Better Than Never Head Under Water EP

LIVE: Better Than Never – Nottingham The Maze 11/01/17

First up on the stage of this small pub venue was Coventry’s Proud Ember, a late addition to the line up. The only acoustic act on the bill, Proud Ember states his genre as ’emo acoustic’, which describes him perfectly. He incorporated different vocal styles into his performance – spoken word, heated and just normal singing.

Although Proud Ember seemed a little nervous, he announced that he’d recorded his first EP and played some tunes from that. He sounded like a male Lily Allen with influences of Adele in terms of style and lyrical content.

With a little more practise at live performances, Proud Ember would bring something new to the acoustic scene, however what was letting him down on this occasion most of all was the sound effects. His guitar could have done with some compression to dampen the high notes ringing out on the full chords, and some equalising as there was too much top end coming through.


Next up were Hail The Deceiver, a metalcore group from Derby. They were a great contrast in line up to Proud Ember, and appeared to be in time and well rehearsed. Hail The Deceiver had great stage presence and excellent vocal and guitar harmonies without overpowering the sound. However, their cover of Green Day‘s American Idiot was too fast and fell apart in the verses, which was disappointing as it’s actually quite a simple song.

Hail The Deceiver had a brilliant variety of genres in their set list, from more pop punk numbers to a heavy cover of Duality by Slipknot. They performed better at their own material, and the best song of the set was an original called Nothing Left.


The middle of the lineup saw High Tides, who branded themselves as ‘putting the emo into pop punk’. They were known by the audience, having been gigging around Nottingham for a couple of years. High Tides played with a great enthusiasm and energy, had great timing and communication between the band members and some sweet vocal harmonies. However some of the softer vocals were lost under the instruments, which could have been avoided by the sound technician balancing the levels. They also have an upcoming EP and played some material off that. The audience loved them.


On second to last, and taking quite a while to set up, were Eastbourne’s The Holiday. They managed to make quite a big sound for a threesome, and the bass and drums were locked together nice and tight. They interacted well with the audience but the singer admitted to having a cold and his guitar being out of tune, which can be seen as unprofessional at bigger gigs.

The Holiday used backing tracks to round out the sound of their group, filling in with extra guitar layers where they were needed. However whilst performing Before You, the backing track to the next song came on, ruining the effect of the song. There was also some feedback on the microphones and the bassist’s microphone was muted, so it was impossible to hear him when he sang backing vocals.

Overall The Holiday had better music and were better rehearsed than Hail The Deceiver, but there were too many technical faults on this occasion to make for a better performance.


Finally, at 22:45pm, Better Than Never came on to the stage. The six piece from Oxford were too big for the stage, but this wasn’t too much of a problem because some of the musicians had wireless instruments. The lead vocalist, James, made use of the longer XLR lead that was plugged into his microphone and interacted with the audience. One of the guitarists with a wireless guitar frequently wandered around the room and the group were clearly enjoying their gig, which had a positive impact on the audience. However Better Than Never fell slightly out of sync in some places, but managed to get back into time quickly.

This was the group’s first time playing in Nottingham, and they exclaimed that it was better than Mansfield and Derby. They also performed a cover of Fall Out Boy‘s Sugar We’re Going Down, which, due to the number of instruments involved, came out heavier than the original but was definitely enjoyable. They were grateful to their support acts, which was great to see, however at the end of the set the group just stopped playing and started packing away with no warning. Was this because of the noise curfew in a residential area? Or was this the planned end to the set? Was it an effort at cultivating mystery? The audience wasn’t really too sure.