The unstoppable momentum of The Slow Readers Club's UK tour rolled into Bristol on Friday night for another sold out show at The Thekla. In a hot and sweaty basement of a boat they thrilled a packed out crowd with tracks from their first two albums and four new songs from their forthcoming third. Support came from the thrilling evocative and dark Desperate Journalist.
The Thekla is one of the country's most unique venues, two levels of a boat, the bottom, bigger level even with a balcony built into it to give it more of a feel of a traditional venue in some respects. However, the shape and size makes it a really special place for a gig and one that needs to be cherished and kept at all costs with the threat of development of soulless apartments looming its head in an area that needs its beauty retaining rather than destroying. It's got a great sound set up as well considering the limitations of its construction, one that gets used to the full extent as first Desperate Journalist and then The Slow Readers Club deliver energetic emphatic and powerful sets to a Friday night audience that's ready to immerse themselves in the music.
Desperate Journalist open up proceedings and the four-piece go down a storm with The Slow Readers Club faithful. There's an imposing energy, power and direction in the way Jo delivers her vocals, like every song is a reliving of some moment in her past that she's trying to expel from herself. It's an intensity that might unnerve some who want crystal clean songs about love and teddy bears, but like so much of the very best music this feels like it comes from a darker place. Songs like Why Are You So Boring? and Control from their recent second album are delivered with a frightening ferocity, driven along by Caz on drums at a frantic frenetic pace full of changes in direction and destination that means you can never quite tell where they're going next. They're not devoid of a sense of humour though as they laugh at the audience's feeble attempts to develop a chant for them between songs. It's a brilliant set from a well-chosen support band that will no doubt have won themselves a whole load of new fans over the past couple of weeks.
There's a real sense of anticipation now whenever The Slow Readers Club take the stage. Venues are packed, people are crammed together and those shouts of READERS are getting louder and longer. The band's confidence is sky high too, and rightly so as it feels like everything is falling into place just now. Lunatic has been warmly received and has put them places they've never been before and their UK tour has sold out and shows like last week's London sell-out at The Garage and tonight's feel like they're right on the cusp of something happening that might even exceed what the most optimistic of us thought possible as little as two years ago.
Centre-stage is Aaron Starkie and his voice, despite a chest infection that he's bravely fighting, has probably never sounded better. Full of confidence, delivering words like he's living through those experiences again and soaking in the growing adulation and buzzing off the fact that everyone in here, arms raised in unison, is singing along to every word, even those new ones that are only available on fuzzy you tube videos. They're a band in the proper sense of the word though, the way David on drums drives the songs along, Jim's bass provides much of the groove that drives the Starkie stomp as he stares into the near distance and Kurt adds both backing vocals that help lift the song as well as some of the soaring guitar hooks that underpin these songs.
The new songs, the litmus test for how they're going to fare in 2018, pass the test with flying colours. Lunatic is greeted like an old friend, whilst the two slower songs Through The Shadows and Not The Only One, which sees Aaron playing keyboards, still have that euphoric uplifting feel to them that the more anthemic singles have to them. Open Up Your Heart is the one though, the one that hits you immediately and doesn't let go until you've submitted, which if you haven't done by the time they get to the "believe enough to lose control, where there's love there's always hope" line you're just swept along with the rest of the crowd.
There is of course intermingled within this the old favourites from the first and second albums. Although the records might sound different in the tried and tested formats, live it's difficult to distinguish them. Sirens, Feet On Fire and One More Minute don't shrink in comparison to the likes of Plant The Seed and Start Again. They're met with a response that still takes the band aback, but it's something they really need to start to get used to, especially as by the time the week's out they'll have done this to over two thousand chanting Mancunians (and travellers) at the Albert Hall.
As they finish the evening with Forever In Your Debt and I Saw A Ghost, the reaction they get is astonishing for a band that eighteen months ago would have probably gathered about ten people to a gig to Bristol. Now they're here playing a seventy minute set with hundreds hanging on every word. With every passing gig just what they might achieve seems to get even more exciting as the curious become part of their expanding hardcore fan base.
Desperate Journalist's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Slow Readers Club played Fool For Your Philosophy, Sirens, Start Again, Grace Of God, Not The Only One, One More Minute, Feet On Fire, Through The Shadows, Plant The Seed, Lunatic, Block Out The Sun, Open Up My Heart, Know The Day Will Come, Cavalcade, Forever In Your Debt and I Saw A Ghost.
The Slow Readers Club can be found at their website. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.
They play Nottingham Rescue Rooms (23), Manchester Albert Hall (24), Sheffield O2 Academy (30, supporting The Charlatans) and Glasgow King Tut's Wah Wah Hut (December 9). All dates except Sheffield are sold out.