LIVE: Trash Boat / Capstan / Doll Skin @ Stylus, Leeds

By Gem Rogers

Leeds Stylus is a venue that will be familiar to any long time attendees of Slam Dunk Festival – until 2015, it was host to their second stage in the ever confusing rabbit warren that is Leeds University’s Student Union (seriously, Leeds students, how do you NOT get lost in here?). These days, the festival has moved on, but the venue continues to put on some of the city’s best gigs in a semi-intimate setting, and this Saturday night is no exception.

The first of two US groups on tonight’s bill, Arizona four piece Doll Skin recently signed to Hopeless Records, and it’s to be hoped this move means we’ll be seeing a lot more of them here in the future. There’s a little too much bass in the mix, but this is a livewire performance all the same, and Sydney Dolezal’s outstanding vocals are fortunately crystal clear throughout as they showcase a range of biting, pop-drenched punk tracks from their two full length albums. Their unfailing energy and joy throughout is infectious, backed up by the quality of their songs – when Dolezal dives into the crowd to join in the mosh during final track ‘Puncha Nazi’, it sums up just how much Doll Skin love what they do, and their return to the UK will be eagerly awaited.

Floridians Capstan are another relatively unfamiliar name on these shores – or, at least, unfamiliar so far. It becomes evident fairly quickly that they have already amassed a dedicated fanbase though, despite this being their first trip outside the States, as the energy in the room is ramped up another few notches for this lively set. Despite coarse vocals that aren’t always quite on the note, there’s some great harmonies on display and plenty of passion in their performance, as well as some seriously intense riffs. Like a fusion of tech metal, hardcore, and early pop punk, Capstan have cornered a fairly unique sound that should carry them far.

When Trash Boat released sophomore album ‘Crown Shyness’ last summer, they were in the middle of the very last cross country Warped Tour in the US. As a result, as vocalist Tobi Duncan explains during their set, the album never really got a release tour in the UK – so that’s exactly what this run is dedicated to. It might be a year late, but they do say good things come to those who wait… And we all know they’re always right (or at least, they definitely are today).

To call the hour that follows Trash Boat’s emergence ‘incendiary’ feels like doing it a disservice; from the aggressive melodics of opening track ‘Inside Out’ onwards, the now sizeable crowd transforms into a melee of raised arms, crowdsurfers, and moshpits. The floor in Stylus is surrounded by a slightly raised balcony area, and from above, it’s often like looking down on a tank of piranha at feeding time – if ever pirahna have been capable of singing so loud.

The band themselves sound superb, all earlier sound issues with the support bands long forgotten. There’s jawdropping power in Oakley Moffatt’s drums as each hit courses through the room with the strength of a tidal wave, the perfect compliment to Tobi Duncan’s snarling, roaring vocals. Their connection with the crowd, too, is second to none – even when Duncan isn’t clambering out to the front rows, mingling with the crowdsurfers as they fly over the barrier, they are at all times engaged with their fans in mutual respect.

There are still tender moments to be found in the chaos, too, and they’re all the more poignant for the otherwise intense atmosphere – ‘Love, Hate, React, Relate’ and ‘Old Soul’ are emotional demonstrations of the rawness and heart behind Duncan’s voice, offering a stark contrast to the band’s usual fast pace as well as some gigantic singalong moments. New single ‘Synthetic Sympathy’ also stands out among their older material, with stadium-filling riffs that seem to elevate the entire room – and its newness is definitely no deterrent to the sea of dancing feet on the floor.

Trash Boat shows are the perfect fusion of all the best parts of the genres they bring together in their music; a room full of the uplifting, joyous vibes of pop punk, with the raucous energy of hardcore. It’s the sort of performance that could win over even the most reluctant of viewers (not that there’s many of those in attendance tonight), and as the night finishes with the ever popular ‘Strangers’, there can be little doubt that Trash Boat are a band whose star is still steadily rising – and their unforgettable performances will long continue to find a place in the hearts of alternative fans.