From a pop punk gig to the territory of melodic hardcore outfit Holding Absence, the gig at Bristol’s Exchange on Sunday evening went through numerous line-up changes as the date got closer. Initially a headline gig for Manchester pop punks Best Years, the boys unfortunately couldn’t make it due to transport issues out of their hands. Holding Absence, who had only recently been added to the gig themselves, stepped up to the mark.
First up were Better Than Never a pop punk band from Oxford. Fairly new on the scene, it was hard to escape an unpolished feeling through their set, but the energy that these lads put in was admirable nonetheless. Bringing an A Day To Remember style infusion of pop punk and hardcore, the meaty growls emitting from lead vocalist James Harris were consistent aside from one vocal slip owing to a fumbled microphone. This heavy vocal style was especially prominent Forty Eight, which they introduced as their heaviest track to date. For a band playing to a largely unfamiliar crowd, Better Than Never provided an energetic opening set. [6/10]
Pushing Daisies are of Bristol stock, and have played the Exchange venue before, so in some senses it’s common ground for this quartet. The band recently re-released their EP Stay Sad through Homebird Records, and they paid full homage to this EP as well as older material in their set. Pushing an intense emo-grunge style, vocalist Roberto Martinez-Cowles’ forceful vocals are laid over the top of impressive instrumentation. It’s clear that Pushing Daisies are becoming increasingly adept at playing their songs live, as there was barely a slip to be heard. The band put a solid effort into getting the crowd moving, and were rewarded with a stage dive and beer being knocked flying by an enthusiastic mosher. The passion this band put into their shows is impressive. [7/10]
Another Bristol band played third up on the bill, Highlives! There were quite a few Highlives t-shirts dotted around the room, and it was great too see people getting out to see local bands. The band have a range of musical style within the loose brackets of pop punk, throwing out some heavier tracks, their ‘cheesiest’ (their own words) song Through Vacant Eyes and a slightly slower one in the form of Twenty Two. This led to a set with a good amount of scope, and the band put a stunning amount of effort into their act, with vocalist Liam Edwards virtually gasping for breath between songs. The highlight of their set was the lead single from their last EP Misguided Youth, the song Better Days provoking the best response from the crowd, a number of whom knew every word. Even if they’d had nothing else going for them, the energy on show here is exemplary, and Highlives have the songs to back it up for a great gig. [7.5/10]
Impromptu headliners Holding Absence hail from Cardiff, but they made Bristol their own. The intensity with which the band perform is virtually unparalleled by bands of any level, smashing around the stage in a reverie of motion. The band have recently changed vocalists, and Lucas Woodland’s clean vocals are as full of melody as his raw screams are of grit. The dichotomy between the two styles works excellently for the quintet, controlling the pace fluidly through their songs.
They opened with their recent single Permanent and were rewarded with some of the fans throwing back every word. A lot of their set-list, however, was unreleased material and served to tease what’s to come from Holding Absence. Despite the unfamiliarity of the songs, the audience had the visceral passion of the band to enjoy, and the way the members move and perform makes it almost as much a visual performance as musical. It’s not hard to imagine Holding Absence playing larger venues with visual elements backing them on-screen. With magnificently written songs, technical instrumentation and the skill to pull it off in supreme style, this is a band that deserve to go far. [9/10]