Asylums Rock The Railway
Every once in a while a band arrives into my life, bringing a reawakening and a newness of sound that cuts through all the tedium, and makes me yearn to revisit the long-gone years of my youthfulness. Asylums from Southend-on-Sea are one of those kind of bands. I’ve seen them live on a few occasions now, and each time they have managed to up the ante. This gig was no exception.
Asylums’ own ‘Cool Thing’ record label, has already staged a number of nights showcasing new music in and around their hometown of Southend. Coincidentally this is also where I grew up, but since moving away about twenty years ago, I’ve not been to a gig or even many nights out around there. So it was with a slight sense of dread and trepidation that I approached the doorway to The Railway Hotel, a town pub tinged with hazy recollections of my early ‘90s student days.
Surprisingly, it seems that Southend has moved on a bit since then, and while the downstairs bar remained just slightly on the flipside of decorum, it was clear that this was a venue which has raised its' game in the area of live music. Upon venturing upstairs for the sold out Asylums night, there was a veritable wealth of band posters adorning the wall, and a fantastic configuration of rooms; one large space with raised stage and huge glitter ball, and an adjoining room with corner piano, central decks and strings of fairy lights all adding to the ambience.
The place was pretty full and getting fuller by the time I made it up the stairs, and another thing that struck me were all the neat little ‘Cool Thing’ touches, from the hand stamps, to the stage banner, to the exceptionally cool T-shirts available. I caught the tail end of the first act – Freak – as they were banging out ‘What Happened?’ which could easily have been the soundtrack to any of my teenage years. Freak played with effortless energy and it seemed like they went down well.
During the changeover times between the three bands, a selection of DJs took over the smaller room, playing a funky mix of tunes, while all the bands and audience got mingling. This definitely wasn’t the Southend that I remembered. Everybody was so friendly and chatty, and very much in a party mood. Even the two bands who hadn’t yet played were hanging out at the bar, rather than squirreled away in some poky dressing room.
The second band, Bellevue Days, from South London, were ever so much my cup of tea. It was getting harder by the minute to remember that this was taking place in what used to be a dingy little railway station pub, and that we hadn’t all been suddenly transported to Hackney or Heaven or somewhere.
Bellevue Days played an impressively moody but catchy indie-rock set, and it looked like it was an enjoyable experience for them as well as for their audience. Three of the tracks from their newly released EP ‘Sad Boy’ were given an airing, and I’m happy to say that the gorgeous enunciation of the singer’s Croydon twang sounded even better live. Set closer ‘Ripped Jeans’ deservedly set the room alight, and I’d say that Bellevue Days are definitely ones to watch over the coming months.
After another brief DJ interlude, headliners Asylums, who were clearly having a ball all night long, took to the stage to much delight. The thing that always stands out whenever I see this group is the transformation from four fairly mild-mannered and understated guys to absolute grunge blast punk heads. All of whom have the command to kick things off with a single word or chord or beat, and who can throw some serious shapes. Particularly Jazz, who I swear must have those elbows that you can dislocate and pop back in whenever you want to impress an audience. The audience were pretty close to some mosh-produced dislocations too, and everything got a bit frantic down the front for a lot of the set.
Personal favourite ‘Wet Dream Fanzine’ sounded massive live and the room shook with Asylums’ own particular style of fuzz-infected grunge. Current track ‘Necessary Appliances’ bumped the energy up to the next level, and incited an illustrious specimen of stage-diving from one of the ‘Cool Thing’ crew.
Asylums played the longest set I’ve heard from them, even dropping in a glitzy cover of Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret’ mid-encore. Asylums have so much new material bursting from their seams, and I can’t wait for the debut album which is due out in July. Before that, it’s festival time, with Asylums due down in Brighton this week for The Great Escape. I seriously recommend adding them to your must-see list!