The Soundshark’s Top 10 Favourite Live Performances of 2016

So this is a first for the site, as somebody sworn to never do live concert reviews, a run-down of ten stand out live acts that I’ve seen over the course of 2016. And I’ve seen a lot of them. It’s pretty self-explanatory really, only I’m not exactly reviewing them, just highlighting why they made this list. This isn’t limited to headline acts by the way. The only exception that I have made is to try and limit festival appearances, as there were numerous bands seen in the space of a day at some festivals that could’ve made up lists of their own. And I have had to discount one entry that should be on this list, that of being The Offspring and Bad Religion at Hammersmith Apollo. The reason being counting individual performances, both were absolutely superb on the night, more than satisfying the inner 13 year-old in me and being hard torn to pick a favourite, just makes it easier to disallow it altogether. Sorry, no joint entries for this one. Without any further ado, here’s who played stellar live shows in 2016:

10. Raveyards @ Camden Underworld (supporting Perturbator w/ Dan Terminus) – 08/06/16

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Credit: Eva Vlonk Photography

Bands like Raveyards perfectly demonstrate why you should always try and check out the support bands for a live show. Knowing nothing of them, walking into Underworld with half of the stage consumed by mesh netting, projection screens and one of the most elaborate live musical setups I’ve ever seen was an eyebrow-raiser. Every component of an electronic music performance was in their control and performed in real time, with their expansive shadowy atmospherics and gigantic beats, matched with a kaleidoscope of visuals made for a spell-binding spectacle. Spectators seemed happy to have the space back afterwards, but Raveyards’ attention to detail alone has to garner recognition.

http://www.facebook.com/raveyards
http://www.twitter.com/raveyards
http://www.soundcloud.com/raveyards

9. Allusondrugs @ The Black Heart, Camden (w/ Fizzy Blood, This Years Ghost and Snakes) – 03/08/16

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Always a band on the cusp of greatness, the Yorkshire grunge revivalists played a packed Black Heart and showed everybody why they are one of the most talked about live acts going in the UK right now. Switching between slower psychedelic pinches and frenzied fuzz slammers, all delivered with their inescapable talent for writing infectious hooks, I went into this show, having had some personal bad news that day and left with joy and an affirmation of life once more afterwards. They near had to be dragged off stage after a storming 45 minute performance, but such is their allure and brilliance of their music.

http://www.facebook.com/allusondrugs
http://www.twitter.com/allusondrugs
http://www.allusondrugs.com/

8. Youth Code @ Electrowerkz, Islington (w/ Shallow Sanction and Evestus) – 14/10/16

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Credit: Nick Fancher Photography

If there ever was a band that embodied controlled chaos, then Youth Code is that band. Marking their debut in the capital city with their revisionist approach to industrial and EBM, there is no wasted movement from beginning to end of their set, both Sara and Ryan screaming and launching themselves across the stage in a frenetic display. Despite a breadth of luscious synth arpeggios and skull-rattling drum machines, it’s their sprinkle of hardcore, that makes every word screamed at you personal and elevates Youth Code’s all-out sensory assault to an absorbing war dance you never want to end. Can you say: the next Ministry?

http://www.facebook.com/youthcodeforever
http://www.twitter.com/youth_code
youthcode.bandcamp.com

7. Jean-Michel Jarre @ The O2 Arena, London – 07/10/16

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It kinda goes without saying, that when you go to see a concert from somebody widely regarded as the Godfather of Electronic Music, as a pioneer whose forays into music and technology span 40 years and a former world record holder for the largest outdoor concert ever, you’re in for a spectacle. And having missed the chance six years previously to see him, he did not disappoint. Ever the showman, touring through his greatest hits and his frankly superb Electronica project, his inspiring ability to flawlessly recreate every nuance of his work, live, to a visual extravaganza that evolves much like his compositions can only cement his legacy as one of the most influential figures in modern music.

http://www.facebook.com/jeanmicheljarre
http://www.twitter.com/jeanmicheljarre
http://www.jeanmicheljarre.com

