NME Upstarts Tour : The Pattern/Crackout/Vex Red : ULU London

A musical roadshow equivalent of our 'Guitar Britain' special hit the capital...

Almost a musical roadshow equivalent of our ‘Guitar Britain’ special, the NME Upstarts tour touches down the capital with each band in fighting form. Never mind the rumours of Vex Red and Crackout falling out over who should move the drum kit – both they and The Pattern are out for blood. And all three bands put on ferocious performances that staked a claim for, if not greatness, then at least the eternal, intense pleasure of making an extremely loud noise.

California scuzzbuckets The Pattern kick off the night and throughout their entire half-hour set, singer Chris Applegreen claws at his crotch, grabs at his thighs and generally makes like Iggy Pop in a chastity belt. Fortunately, the commotion in his trousers is matched by that created by the band. While only the tone-deaf would believe that they yet possess classic (or, let’s face it, even good) songs, those tunes are unleashed with a fanfare that is nearly enough to make you suspend disbelief.

Buckingham trio Crackout are on the defensive: “Thanks for looking at us and not going to the fucking bar,” moaned singer Steven Eagles. But there isn’t any need to be self-deprecating – Crackout’s rifferama is muscular enough to break through alcohol-fuddled indifference. Having a drummer in a suit is a good move; a better one still is putting on a show so thunderous it defies people to remain upright. Smell the potential!

A Bill Hicks tape heralds the ‘coming out’ of Vex Red who are yet to release their first single, the excellent ‘Itch’.

Their producer, metal uberlord Ross Robinson, has obviously taught them a few things, since live, Vex Red easily pull off the difficult combo of being simultaneously slick and fierce. But the four-piece have also got something innately theirs – a twisted pop sensibility and musical imagination that will see them mopping up fans from right across the board.

Singing lyrics from ‘Genie In A Bottle’ is perhaps overemphasising their versatility, but the climactic ‘Vert’, a moody two-part extravaganza, leaves us in no doubt that Vex Red have an impressive arsenal of musical weapons at their disposal – and they’re aiming them all at you.

Alex Needham