The Forum, Tunbridge Wells, January 9
Tonight is a very special night, as Tunbridge Wells’ Forum – deserving winner of NME’s 2012 Best Small Venue Award – turns 20. It’s a landmark occasion for the space and one, you’d assume, they’d want to celebrate by bringing in the big guns. Yet despite hosting both Foals and Frank Turner in this same week, they’ve chosen to celebrate with Palma Violets – who are not even a 10th of the age of the venue.
Tonight, see, is the first time Sam Fryer, Chilli Jesson, Pete Mayhew and Will Doyle have played their imminent (Feb 25! Feb 25!) debut album ‘180’ in full. And if 2013 is a big year for the venue, it’s sure as hell gonna be huge for the Lambeth boys as well. If you like your musical kicks served raw, chaotic, teetering on the edge of collapse and screaming with total youthful abandonment, then ‘180’ will be your sound of 2013.
“We’re coming for you,” snarls bassist Chilli as the band walk out to confront the scrum. The statement would seem clichéd were it not for the next 45 minutes. Within two songs – the Clash-like bark of opener ‘Rattlesnake Highway’, followed by ‘All The Garden Birds’ – the band have already broken two snare drums. Everyone’s too giddy to notice or care. The latter of the two tracks exemplifies the most exciting thing about the band: the dual-frontman dynamic that comes into play when Chilli’s wild-eyed shouts pepper Sam’s smooth baritone.
The howling climax of ‘Tom The Drum’ leads into ‘Chicken Dippers’, and the array of sleazy basslines and unhinged guitar freakouts amount to something far filthier than a track named after kids’ processed food ever should. The band’s debut single, ‘Best Of Friends’, is greeted like a two-decade-old favourite. And even the new tracks keep the momentum going. ‘Johnny Bagga Donuts’ closes the main set, with Chilli taking the vocal lead for an old-fashioned “pub-rock” (Chilli’s own description) belter.
‘Three Stars’ brings down the pace as it makes way for Sam’s soothing croon. And as the two frontmen launch into the crowd for a final romp with ridiculous closer ‘Brand New Song’, there’s a whiff of triumph in the air about tonight.