6. Petrol Bastard @ Resistanz Festival (Corporation, Sheffield) – 25/03/16

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I do wonder how many people have said at a Petrol Bastard show, that the duo played their dream set list. I certainly can. Opening up Resistanz Festival in Sheffield’s Corporation was a 45 minute performance piece about masturbation, drinking and violence set to an unrelenting techno, gabba and drum and bass soundtrack… and it was some of the most fun I’d had all year. Forcing crowd participation with a tide of inflatable penises and unforgettable slogans, and with a little help from Johnny Ultraviolence, this crude, colourful riot was impossible to ignore and left many smiling from ear to ear. Plus how many gigs let your girlfriend try to sexually assault one of the band members with an inflatable penis?

http://www.facebook.com/petrolbastard
petrolbastard.bandcamp.com

5. Monster Zoku Onsomb @ Boomtown Fair, Winchester – 12/08/16

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Out of the inconceivable number of bands and pass times at Boomtown Fair, these guys could’ve been easy to miss on one of the smallest stages around. But once in range, you couldn’t escape from them and those onlookers in attendance never wanted this madness to end. A troupe of Australian musicians specialising in belting rave tunes, spanning a whirlwind of tempos, spliced together with B-movie references galore and occasional 60’s surf guitar, happily run amok in their 45 minutes on stage. Choreographed dance routines, inviting an adult baby on stage and what may have been a declaration about being in Eurovision 2017 only added to their unique brand of electronic dance carnage.

http://www.facebook.com/mzofanpage
monsterzokuonsomb.bandcamp.com
http://www.monsterzoku.com

4. Toska @ The Boileroom, Guildford (EP Launch Show w/ Eschar, The Deadlights and Steal Rockets) – 27/02/16

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Possibly the only headline band I have ever seen without knowing a single thing about, was also one of the most astounding. Made up of three quarters of melodic hard rock starlets Dorje, Toska sacrifice none of that intensity and churn out wave after wave of instrumental metal bliss, hurled at such force you’d think there was an earthquake. The energy they emitted could’ve powered large city blocks and their respective talents are hypnotizing to observe; simply everything about their performance was immense in stature, given their debut recorded release. They made crafting invigorating, progressive music seem so effortless and it was an absolute pleasure to watch them at work.

http://www.facebook.com/officialtoska
officialtoska.bandcamp.com

3. Lionize @ Desertfest London (Camden Underworld) – 29/04/16

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In what is somewhat a recurring theme on this list, I went to watch Lionize, only knowing that they were Clutch’s in-house band and left absolutely speechless. Imagine if James Brown had fronted a balls-to-the-wall rock band and invited Bob Marley along as a touring member and that merely scratches the surface of what these gentlemen can do on stage. Ferociously charismatic and passionate beyond all belief, Lionize toured a myriad of genres and had tremendous fun doing it, all with every attendee transfixed at this true powerhouse of a performance. I’m surprised the Underworld didn’t burst having to contend with holding these guys back, one of the most impressive modern rock bands alive today.

http://www.facebook.com/LIONIZEMUSIC
http://www.twitter.com/LionizeMusic
http://www.soundcloud.com/lionizemusic
http://www.lionizemusic.com

2. Kowloon Walled City @ Camden Underworld (co-headliners w/ Minsk, also w/ Bossk and Wren) – 03/09/16

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Credit: Maria Louceiro

Credit where credit is due, Bossk were also spectacular on this night, but for a band that had never stepped foot in the UK before and had come to the end of a near two-month tour of Europe, emotions were always going to be high for these guys. Kowloon Walled City’s use of conveying so much intensity and feeling into their tone, while being pulverising in the same capacity, makes every note gripping to behold and very, very few bands can even touch them in making sludge sound so breathtaking. Spanning seven songs across 45 minutes, this set made a titanic statement as why Kowloon Walled City could be considered one of the best bands on the planet.

http://www.facebook.com/kowloonwalledcity
http://www.twitter.com/kowloonwalled
kowloonwalledcity.bandcamp.com
http://www.inthewalledcity.com

