LIVE: Palm Reader @ Signature Brew Brewery, London

By Ash Bebbington

“We’ve been a band for more than 10 years, and it’s only recently that we’ve started playing to crowds like this, so thank you,” says Josh McKeown, Palm Reader vocalist. You can see from the look on his face that he means every word of it. In fact, gratitude is plain as day on the faces of every member of a band that in reality has more than paid its dues. They’ve long been the UK rock underground’s biggest hidden gem, but it looks like those days are well and truly over. It couldn’t happen to a better, more deserving band.

The show takes place at Signature Brew Brewery – certainly one of the more weird and wonderful venues on the London circuit. The stage is in a cavernous room, nestled among colossal brewing equipment, while the building itself sits in a business park among a cluster of residential properties in East London. It’s a quirky setting but feels strangely intimate in spite of the insanely high ceilings. In other words, it’s perfect for a band like Palm Reader.

Up first is Coldbones, a trio whose post-metal instrumentals touch on prog and shoegaze. With no vocals – no microphones are even set up onstage – atmospherics are the order of the day, with only pre-recorded spoken word pieces punctuating the musical canvas. If post-rock is your thing, Coldbones are certainly worth checking out.

Next, Palm Reader take the stage, and it’s clear from the get-go that new material is going to take centre stage as they tear into ‘Willow’ from their latest record ‘Sleepless’. Indeed, the set as a whole is largely focused on that material, which says a lot about how confident in it they are. They’ve every right to be, it’s a phenomenal record that sounds incredible live.

To pull the new songs off, Palm Reader have recruited a couple of touring members, a keyboardist and a third guitarist, bringing the total number of bodies onstage to a whopping seven. Eagle-eyed fans will also have noticed that their touring guitar player is none other than Matt Reynolds from Nottingham-based rockers Haggard Cat.

The energy in the room is fantastic, with the band getting the sort of reaction they deserve, and a dedicated core of fans keeping the pit going throughout the set. What’s noticeable in the room is that new and old songs alike appear to be connecting with the audience just as much, rather than songs from any particular record. ‘Stay Down’, ‘Swarm’, and ‘I Watch the Fire Chase My Tongue’, all from different albums, get an equally raucous response from the crowd. This suggests that this band’s fans aren’t casual about it; people who like Palm Reader really love them.

The response from the crowd for the clean singalongs on tracks like ‘Internal Winter’ and ‘Hold/Release’ are equally massive, before the set finishes with the final track from ‘Sleepless’, ‘Both Ends of the Rope’.

Palm Reader’s electric, intoxicating performance at London’s Garage back in November (a show that was outstanding even though the band’s gear had been stolen hours before) was always going to be a hard act to follow, but at Signature Brew, they stepped up and showed why they’re one of the best live acts in the country. They’ve taken the step up to bigger stages in their stride, and are finally getting the audiences and reactions they deserve.