LIVE: Palm Reader / Haggard Cat / Cove / Hinges / 99% Cobra @ The Key Club, Leeds

By Liam Knowles

It’s bloody hot at the minute. Like, everywhere. Do you know what places are hot even when it’s not hot everywhere else? Gig venues. Especially ones that are actually underground with no windows like The Key Club in Leeds. The heat in this cave-like space is nigh-on unbearable. And yet, on a Sunday night in the middle of July, people are here to stand in this musical sauna and watch five (!) bands power through their sets. You’ve got to hand it to all involved, bands and punters alike.

First up is Hull trio 99% Cobra, who are reminiscent of the messy bits of The Chariot combined with the sleazy riffs of Every Time I Die. Unfortunately, while that sounds like an amazing description of a band, 99% Cobra fall slightly short of the mark. The band have some great ideas and fantastic riffs but their songs feel like a collection of random bits stuck together without much regard for structure or…actual songs. Given that this is the band’s second gig they can definitely be given a pass, as there’s buckets of potential on show, but they need to focus less on throwing their equipment around and more on their songwriting if they want to be taken seriously on the UK live circuit.

Local lads Hinges are next, and their blend of pop-punk, 90s emo and grunge is much more refined; vocalist Myles Petcher switching seamlessly between a strong melodic vocal and an even stronger shout over a thick, textured wall of chunky guitars and bass. Think somewhere between early Biffy Clyro and Balance & Composure and you’re near imagining their rich, dynamic sound. They may be the local support but they play with the confidence of headliners; packing solid stage presence with the songs to back it up, as tracks like ‘Aches & Pains’ and ‘I Hope It Gets Better’ go down an absolute storm.

First of the touring bands is Cove, hailing from London, and while they may look and sound every bit the part there’s something a bit soulless about their dramatic brand of melodic metalcore. Don’t get me wrong, they’re tight as hell and they sound great but they’re just not doing anything interesting with an already over-saturated genre. Their set goes down well regardless and the room has filled up nicely when they take the stage to play cuts from their recent EP ‘A Conscious Motion’. The highlight of the set comes in the form of ‘Solis’, which features some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it riffery of the highest order, but the simple fact is that for this tour they’re just too close in sound to the headliners without being half as original or memorable.

It is something which Haggard Cat could never be accused of. The two-piece play the blues like they’re a hardcore band, and sound bigger than most bands with more than double the members. Vocalist and guitarist Matt Reynolds is a born showman, his bombastic personality and stage presence fills the room as they power through the likes of ‘American Graffiti’ and ‘Grave Digger’. Drummer Tom Marsh is the other essential piece of the puzzle, keeping the madness together with his impossibly tight grooves. The best drummers are the ones who are not afraid to properly let loose on the kit, and judging from his drum faces it feels for him as much like an exorcism as it does for the rest of us. Haggard Cat are seriously one of the most exciting bands in the UK right now their beauty lies in their versatility; every kind of rock lineup can benefit from their chaotic presence.

The main support may be a hard act to follow, but if anyone has the stones for it it’s Palm Reader. Their third album ‘Braille’ was released earlier this year and was incredibly well received by critics and fans alike, and tonight it’s those new tracks that stand out as their best material. The band opens with the older, slow-burning fan favourite ‘Sing Out, Survivor’ but when they launch from that into ‘Internal Winter’ it’s clear that as musicians and songwriters they’ve reached staggering new heights. The crowd roars back every word of ‘Swarm’ and ‘Like A Wave’, and we’re treated to a guest appearance from Haggard Cat’s Matt Reynolds (let’s call him Haggard Matt) on the rapturous ‘Intertia’. Every note of every song is delivered with a palpable intensity that’s impossible to feign, and as vocalist Josh McKeown uses the last of his energy to deliver the closing lines of ‘I Watched The Fire Chase My Tongue’ the audience is left positively reeling from the experience.

Right now, with Palm Reader, Haggard Cat and a few key others at the helm, British heavy music is in the safest hands it’s seen for over a decade.