First off, a quick disclaimer. The Xcerts playing the Haunt was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a while. This is another glowing review about a band who I really like. After you read the following paragraphs you might be left with the impression that I’m getting back rubs and sexual favours from the band as I write this, but I can assure it’s just me sitting on my own remembering a set that kicked an incredible amount of arse.
This was one of those special evenings in the history of rock music. One that (metaphorically) grabs you by the balls and kicks you in the teeth to wake you up and show you what great music is all about. That description probably sounds a bit odd, and slightly masochistic, but its what I go to gigs for. I want the music to be too loud, the lights too bright and the band too energetic. In my mind, the secret to success is giving the audience an impression of excess on every level.
I’ve been meaning to check the haunt out for a while now, after hearing several good reviews on the grape vine of Brighton students. As luck would have it, I’d been listening to a band that were new on me that day, The Xcerts, and a quick google of their name revealed they were playing there that night, so I felt like fate must have taken a hand and I’d have to go down and review the gig.
With my music journalist head on, I’d say they sound like a Scottish answer to Brand New (they hail from Aberdeen), mixed with some of my favourite bands as other potential influences (namely Reuben). However, if they are an answer to any American band, they haven’t quietly whispered their reply. Last night they bellowed back across the Atlantic with a fully formed, quality performance that will surely carry them forward to greater success in the future. I could reel off a whole list of bands which they bring to mind, but that’s definitely not fair, or descriptive of what it was to witness the live performance. They put across their music with a clear honesty, meaning every note and lyric, and certainly aren’t imitators. They called to mind your favourite riffs, or that part of that song you really love and re-presented it in a fresh light. They know what their audience want because they’re one of us.
For me, if its possible to keep a rock band to a three piece you should. Maybe add a fourth member if they really add value. I’ve seen way too many bands who are unwilling to cut the chafe, get rid of that extra member that they really don’t need, and with modern technology I’ve seen some amazing acts with just two people. The Xcerts provide some clear evidence on how skilful musicians retain a harmony between the layers of a song’s arrangement. Arguably the singer guitarist/bassist has to do twice as much work, but I’d argue that a drummer is doing that anyway, without singing.
Speaking of the drums, I can’t finish the review without a special mention of the drum parts provided by Tom Heron. Intricate, without being showy, and interesting without getting in the way, they show a maturity to his approach which allows him to toe a fine line confidently. Most of all though, along with the full force momentum that the band generates as a whole, they still know how to groove like motherf*****s. It’s hard to hear this band, see them live and then not get so excited about it.
Their set filled the intimate venue to the brim with all the power of your favourite stadium rock gods. Which could have been overbearing for a full headlining set, but Murray (lead vocals & guitar) breaks up the flow with some light hearted and genuinely funny banter. It again shows through that the band aren’t putting themselves on a pedestal, they’re one of us. He also comes across as a genuinely nice guy, case in point: I don’t think I’ve ever been thanked as much for attending a gig. It does more to provide a brief respite from the full on force of their rock and brings the whole room back down to Earth. There’s nothing more awkward then watching someone attempt to do this as well as he does and fail, so its always great to see a frontman so good at that side of the show.
I’ve got plenty more things I could say but I think I’ve complimented them enough by now and it’s starting to sound like I’ve got a crush even more then the girl who kept screaming Murray’s name out as soon as there was a moment’s silence.
I’ve also got to extend a special mention to one of the support bands for the night, Brighton based Echo Rain. They have to be the tightest unsigned band I’ve ever seen. Bar none.
Their set was full of awesome guitar licks and great songs, fronted with spot on vocal harmonies. However, being a drummer myself I couldn’t help but notice James Martin’s excellent stick work behind the kit. He doesn’t just beat the drums like a caveman, he flows around the kit with the greatest of ease. Honestly, go and see the band live (you wont be disappointed) and you’ll get what I mean. It gives his playing a whole new universe of dynamics from your normal local rock band, and gives him room to wow you with some truly impressive playing.
Overall, they’re definitely ones to watch out for.