1. Placebo @ Wembley Arena, London (w/ Minor Victories) – 15/12/16

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What more can be said about Placebo? Never has a band resonated with me emotionally and spiritually as Placebo has and likely I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Hell, I wouldn’t have a degree for starters. But there could be no more fitting show for them to play in their hometown on the 20th year of their inception. The atmosphere was electric and applause rapturous as the band strode through a terrific career-spanning set, that touched many through melancholy but lifted everyone through liveliness. Lyrically they have few peers and musically, their grunge-embezzled attack sounds as fresh as it did in June of 1996. Arguably, one of the UK’s greatest cultural phenomenons.

http://www.facebook.com/officialplacebo
http://www.twitter.com/placeboworld
http://www.placeboworld.co.uk

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Screech Bats

There was something inherently right ironically when Refused released The Shape Of Punk To Come: punk rock over the years seems to have morphed predominantly into the hardcore we are all familiar with and ten a penny’s worth emblazoned on the cover of Kerrang. Don’t get me wrong, I love Refused and there are some excellent hardcore bands out there if you’re willing to do a little digging. My point is, hardcore tends be the norm if you’re looking for something that even remotely resembles punk nowadays. I can hear people crying pop-punk in the distance, but let’s just be serious a moment. Hardcore it seems presents itself as an outlet for a melting pot of rage and testosterone, and it can all come across as a bit violent at times. Creating a riot for catharsis’ sake I guess I can understand the appeal of, but not when I’m getting roundhouse kicked in the face by some topless prick in the mosh pit. I can’t speak for myself because I wasn’t present in the 70’s and had no idea of riot grrrl at least until my teens, but do you remember when punk wasn’t so macho, or dare I say it, a lot more fun? Screech Bats seem to certainly think about that time. I mean, their band logo is a dinosaur with pigtails eating an ice-cream for Christ sakes. You could certainly whisper riot grrrl under your breath as so much as look at them, but out of everything that seems to be rising from the dead right now, the presence of more all-female punk bands is more than OK with me. And these girls kick ass.

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Credit: Derek Bremner Photography

On first listen, their sound comes across as an unmistakably more British interpretation of The Distillers, but gradually you taste the flavours of punk, grunge and good ol’ fashioned rock and roll with the lightest hit of pop sensibilities, all emerging from a punchy concoction. Their work ethic is certainly something to be celebrated too. They haven’t been on the face of the Earth a year yet and already they’re racking the gigs up and have their first EP out in the world. Under cover of darkness, they released a track off the self-titled aforementioned EP a month or so ago, called Pathologigirl and based on the strength of this track alone, Screech Bats are shaping up to be a very special band. From the moment the pistol trigger is pulled, you’re treated to quick, chainsaw-on-fire sounding chords, harmonised by jagged guitar and gritty bass, brought to life by an animated drum performance. From the double bass kicks and brief drum rolls, you get the feel for Bad Religion over Sex Pistols, but the pace and technique remains timeless in any sense. Vocals skate alongside, telling a tale about the bane of any girl, or child for that matter growing up: playground bullying, and judging on the choice of words used, there’s a lot of bad blood and disdain here, and you can certainly feel it drip from every scathing syllable. A lovely little guitar lick, showcasing some of that grunge and rock and roll influence, propels you into the chorus, which has all the traits of a great punk anthem: memorability, gang chants, an opportunity for massive audience participation and rock solid musicianship, all swashed with the confidence, attitude and swagger that punk breeds. It also has a cracking guitar solo too near the song’s close and ends in white hot riff worship, which I think we’ll see a little more from in the future. All in all, this is a rousing and incredibly exciting sub-three minute burst of unity through fury, exactly the foundations punk was built upon before it started taking steroids. Who needs Bad Religion when you have this hard-working quartet of ladies practically sitting on your doorstep? They’ll probably kick the door down too. Inspiring listening.

 

The self-titled EP is available to purchase from their online store for an absolute steal, while I’m led to believe a download purchase is currently in the works too. Meanwhile, they’re touring anywhere and everywhere, so go see them at the date nearest you. I promise you won’t regret it.

While you do all that, go give them your support and send love in their direction here:

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