Los Angeles – One thing is for sure – London’s Palma Violets have the swagger and stage theatrics that is the inevitable byproduct of being critically lauded from the moment their first song was released. The infamously trigger-happy British music magazine NME cast Palma Violets into the pantheon of “next big things” in 2012 when they declared their debut single as the song of the year. While such heady praise for a fledgling band can often derail the train before it even leaves the station, Palma Violets went on to produce a strong debut full-length in 2013’s 180, which Best New Bands called “a great album” with “flaunting bass” and “inexplicably entrancing rocky riffs.”
The aggressive, melodic and eclectic collection of garage rock heard on 180 garnered a ton of attention in the United Kingdom, but the album did not make waves in the United States. With the band on the cusp of releasing their second full-length, Danger In The Club, the band hopes to gather a bigger audience stateside. It is clear that as of right now they have at least made enough of a mark in the U.S. to pack The Echo with adoring, fist-pumping fans who knew every single word of their songs.
The four-piece featured co-frontmen and vocalists Samuel Thomas Fryer and Chilli Jesson on guitar and bass respectively; William Martin Doyle banged out the band’s frenetic rhythms and Jeffrey Peter Mayhew’s keyboard work added complexity and texture to the Violets’ garage-rock anthems. Though the band is preparing to release a new record, the majority of their set came from 180. The band kicked off their set with songs such as “Rattlesnake Highway” and “Chicken Dippers,” two high energy tracks which perfectly set the tone for their aggressive-yet-harmonious set.
Considering that Palma Violets are a buzz-band from abroad with loads of approval from the mainstream music press, it is no surprise that their fans at The Echo were of a diverse age range. Us older folks hung towards the back room bobbing our heads, trying to keep up with the band’s frenetic energy, the younger crowd crushed towards the center, pogo-ing along with reckless abandon. While there is a sign on the front door of The Echo explicitly prohibiting stage-diving and crowd-surfing, Palma Violets encouraged the rowdy behavior, waving fans up on stage and letting them sing along into the microphone. In fact, it seemed like Palma Violets actually brought a friend on tour with them specifically to stage dive and crowd surf.
There is no doubt the highlight of the evening was when Palma Violets kicked into the song that got them all that attention from NME in the first place, “Best of Friends.” Though it took the audience a few moments to recognize the song (due to an extended intro), the second those chugging opening chords were struck, the crowd went bananas, jumping and fist-pumping like maniacs. Even the old folks in the back of the room joined in the mayhem.
Upon learning about the massive praise (and pressure) heaped on this young band, and discovering they are led by two songwriters – each with big personalities – one can’t help but recall British garage bands of decades past (The Libertines, The Clash, Oasis, The Beatles) whose internal divisions and personal problems inhibited that early promise, with varying degrees of damage. Luckily there is nothing about Palma Violets’ live performance that hints towards anything being amiss within the band. Each of the four members played with incredible energy and precision, nailing all of the many tempo changes and swings of emotion heard on 180. While it was clear that Jesson and Fryer are undoubtedly strong individual band leaders, they had excellent on-stage chemistry and did a great job of playing off each other’s strengths.
This Los Angeles date wraps up the West Coast leg of Palma Violets’ United States tour, and the band will take a break leading up to the album’s release date of May 4. The boys are back on the road after the album drops, with a series of shows in the United Kingdom before heading back across the Atlantic to tour the East Coast and Midwest, as well as a pair of shows in Canada.
Check the Palma Violets ’ website for more information on tour dates.
Photos of Palma Violets by Matt Matasci