Entering the O2 Academy Upstairs venue in Oxford I am taken aback by a whole five other people standing in the room. This however changes as the space begins to fill with the clock slowly edging towards 7:15 when the first act of the NME Radar Tour are to take to the stage.
DZ Deathrays are an indie/trash/punk two-piece band from Brisbane, Australia with Shane Parsons on vocals and guitar and Simon Ridly on drums. As they begin their first track, complete with a hardcore, screamo chorus and strobe lightening one could wander whether NME have made the right choice to kick off the show with a punk/heavy metal band. Despite an enthusiastic audience, DZ Deathrays don’t work the crowd and mutter into the microphone without allowing music to die down so little or no dialogue is heard, this creates an odd mood where no relationship is formed between band and audience.
Songs that follow begin to merge into what sounds like early Yeah Yeah Yeahs tracks from their self-named album with a lot of noisy guitar riffs and a steady beat being thrown out by the drums. DZ Deathrays show us some vocal potential during some of their later songs making the songs sounds almost like American boy band rock, a genre that everyone enjoys at some point.
Next to take to the stage is the five piece S.C.U.M who recently shot to fame with their feature in NME a few months ago. With a mixture of guitar, bass, drums and synths it is very easy to get lost in the musical drone of the lead singer, Thomas Cohen and imagine you are seeing Echo and the Bunnymen or some other post-punk/art rock band.
Despite being dubbed a ‘pretentious rocker’ in British tabloids, Cohen dances around the stage, gliding and twisting with his lyrics and music bewitching the crowd. Their most memorable song is definately ‘Faith Unfolds’ with it’s church-like organs being churned out by the synth players and gothic lyrics “I trace my faith where i stand in time” floating above the stage and audience. Cohen entices the crowd to move and dance to their ravishing and eerie songs, it is easy to see that S.C.U.M are going to grow into a great band with albums that will mature with time.
Kicking off the final act with a bang, Wolf Gang commences their set with ‘Dancing With The Devil’ waking the audience from their calm slumber with a catchy and exciting number, it’s already obvious that Wolf Gang are set to impress. Front man Max McElligott looks ready to have a good night, smiling at the audience and rocking backwards and forwards from foot to foot, this alone making the crowd dance and sing along.
We are then met with the romantic and glistening ‘Something Unusual’, a track that has everyone engaged and smiling at the gorgeous harmonies created by the band. The effortlessness oozing from the stage makes the atmosphere a relaxed abyss of soaring sounds and careless cool. Wolf Gang seem to posses the essential indie pop ingredient that appeals to teenagers which flows out of every instrument throughout their set.
‘The King And All Of His Men’ starts an enthusiastic clap along from the audience as Max tinkles around on a keyboard to his left with one hand, the forceful beats and piano allowing the crowd to engage in a wonderful foot-stomping trance. While playing a song with a catchy “lifeline” chorus, suddenly the volume being projected from the stage drops with a clueless audience still enjoying the wonders of this track. Watching the bemused players is a great way to see their easy chemistry, with laughter and confusion being exchanged across the five of them as they apologise for this technical glitch. The audience, however, is not fazed shouting out “Don’t worry, we love you” and enjoying the break to hear Max introduce the rest of the band.
The next song to fill our ears is the title track, ‘Suego Faults’ allowing the crowd to chill with the ambient drum and piano accompanying the calming lyrics “you went so long to find/to find you body by the lights of the circus show”. ‘Back To Back’ and an older ‘The Kill’ swiftly follow gearing the crowd back into their dancing shoes. ‘Midnight Dancers’ and ‘Stay And Pretend’ are yet more fabulous tunes to hit the set list.
Finally, after a colourful new song, ‘Lions In Cages’, a track filled with MGMT-ish electro-pop vocals and Killers-style guitar, is played with such electricity that the room buzzes and hums with relentless energy and power that if one looked hard enough sparks could be spotted. This magical evening leaves the audience gasping for more as they depart with many a memory of this night. Wolf Gang really do pull out all the stops, ending the gig with a simple “We’ll be hanging at the merch so come and say hi”.
Photography by Vinnie Mo