Live Review: Afflecks Palace, Pastel @ The Fleece, Bristol

Afflecks Palace by A Supreme Shot

Afflecks Palace by A Supreme Shot

The inaugural night of the Spirit Of Spike Island tour takes place in Bristol, a couple of hundred miles south of the legendary venue – the independent label makes no bones about its influences, and nor do the two bands on the bill.

5-piece Pastel, who hail from Manchester (of course), Dublin and south Wales have all the hallmarks of the dance-fuelled 1990s, with an undercurrent of epic groove running throughout their tunes.

Closing track Deeper Than Holy also fuses some of the early hypnotic Kasabian work (singer Jack Yates does a very good Tom Meighan impersonation), with a bassline reminiscent of those featured on Urban Hymans. Pastel also bring to mind The Music, although that may be down to Yates’ Robert Harvey-esque mop of wavy hair, which works well as he sways to his bandmates’ powerful funk-grooves.

Headliners Afflecks Palace, named after an infamous shopping arcade in their hometown of Manchester, are the purest example of DIY; frontman James Fender informs the crowd midway through the gig that everything is coordinated by the band, including artwork, production of merchandise and the booking of this, their first headline tour. Their commitment and enthusiasm makes this readily apparent.

Opener Everything Is An Attempt To Be Human eases the set in with a slow build-up, with some razor-sharp arpeggio guitar from Dan Stapleton before breaking down to lead into some sky-kissing. Second number Hello. Is Anyone Awake? features John Squire-esque, slovenly, effortless guitar between the vocal lines of the verse as the rhythm section follows suits, dreamily.

Therein lies the rub. Afflecks Palace are so indebted to The Stone Roses that the comparisons are unavoidable. It’s all there; guitars alternating between dreamy and overly indulgent, a free-styling rhythm section and an overall intent to convey dreamy northern psychedelia.

At first glance it should make them easy targets for cries of derivation, however the band are canny enough to head any such criticisms off at the pass, with t-shirts adorning the label and tour name a physical representation of them wearing their influences on their sleeve.

At points in the set it is a little too on-the-nose, but by openly admitting it they are free to enjoy it. If you own it and therefore make yourselves critic-proof, you can’t lose.

However, as a frontman Fender is more engaging than Ian Brown. Whether it’s encouraging the crowd to move forward (‘We may be from up north but we can’t pick your pockets from here’) or introducing certain songs (‘It’s a hot one tonight. It’s a hot city…This City Is Burning Alive!’), he knows how to work a crowd, the spring in his step matching that of the aforementioned track. He also has a Hunter S Thompson vibe to his attire, which always earns brownie points.

The currently-6Music-playlisted Carpe Diem, and Ripley Jean, are both fine examples of jangly indie, with the former containing a bassline which keeps things raw, while the latter features a heavy drumming introduction.

Now a few years old, their debut Forever Young winds around as it always has, but sounds naïve in comparison to the songs around it. Elsewhere, It All Comes Around gallops stridently, while the calypso-flecked Pink Skies is a highlight.

As is to be expected, the momentum stalls slightly when the band play songs from their forthcoming debut album, but that is only a temporary situation as the marauding We Can Be The Avalanche closes the set with aplomb.

The mainstream music media are unlikely to take Afflecks Palace to their hearts but, while they might appreciate the attention, the band are clearly comfortable and confident in their sound of Mancunian streets.

Richard Bowes
Learn More

Leave a Reply