Palma Violets @ O2 Academy Oxford – 26/03/13

Palma Violets Oxford Live

Firstly, a declaration of interest: I love hype. I love the cloak of romance and drama that the media swathe over a band. Having put aside any lingering interest in the charts, hype bands fill that void. They have the thrill of the here and now; they’re in the thick of it. Yeah sure it’s a bit fickle and can raise expectations a bit too high, but what can you do? Now, enter Palma Violets.

Their debut album 180 was released a month ago, so everyone’s had plenty of time to dedicate themselves to it heart and soul. Their tour van looms outside the O2, covered in the scrawls of hundreds of fans’ names. The sold-out gig is already pretty jammed for the support act Baby Strange. Like Palma Violets, they blast out a raw sound; a call to arms; an unforgiving barrage. They kick out with post-punk energy, giving the poor middle-distance a terrifying death stare. Snuggled in the bratty noise pop blanket are some great tunes, and the crowd totally lose it during their set. After all, it’s not every gig that half the headline act joins in the pit. Singer and bassist Chilli even stage invades, flinging himself from the pit onto the stage with the grace and agility of a spider monkey.

Baby Strange have set a high standard, but Palma Violets refuse to be beaten. Back in their natural environment of small sweaty rooms (having just returned from playing really quite large sweaty rooms on the NME Awards Tour), they’re ready to prove the buzz-killers wrong. Opening with the gloriously unsophisticated ‘Johnny Bagga’ Donuts’, the crowd throw themselves into the party with almost as much energy as the two frontmen on the stage. The raucous mosh pit hardly lets up the whole way through the set and sing-alongs are de rigueur.

Standout moments are the sloppy refrain of ‘14’, ‘We Found Love’ with its debonair romance, and a beautiful little idea that Chilli pulls out, demanding that the whole audience put their hands in the air and wiggle their fingers. This has the amusing effect of splitting the crowd in two in a phenomenon reminiscent of the meeting of the North and Baltic Seas: here the division is between those who are flinging themselves into the action with abandon, and those who are determined to remain observers of the youths merrily losing their shit.

Palma Violets tread a fine line, managing to remain coherent while still creating havoc. The mayhem gets turned up to 11 for their encore of ‘Brand New Song’. Palma Violets, Baby Strange and even merch-man Harry “Violent” all take to the stage in a terrifically self-indulgent love-in. How many of the eight people there are actually playing instruments? Maybe four, tops, the rest are just vibing. But who cares? Not Chilli apparently, he ditches them to catapult himself back into the crowd to rave around with them to his own song. It doesn’t float everyone’s boat however, and there are mutterings of them being a bit “wrapped up in themselves”. Then again, other phrases being thrown around after are “life-changing”, “sick”, “great”, “amazing”, “9 out of 10” and “11 out of 10”.

It is testament to Palma Violets transition from potential one-hit wonders to a credible band with an armoury of exciting songs that their hit single ‘Best Of Friends’ wasn’t even a clear highlight. Their vitality, unfailing energy and the chemistry between the two frontmen make them compelling live. So shush to the nay-sayers! Bands get hyped for a reason: because sometimes they really are all that.