It’s a crisp October evening as The Exchange plays host to The Xcerts for a sold out show. With a bar area filling up with expectant punters and an independent record store ‘Specialist Subject Records’ situated upstairs, the scene is perfectly set for the night to get underway.
Bristol based band Spring Break open the show. I think it’s fair to say they’re an odd booking for this one. If I were to over simplify, I would describe them as a British Courtney Love fronting an atmospheric indie band. But they are so much more than that peculiar description. The guitarist appears to stand 10 foot tall on the raised stage of The Exchange, a mad scientist hard at work behind a pedal board extruding multi coloured wires and screeching feedback over droning rock guitar. Singer Kate Stapley has a heavily distorted guitar of her own along with insightful lyrics and no shortage of attitude. Lines such as, “I’d be too scared to raise a child into this” hit hard, delivered with raging despair at our current Conservative government. The anti-Tory sentiment gets a cheer from the ever growing crowd. “I’m walking here” is the stand out track and includes the line, “It’s OK for a woman to show her aggression” Springbreak are certainly doing that, and long may it continue.
Next up is Big Spring making it 2 for 2 on bands with ‘Spring’ in their name. These guys are a 4 piece grunge band from Brighton, a scene which seems to be on a roll for producing great 90’s throwback bands. Big Spring have their own distinct take on the genre most notably in the vocals which shift effortlessly from Layne Staley-esque nasal melodies to high notes that would be more at home on a Muse track. Consistent drums between songs tie the set together nicely and give the feeling of a well drilled professional band. As the set draws to a close they play their new single “Coming Down” which “will be released real soon”. It’s a powerful ending to a strong set. At times piercingly high guitar lines demand the attention of a somewhat apathetic audience, with a more interested crowd I could see the guys making a much bigger impact but it’s a good showing none the less.
The Xcerts whose banner is clearly designed and I’m sure destined for bigger stages as the top half of their name peeks out nervously above the drum kit, are finally going on and there’s tangible excitement in the air. This is who the crowd came to see. If the large increase in people in the room, many sporting Xcerts merchandise, wasn’t clue enough, the slightly lacklustre reaction to the previous 2 bands confirms it. As soon as the guitar line to new single “Daydream” rings out, it’s like a whole new show, the now packed room lurches into life with sing-a-longs that will continue through the entirety of the set. The Xcerts sound to my ears a bit like “Kaiser Chiefs” or “Scouting for Girls” with their upbeat indie pop-rock. The aptly titled “Pop Song” and “Slackerpop” both provide memorable moments as singer Murray Macleod is serenaded by a room full of enthusiastic fans.
As a musical journalist I should really focus on the likes of instrumentation and song structure but that’s not what’s remarkable about this Xcerts show. There is an atmosphere and visible bond between audience and performers. The love in the room rings out almost eclipsing the indie guitar, crashing drums, warm bass and pre-recorded synth lines that make up the back drop for the undeniably catchy hooks.
I spoke to an attendee who’s followed the band for 10 years and others who’ve recently discovered them at this summer’s 2000 Tree’s Festival and the word that repeatedly came up was ‘fun’ along with a surprising amount of focus on their personality, the kind nature of the members was mentioned multiple times. With a great reception at this sold out show and huge anticipation for the upcoming album Hold Onto Your Heart which is pencilled in for release on January 19th 2018, The Xcerts seem to be living proof that nice guys don’t have to finish last in the music industry.
Review by Hena Larkin