The thump of drum and bass music echoes across the orange sky from a nearby building, punctuated by the scream of sirens as police cars, ambulances and fire engines all flash past in the general direction of said noise; just your average Sunday night in Bristol, then. At The Exchange, however, things are a little more tranquil, with punters milling around, chewing the cud and enjoying the warm evening air, one final way to forget the impending return to the grind tomorrow morning. Oh, and there’s a gig on, HE IS LEGEND, – that’ll also help matters.
Inside, it’s Cornwall quartet HYPOPHORA who kick things off tonight with an extremely competent show that is as dynamic as it is energetic. A wonderful blend of hard rock and punk with just a touch of RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS-esque funk, they attack the stage with vigour and have no trouble filling the room as the set progresses. Song like Youth and the BIFFY CLYRO vibes of Headlines are very well received and it’s also a delight to see that a contingent of hometown fans have made the journey up to Bristol tonight as well, proving that HYPOPHORA are already building a hardcore following. Special mentions as well to vocalist Katie McConnell who has a great set of pipes (unfortunately lost in the mix on a few occasions) and delivers a confident, professional performance and guitarist Karum Cooper, a very accomplished axeman with plenty of tricks up his sleeve and one of the few people who can pull off dungarees as a stage outfit. It’s a truly great start to proceedings and their name won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
The same holds true for ACRES, who are the odd one out on this bill in terms of style and sound, leaning towards a post-hardcore feel that would delight fans of everyone from GLASSJAW to BURY TOMORROW and ARCHITECTS. There are a couple of people singing along to their set tonight and a few moving bodies too, but the truth is that they’re a little bit too far removed from the headliners to really get the room eating from their hands. Not for want of trying though; how they are unsigned is a complete mystery. As tight as a drum, the quintet deliver some truly devastating riffs courtesy of Alex Freeman and Theo Sandberg and the atmospheric backings are excellent, easily able to send you to a completely different plane of reality as their songs soar and swirl around the venue. They also follow HYPOPHORA in terms of their abundant energy, never stopping for the half hour they’re playing. Supporting band closer to their own music would benefit them far more, but this is by no means a poor set by any standard.
“This might hurt,” warns HE IS LEGEND frontman Schuyler Croon as the headliners tear into The Witch of Magnolia. Quite how that hurting manifests itself is anybody’s guess, but there’ll certainly be a few earache sufferers in the morning; the band are absolutely deafening from start to finish and with good reason. They’re on great form tonight, with plenty of highlights as they take us on a career-spanning set. Croon is a captivating frontman, bringing everyone under his spell and leading us all mercurially through a bombastic Everyone I Know Has Fangs, the funk and pace of Be Easy and a crushing Stranger Danger. Admittedly the sound is a little muddy in patches but that’s no issue because everyone is having far too much fun to really care or even notice. Closing song I Am Hollywood sees Croon allow an audience member to sing half of the lyrics and she doesn’t hold back, unleashing a truly brilliant scream and giving it all the beans she can muster, but, more impressively, there is a point towards the end where the band execute a false finish and nobody in the audience moves, at all. There isn’t a woop or a cheer, everyone is completely transfixed on the stage and the five guys performing on it, a brief moment of calm in a rip-roaring set. It’s a shame that more isn’t performed from latest album Few, with only Sand getting an outing, but even more disappointing that there’s no encore, resulting in a headlining set that’s only fifty minutes long. It certainly takes the gloss of what has been a fantastic set, but the bottom line is that HE IS LEGEND have taken no prisoners on this tour, and we could do with having them back soon and for longer.
Check our photo gallery of the night’s action in Bristol from Serena Hill Photography here: