Nottingham is a city famed for its venues. There is the legendary Rock City where many of your favourite festival headliners will have cut their teeth, the Rescue Rooms and Bodega both providing a platform for up and coming artists and of course, The Motorpoint Arena where legends both old and new display their performing prowess. One venue providing a platform for the more independently minded performer is The Chameleon Arts Café; a beautiful little hide away from the city centre’s hustle and bustle that is welcoming, post modern and serves a decent pint. The bar staff are friendly and the drinks are inexpensive so it’s already shaping up to be a good night before the first note is struck. Tonight’s co-headlining bill of Cassels and The St Pierre Snake Invasion – two bands who have released absolute world beating albums in 2019 – is possibly the hottest ticket in a town filled with artistry and venues to accommodate, and this place fulfills its promise to be the best of the bunch this Friday evening.
Opening the evening were Beat Combo. Their intriguing mix of hardcore, skate punk, grunge and Weezery slacker vibe is as captivating as it sounds. Their angular and discordant take on the above genres may not be wholly unique, but good god is it enjoyable. It’s rare you find an opening band so well accomplished in a venue so small, especially a local band – one of the venue’s bar staff is a guitarist in the outfit – but Beat Combo pull off their set flawlessly. Tight despite the lackadaisical vibe, the band are clearly well rehearsed and race through cuts from their up coming LP. After a performance this full of energy and passion, that record cannot come soon enough. [7.5]
Max and Igor. Vinnie and Dime. Joe and Mario. Brothers have a heartening place in the world of heavy music, and it’s getting time to add another duo to that list of luminaries; Cassels. Playing what could insufficiently be described as post—hardcore, their music has a mix of everything from Fugazi to Arcade Fire, with some heavy Sabbathesque riffing to boot. Their set is tightly coiled around a centre of poignantly barbed lyrics that take a bleak look at global crises, each word more pointed than the last. During All The St John’s Wort In The World they show a reflexive side of their multifaceted music, ebbing and flowing between light and dark tones with ease. Their awkward charisma and genuine camaraderie makes for an illuminating look into the minds of a band so tightly knit, and their ability to control a crowd is astounding. To look at them you may think the band are a little young to be this accomplished, but that would be a condescending and patronising. What is impressive is how well rounded their sound is in spite of their age. This band are going to big places, and with their music this fully formed in the nascence of their existence, it is a frightening proposition how great they could become. [8.5]
“Apologies if I sound like a dying cat tonight. My throat is fucked” muses The St Pierre Snake Invasion frontman, Damien Sayell. It’s a fair warning as Sayell’s voice is definitely under strain this evening, meaning the dynamism of his clean/harsh dichotomy suffers somewhat. Luckily the man is an expert screamer so pulls the set off without many hitches or voice cracks. The set is explosively energetic, with a moment for somber reflection in I Am The Lonely Tourist, but generally never letting the vibe let up. There is a boundless amount of verve to the entire band with bassist, Sanjay, flinging his bass around like a young Dillinger Escape Plan member. What they lack in vocal dynamism this evening they more than make up for with unbeatable songs. Caprice Enchanté is a stunning record – you can read our 10/10 review here – that makes for a consistent set filled with world class tunes. Everything comes to a head with the subtlety of The Idiots Guide To Music as a finale, and as the set ends, cries for an encore ripple across the room. Once again, St Pierre prove themselves to be a leader in their field, but tonight they don’t quite set themselves head and shoulders above the rest of the bill. Still, two incredible bands playing in a venue as intimate as The Chameleon Arts Café is hard to argue with. [8.5]