After a full-throttle starter from the West Yorkshire six-piece Menace Beach, the night gives way to slacker-pop bliss
Menace Beach guitarist Matt J prowls the ground in front of the stage, scowling over his thick-rimmed glasses. Sweat is tumbling from his brow. A woman is held aloft on broad shoulders just feet from where he’s thrashing away at his guitar. From the second that this Leeds six-piece (made up of members from local favourites Sky Larkin, Hookworms and Pulled Apart By Horses) hit the first chord of ‘Teenage Jesus’, it’s obvious that this Ray-Ban Envision set is going to be visceral, a night to get involved with. Obnoxious synth lines squall over a thick web of guitar as Ryan Needham’s vocals hover in the mix, sneering yet tuneful on recent singles ‘Drop Outs’ and ‘Tastes Like Medicine’. The set culminates in jeers of “Men-ace Beach! Men-ace Beach” from their dedicated fans, leaving the bar set high for tonight’s headliners.
But Splashh create an altogether different atmopshere on the stage of this arty venue. The London-via-Australasia foursome rely on a cool, laconic build of slacker-pop rather than something full-throttle. After mumbling “Hello”, the band slow-dive into their opening track, singer Toto Vivian drawling and growling into the microphone. He lets the audience know that it’s “nice to be here” before requesting that the bulbs overhead are dimmed, confident that the summery vibes of ‘Sun Kissed Bliss’ will make the room feel bright enough.
Splashh tease the crowd into a crescendo of cheers with new single ‘Feels Like You’. Its layered, psychedelic swirls and upbeat basslines bely the warning refrain of “You’re a danger to yourself”. It gives way to old favourite ‘Vacation,’ which starts a flurry of dancing from the girls at the front of the crowd, who shuffle and sway languidly, smiling in agreement as Toto expresses his desire for “a long vacation”. It proves that Splashh don’t need to rely on onstage goofing or throwing themselves around to capture imaginations. Instead, the crowd are hooked on the melodies, which rise and fall before becoming enveloped inside a quilt of layered noise.
The set’s closer, ‘All I Wanna Do’, is a drawn-out beauty, as reverbed guitars chime around the space, dreamy melodies drifting under and over the thick tapestry of effects and gentle, persistent bass. As the track fritters away to a frayed ending, the band leave the stage quietly. It’s a gracious end to an understated evening.