn’t let it show on stage. Despite looking out at a mediocre-sized crowd, all sat down along the far walls of the venue, the band put so much enthusiasm into their set that you’d think the room was packed shoulder to shoulder with adoring fans.

This gatecrashed show is made up of easy-listening alt-rock bands with jangly guitars and toe-tapping rhythms, prompting front man Rob Lea to warn the unsuspecting crowd that what they’re about to hear may be a little heavier than the other bands, but asks that they “try to enjoy it”. It only takes the opening minute of the band’s set for the five members to have covered as much floorspace on the stage as the previous bands had through their entire sets. Full of energy and enthusiasm, they race through tracks from ‘False Awakening’, demonstrating plenty of charisma on stage, despite a complete lack of it on the floor.

Vocally, Lea and guitarist Matt Dennison do a superb job; whether it’s Lea’s throat-shredding screams or Dennison’s melodious crooning, everything is recreated perfectly from the record to the stage. The musicians of the band are extremely tight, particularly on ‘False Awakening’, the title track and crowning glory of the recently released EP, which rounds off the evening’s set in true style, packing the heaviest riffs and the most impressive vocal melodies.

The misfortunes of the last few days manage to plague the band on stage as well, Mike Hill losing his bass drum half way through the set, but Lea calmly diagnoses the problem and plugs in some lose wires mid-way through a verse section. The backing track also goes missing towards the last couple of tracks but again, in the spirit of letting the show go on, the band ignore the problem and carry on regardless.

It’s difficult to perform to a room that expects and appreciates an entirely different style of music, but whether you’re a fan of their style or not, Deference exude so much quality that it’s difficult to not appreciate their talent. During the second half of the set, Lea calls forward those still sitting on chairs to come to the front and though reluctant at first, those that oblige loosen up and get into it. Some are even seen purchasing EPs at the merch desk afterwards, proving that the right attitude and determination to always play your best no matter the circumstances, can yield unexpected benefits.

Deference haven’t had the best luck on this tour but they’ve shown a lot of character, in addition to their obvious talent. Their tenacity in finding alternative arrangements for tonight’s show and the energy they put into the set despite a largely empty room speaks volumes that almost rivals the impact of their metalcore coming through the speakers. This character is an important quality for a touring band and this alone will endear fans to them, as well as their excellent music, skill and potential.

With an excellent EP to their name and a highly entertaining live show to accompany it, Deference are starting to build some real momentum. The wait for a first full-length will begin after this tour and we’ll certainly be waiting in anticipation to hear what this talented quintet come up with next.