LIVE: Stand Atlantic / In Her Own Words / SHADED @ The Key Club, Leeds

By Gem Rogers

Another day, another night in Leeds’ Key Club – it feels like barely a week goes by without paying a visit to this sticky-floored paradise (seriously though, don’t wear your good shoes). Tonight it’s gone international, with bands from the UK, US and Australia taking to the stage for a night of pop punk to rival, well, Slam Dunk – the other gift Leeds has given to the checkered shirts ‘n’ Vans community.

Opening proceedings are Surrey three piece Shaded, bringing intensely summery vibes into the room with some classic ROAM-style pop punk. It’s bouncy, upbeat, and just about everything tonight’s crowd need to get them moving. Covering 2018’s ‘A Familiar Love’ EP with a few extras thrown in, the energy in the room by the end of the set is indicative of the kind of passion a band like this can generate. It’s not a flawless set, as a couple of mistakes and pitchy moments sneak their way in, but further experience of tours like this one will easily iron out these few issues. With the kinds of songs that are guaranteed to worm their way into everyone’s brains for days, things are looking good for Shaded.

In contrast with the super shiny brand of pop punk Shaded provide, Californians In Her Own Words have a little more bite to their riffs, in the vein of Hit The Lights and State Champs. They show the experience that comes with more than six years together, putting on a tight performance with fantastic vocals from Joey Fleming – despite some overenthusiastic fans’ best attempts to wrestle away his microphone on a regular basis. Energetic and full of fire, In Her Own Words deserve more recognition this side of the Atlantic, and this tour will hopefully deliver it as they prepare to release new album ‘Steady Glow’ on April 12. Gloriously catchy set closer ‘Right Now’ leaves the room in an elevated mood, and more than ready for the headliners.

Australia’s Stand Atlantic may have been around for a couple of years, but it was the release of debut album ‘Skinny Dipping’ late last year – alongside a huge European tour with pop-punk powerhouses State Champs – that saw them really break through. And quickly. This is their first international headline tour, yet almost all UK dates sold out weeks ago – no mean feat for a band from the other side of the world.

Their irrepressibly bright, relatable songs strike a broad appeal, and the energy surges as they kick the set off with ‘Bullfrog’. This is a night for the dancers and crowdsurfers, who are launched into the air immediately and never seem to stop. It’s not a venue designed for these antics, but the band embrace it happily – even sacrificing a mic stand to the chaotic cause a few songs later.

This energy is exactly the sort that typically makes pop-punk shows great – an adoring throng of fans bellowing back words that have taken deep rooted meaning in their hearts, to a band who carry that energy through their performance. Unfortunately, though, there’s something not quite right tonight. For a group coming from a fairly steady half-year or so of touring – they’ve also just completed a month long run in the US – this performance feels more like it’s coming from a bunch of pals who just got together for a jam in their garage. Littered with mistakes and a general lack of cohesion, it’s a massive let down from a group who’ve shown huge promise on previous trips to the UK.

Vocally, front woman Bonnie Fraser has struggled in the past to keep pitch and strength at the lower end of her range, but tonight is consistently all over the place. Sounding almost breathless during ‘Bullfrog’ and ‘Speak Slow’, it makes for uncomfortable listening with some wince-inducing off-key moments later in the set; slower tracks like the heartfelt ‘Toothpick’ and ‘Burn In The Afterthought’ fare only slightly better. It doesn’t seem to bother the assembled fans at the front in the slightest as they sing along at the top of their lungs, but it’s disappointing that these tracks aren’t being done proper justice live.

Despite the flaws, ‘Lost My Cool’ still provides an enjoyable and raucous highlight, along with finale ‘Lavender Bones’ – by this point, there’s been a real risk of the venue being brought down by crowdsurfers clinging to the ceiling, and that anything left on stage has made it through the night is nothing short of a miracle.

Stand Atlantic are the kind of band that this scene dearly needs, and the response they generate is evidence of this, but without the ability to deliver consistently live it may prove difficult for them to continue to extend their fanbase. Tonight’s show, musically, belonged to In Her Own Words, who were able to deliver what the headliners weren’t – energy, passion, and tight delivery, all in one bouncing pop punk package. It’s now up to Stand Atlantic to prove that they, too, have this kind of performance in them, and we hope to see it appearing soon.