With summer behind us and a new events season at ‘alternative’ performance venue Coach & Horses just launched, it was to be expected that the schedule kicks off with a gig involving two of the indie scene’s most beloved bands – Three Stops to China and The Violent Violets.
With Coach & Horses packed to the rafters, Three Stops to China – Kurt Kind on bass and main vocals, Josh Briffa on drums and David Grech Urpani on guitar and backing vocals – kicked off the night on a relatively mellow note with The Beach. The track, somewhat quieter in style when compared to rest of China’s discography, gave newbies in the audience just the right introduction to the band’s blend of punk, grunge and good, old-fashioned rock.
That was pretty much the only mellow part of the gig as, right after, the lads turned up the volume a notch or six by launching straight into In My Mind, which was followed by Love Will Keep Us Alive.
Because the venue space, and as a result the acoustics, are somewhat limited, the vocals did at times find themselves a touch overpowered by the strong bass and percussions. But the musical chemistry between the trio is such that it didn’t really detract from the performance.
You could say that Three Stops to China use bass, guitar and percussion as wonderfully effective and superbly sexy punctuation, which is to say that the end result is a pretty lethal mix. Introvertism and Follow Me, the two tracks that followed, are two examples of this. Introvertism’s refrain was beautifully executed, with the drums seamlessly morphing into the vocals, which take on an almost mesmerising quality (in this track Kind’s voice somewhat reminded me of less-annoying Brian Molko). Follow Me’s lengthy guitar solo, which towards the end is joined by the drums, was one of the highlights of the evening, before the lads closed off all too soon with Arcadia.
The Violent Violets were on next. I had heard the band for the first time during last year’s Nil By Mouth Sessions, where they had performed alongside Joe Gideon & The Shark and The Tall Ships. Although this was one of their first gigs, they had acquitted themselves with honour and verve.
Twelve months down the line, their music has evolved drastically. Vocalist Matthew Shields’ voice has really grown and the singer now fits very comfortably within the style of the band. By style, I mean the brash, high-octane sound that characterises this band’s playing, with tracks like Monster of the Andes, Hall Song and Sparrow Swallow (all relatively new) being hard-hitting examples.
The urgency of Samuel Xiberras’s trademark drums contributed a lot to the evening. Andre Farrugia’s bass was energetic, and I particularly enjoyed his work on One of the Pack and Hall Song.
The lads’ whole set was a riot of rousing sounds, and I found myself longing for the more spacious mosh pit back from when I had seen them playing last year. Track after track, the trio kept raising the temperature just a notch higher, with Shields’ vocals wickedly complementing the ever-increasing crescendo, before bringing the gig to an end with Camera.
Although Coach & Horses is not the ideal venue for this genre, this was a kick-ass performance by two of the newer wave of local bands, and I look forward to seeing both of them in another full-blown gig before too long.
An edited version of this review was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta.