LIVE: Samoans / Enquiry / Mayors of Toronto / Pocket Apocalypse @ The Flapper, Birmingham

By Penny Bennett

Four band shows are usually hit or miss affairs, often due to the vast differences in musical styles. Rarely do you get four bands on one bill that have the laser sighted focus that promoters Little Cavalier managed to muster up for a night of Math Rock wonders at the Flapper in Birmingham, and boy did they deliver.

The Flapper has a pedigree in hosting new alternative acts before they were famous (Including the likes of Pulled Apart By Horses and Dinosaur Pile-Up) and has the underground vibe more so than any other Birmingham venue, a perfect fit for the bands on show tonight. A sticker covered door separating a quaint canal side bar from the home to some of the most exciting music Birmingham and beyond has to offer.

The room is slow to fill for Alternative rockers Pocket Apocalypse, a sight that doesn’t seem to phase frontman Nick Jones as he rips into the first chords of opener “Glass”. They have a bigger sound than the four piece would have you believe, hitting you in the face with heavy prog like riffs while having melodic middle sections making each song feel multilayered and intricate, more impressive is their flawless execution despite some crippling tech issues during the start of their set. Drummer Phil Dunn manages to tide the crowd over with smooth jazz winning the crowd over to the merseyside boys. Pocket Apocalypse have awkwardness to them on stage, ending on instrumental “Ice-nine” seems to lose some audience interaction they have built up but hopefully their upcoming opening slots with more experienced bands such as Arcane Roots can help them work out any kinks in their live shows as their musical performance stands out amongst the crowd.

Local boys Mayors of Toronto follow, a self admittedly quirky bunch whose brand of instrumental rock is interesting to say the least.
 Featuring rapid guitar work by Ben Fitzharris followed by pauses on opener “Si”, the crowd seem unsure of how to take the band and have to be prompted when a song had finished, a fact which the band seem to take a small amount of pleasure in.
 While unable to convey via their music, the band have an odd sense of humour to them that personally hits a chord with songs such as “Richard Gere Solid” showing the guys don’t take themselves too seriously.
Each song is a technical display, “What a story, Mark!” frequently flips between an elegant pace and a frantic breakneck riff.
 Half way through their set, Enquiry’s Frontman and touring partner Joseph Parker surprises bass player Aaron Jones with Birthday cake and a singalong, being the first time the crowd can join in, it seems to help get them some love from the confused audience.
 The band have a tough time breaking away from genre staples but their excellent technical skill and a little more work on getting their odd humour out there will do them wonders.

Enquiry, another local three piece, start their set by playing heavy but catchy hooks one after another with fuzz heavy bass from Parker managing to shake the speakers unlike any other three piece I’ve seen before, this all while still having a rather upbeat sound for a song entitled “Stop Wasting Time (You’re Going to Die)”. Drummer Scott Underwood seemingly hates his drums with the beating he puts to them during hard hitting track “Texas, Honey” standing apart from their at times timid on stage display. The vocals at times sound whispered either by intention or mistake which lead to an element of the song writing finesse being lost. While a little more middle was needed in the sound at times, the distinction between bass and guitar being so stark made the sound fresh but possibly jarring to a few. They know how to get a crowd on side finding song titles via shout out (“Grit Vortex” being the new song title tonight) and an in crowd solo from Wright during set ender “Glaze” which while cliché helps them stay on everyone’s lips after the show was over.

Samoans are everything a headline act need to be, the band have a presence the minute they step on stage with the massive opening bars of “Tightrope Walker Complex” building to a crescendo to hype up the crowd. Lead Vocalist Daniel Barnett commands the stage, with a heavy yet delicate guitar and vocal display on new song “Monuments” I haven’t heard since the Deftones. There’s a change from dreamy sections to heavy riffing that hits you like an Umaga diving headbutt. Bass guitarist Calvin Ley makes the sound of “I Am Your Destiny” unforgetable with an underlying hook that doesn’t leave your head for days, complimented by his piercingly intense stare while on stage making sure you never forget that they mean business. The crowd seemingly transfixed in place by the ethereal sound of “The Moth” towards the end of the set is disappointing, The song is almost impossible not to move to yet people seem fixed in place apart from a little head nodding. Maybe this type of gig is a more stand in awe than thrash manically but I would have loved a bit more energy from the audience, something which seems to stop Samoans from enjoying the show as much as they want to. Finishing the night with the tender sounding “Apia” seemed to be apt, giving the crowd what they wanted and providing the perfect bookend to a night which smashed every preconception of a four band show I’ve ever had. Promoters, take note!

Luke Costin