Review by Glenn Raybone with photography by Chris Bowley

It’s unseasonably mild for mid-February, and I turn up to the Institute expecting to wander straight in, wearing short-sleeves. However, I’m faced with a queue snaking past two side roads and round a bend. Short sleeves were not a good idea. There’s a cool breeze in the air. Tonight I’m here for a batch of band that I’m looking forward to – headlined by Deaf Havana.

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Getting into the Institute is notoriously a nightmare, with security staff stopping adults from crossing a road (how do we cope on our own?) and then body searches which consist of every male getting patted down, and females getting stopped if and as a female security member is present, which is not all the time. As one lady behind me in the queue commented, are females less likely to carry dangerous or banned items in? Oh how we laughed.

I eventually get in the actual venue after some 25 minutes, and just in time to grab an over-priced beer, from a charmless member of staff, and to see Dead! I must confess I’ve not heard of them before, but this five piece outfit are very good. From the initial walk-on which see them switching on table lamps on their amps, they open with a crack of energy and are very entertaining. Songs such as “Skin” and “Enough” show these fellas are crafted and not simply having a mess around. They end with “Alaska” which relates to the film Into the Wild, which we are told we should see if not already. We are thanked for turning up early to see them, but really the thanks belong to them. They are excellent.

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After a rapid set-change, next we have Dinosaur Pile-up, who truth be told, is my main motivation for coming tonight. I first saw them supporting Weezer last year, and they were refreshing to say the least (think early Nirvana). Tonight’s set was typical of their repertoire, finishing with the storming “11:11”, however, the sound just didn’t seem right to me. I’m not sure if the PA was set for the main band, Deaf Havana, or the fact it was a very rushed set-up, but it seems almost chaotic. That being said Dinosaur Pile-up still rocked, and for those too young to have seen the early nineties grunge bands (pretty much most of tonight’s crowd by the looks) then they should see Dinosaur Pile-up again.

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Finally the main band, Deaf Havana. Supporting their “All These Countless Nights” album released last month they are currently touring the UK, and having sold-out Manchester, tonight is also close to full. Having suffered highs of supporting Bruce Springsteen to lows of nearly splitting up the new album shows just how dedicated these guys are, and it contains what could be argued are some of their best songs.

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The crowd is on the whole under 25, and looking at the large number drinking soft drinks there’s a significant number under 18.The house music prior to the band coming on is interesting to say the least, and it does alarm me to hear Bruno Mars, alarmed even more to see heads nodding to this fabricated pop pap. There appears to be some issues with the bass guitar amp, and a roadie, or are they technicians, runs from side to side with various cables, before throwing one backstage in a hissy fit. The amp is now working and a good forty minutes since the last band ended Deaf Havana take to the stage, opening with “Ashes, Ashes” from the new album. They are very tuned, and the live sound is polished, a cynic would say overly so, and I do wonder how much is live or if there some backing work going on? Maybe that’s a disservice and they just are very polished, but it soon becomes apparent vocalist James Veck-Gilodi is struggling and he tells us he’s caught a cold, “typical just as we are about to tour”, but his voice holds out and he does a fine job (that is apart from the small matter of forgetting some of the lyrics during “Fever”).

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The set consists of highlights from their whole 11 year career, with the obvious focus on the current album, but it’s the older songs which get the best reception, such as “22” which was a standout song. To be fair the new album was only released a month ago.

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The stage is impressive given the small area but the over –reliance on strobes was at times nauseating, and migraine-inducing, and on reflection added little to the show. However, the crowd loved it, and there was even a small mosh pit, although one of the chief perpetrators, a tall bald chap, pushed into a lady who wasn’t so keen on being shoved and she promptly shoved him up the arse.

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Deaf Havana are very good at what they do, but for me it’s not something that excites, and after a while each song sounded them same. I’m sure people reading this will have their own opinions which will differ to mine, but that’s what a review is, right? Just one person’s opinion.

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So to summarise, tonight brought a great new band to my ears in the form of Dead! which highlights the reason to get to a gig early for the supports, as you never know when you’ll discover a great band. Dinosaur Pile-up were great, but the sound didn’t do them any favours, however for me that just added to their rough, in your face noise. Deaf Havana were polished and dare I say precise, but just didn’t appeal to me, too poppy and not heavy enough, but there are clearly lots who love them, and the great news is new live music is growing. Long may it continue.

More photos from the gig are available here!


Setlist
Ashes, Ashes
Trigger
I’m a bore, mostly
Leeches
L.O.V.E
22
Fever
Happiness
The past six years
Tuesday People
St Paul’s
Cassiopeia
Mildred
Anemophobia
Hunstanton Pier

Encore
Boston Square
Sing
Pensacola, 2013

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