Since this seems to be an annual thing, I suppose it’s only right to mention the previous year’s efforts. In short, they were less than impressive, so, being absolutely honest, I was more than a little apprehensive about this year. With that in mind, I expected the first band – Sara N Junbug to be bloody awful. Happily, this wasn’t the case, although they had their issues. In a venue this size, a band this small and so stripped back is completely lost. The vocals drown out everything but the drums. The P!nk cover of ‘What About Us’ isn’t unpleasant, but it is very bland. It’s literally a straight cover; Sara is an OK singer, but she’s no match for P!nk. It’s nice and they get points for effort, but it just doesn’t suit the space or the rest of the evening.
The second of five bands of the night (yes, there’s five…) Stone Ivy also suffer from an imbalance in sound, only this time it’s the other way around; the guitars are too loud, and the vocals are too quiet. Musically speaking, it’s kind of like a blend of Garbage, Rachel Stamp, and Transvision Vamp (albeit a bad version of them) – all giving it a very dated twist to everything. You’d think all of the above would sound good, right? Wrong. The vocalist really needs to spend less time trying to look alluring and sexy and concentrate on not singing from her throat, and the bassist and guitarist look like they’d rather be anywhere but here. Again, it’s not a bad effort, but it does need some attention.
Miami Monroe played last year, and I admit to being at least somewhat intrigued this time around. They’re definitely more lively than the previous bands (which is sorely needed right now; more than half of the crowd look horribly bored) The downside? They still sound too much like a Green Day tribute band, even though they’re really good at it. I had expected a big leap from them since last year, but I’m actually rather disappointed on that front. Their merch chap is singing with gusto… There are tiny pockets of people throughout the audience dancing along, but nobody else is. The singer is a fraction out of tune and it’s mildly off-putting, but I doubt anyone else has noticed. The harmonies are nice enough, though. It’s all very samey, which is a bit of a shame because it quickly gets boring.
I knew we had it too good… Human Renegade enter the stage, pick up their instruments, and then stand there looking like gormless gooseberries while a shit audio track is played. A weird mash of sound is heard and then the band start playing something much slower. Human Renegade are as bad as they sound. Not only do they have a terrible band name, but they have no idea who or what they are. They look and kind of sound like a bloody awful Arctic Monkeys/The Libertines covers band – and they can do neither well. The vocals aren’t even close to being in tune, and they’re half shouted. The guitars are also too bloody loud, which I will admit they can play really well. A nice piano piece begins, but they’ll find a way of fucking it up any moment now. Suddenly, it turns into a melody I recognise and before I know it, they start playing Radiohead‘s ‘Karma Police’ (at which point I turn into a spitting rage monster and start screaming at them to stop). They can barely perform their own music, let alone several covers (I’m fairly certain I recognised tracks that sounded like My Chemical Romance, and Panic! At The Disco). At the end of their set (also over-staying their welcome), they start hurling bottles of water into the crowd, and then set off a couple of party poppers before someone somewhere decides to the close the stage curtains on them. Get off the damn stage, you muppets!
Finally, after a little faffing and a couple of short video with awful sound is played on the screens, one looks like a single track, and the other is a short film where a very small section of their fanbase talk about why they like Single By Sunday. It’s nice, but I feel it’s entirely unnecessary. A countdown begins and Single By Sunday set things right, with drummer Jorge entering, bathed in yellow light. A plume of smoke goes up and the rest of the band join him before playing ‘Nevereverever’ – a song launched at the gig last January. Well, this is more like it, and worth waiting for and suffering (genuinely suffering) everything else. ‘Romeo’ never makes sense to me, even though it’s a good song with a catchy beat and a decent melody. You know they both die, right? And he spends his time lusting after Rosaline before he even lays his 17-year-old eyes on a 13-year-old Juliet…
Playing the first of a handful of new tracks, ‘You Make Me Say’ is pretty typical of their sound, to be honest. The only downside here is that there’s too much smoke. OK, so this is different! Following with another new song in the form of ‘House Party’, Single By Sunday try something completely new. Both Josh and Jonny have put down the guitars and are instead bounding around the stage to something with much more of an electro-pop twist. There’s lots of hopping and bouncing, too (nothing new there, then…) It’s perhaps a bit too different, and it’ll take some getting used to, that’s for sure.
Fairy lights wrapped around each of the mic stands light up, and their one and only ballad ‘Cold’ begins, as well as a small flurry of fake snow that pretty much falls on the people who are front and centre. It’s a very different step for them, and it works really well. Lights go up and the huge disco ball in the middle of the ceiling glitters around the room for the briefest moment. The One Direction cover – ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ – is probably the only real disappointment in the whole set. It should and could have been amazing, but instead, there was too much of everything. It starts, and it’s a little out of tune – and for once, I’m really confused. Josh temporarily leaves the stage, only to turn right back around and the song continues. It’s ever so slightly out of tune, there is too much work going on in the vocal harmonies and the melody is completely lost. If they took a big step or two backwards – saved the harmonies for the chorus and alternated lead vocals between them – it could have been something quite special. Instead, they ended up overdoing it.
At some point in the evening, Jorge managed to bash a hole in his drum kit. I swear, this happens at damn-near every single gig I go to! Another new song – ‘Don’t Go’ – and it’s a touch slower than we’re used to, and is something that, – and I’ll be totally honest here – sounds like it’s been lifted from a terrible 1970s TV show based on the intro. I’m concerned, but they manage to pull it back eventually. Again, the vocal harmonies are nice, but there’s a little too much of it, giving it that dated twist again. It works, but only just. Ah, a guitar solo from Jonny – that’s more like it, I thought we’d lost them in a 1970s whirling vortex of doom. Redeeming themselves with the high energy of ‘Adrenaline’, the band suddenly leave and a countdown begins again on the screens. Another video plays and once again, the sound is bloody awful and I have no idea what’s going on.
Back on stage – and a quick outfit switcheroo – and so begins ‘Helter Skelter’. This is ominous, to say the least, not to mention Jonny is now sporting the worst pair of shorts known to mankind (I can’t ever unsee that, you know), although it is fairly standard SBS, thank goodness. Eliciting confused looks from some (OK, from us), comes the announcement that the next song is called ‘Fucked Your Girlfriend’. What the Hell happened to the nice boys we’ve come to know and love? It’s good, but part of me really doesn’t want to accept they’re not cute younglings anymore. Once again, the evening is something of a mixed bag, as was last year. I said it then, and I’ll say it again: the phrase too many cooks spoil the broth comes to mind. As for Single By Sunday, the boys did good, but perhaps consider losing the gimmicks in future. You don’t need them; let your music do the work for you instead.
Photo: Clare Ballott