Friday, 16 February 2018

Divide - Plymouth Review

Despite the fact I live only around a 10 minute walk from Mutley Plain in Plymouth, which boasts two small but busy live music venues, to my shame I have made very little effort to go to gigs at either The Junction or The Underground on a regular basis. I have been to both a handful of times to catch bands that I was already familiar with, but I have never really made the effort to check through their listings every so often to see if there any bands coming up that seem interesting. This year however, I intend to do this and the first band that caught my interest were Scottish poppy alternative rockers Divide. Currently in the midst of a decent-sized UK tour supporting their debut EP Embers, Divide included a mid-week stop off at The Junction as part of this jaunt. I purchased Embers on iTunes a few weeks ago in preparation for this show, and have been playing it quite regularly since. While not exactly the sort of music I usually listen to, Divide's harder take on pop rock with a slightly emo tinge appeals. I have a bit of a soft spot for anything that is catchy and rocky, and that is exactly what Divide are. Comparisons can be drawn with American superstars Paramore, due to the obvious pop punk influence and both bands having a charismatic female singer, but Divide hit harder with a tougher overall sound. In anticipation of a decent evening, I made the short walk from my flat to The Junction, which has had a bit of a makeover since my last visit and is now sporting a much larger bar. There were three bands on the bill, all of whom played relatively short sets of around 40 minutes each. While it was strange seeing a headliner performing such a short set, this is a band that is just starting out on their journey so do not have the luxury of an expansive back catalogue to draw from. Sadly however, the turnout was very poor with probably no more than 30 people in the venue at any one time, and this included members of the bands performing and venue staff! It is always a shame to go to such a poorly-attended show, but sadly this is what small bands have to face on a regular basis.

On first were the local Plymouth band Lastoneout who I had heard of previously but had never seen. I am not a big fan of post-hardcore music, or pop punk for that matter which featured heavily in the band's sound, but their tight sound and expressive vocals certainly made an impression. Most of their songs were fairly upbeat, with walls of distorted guitar and occasional harsh vocals, but sometimes the music entered a bit of a lull with a more melancholic sound. This allowed frontman Sam Cudmore to showcase his diverse vocal skills, and it was his performance that really made the band tick. On the whole I find this kind of music quite bland, despite usually having plenty of energy, and while Lastoneout's music was fairly one-dimensional, I found Cudmore's vocal style and presence to be very good indeed. This is a band that is clearly very good at what they do, it is just that what they do is mostly not for me. Despite this, they were probably the most enjoyable post-hardcore band that I have seen and I can see why they have made a name for themselves on the local rock scene.

Up next were Junior, who are supporting Divide on most of this current tour. The Welsh pop punk band, who feature WWE superstar Mark Andrews (vocals/bass guitar), played a high energy set which I found a lot more enjoyable than I thought I would. As I stated earlier, pop punk is really not my thing, but Junior's attitude was infectious and I found myself enjoying what they were doing. Much like Divide's sound, Junior's had a little more bite than you would expect from your usual pop punk act with some relatively heavy guitar playing and a hard-hitting drum sound. Despite the small crowd, Junior managed to whip up a bit of an atmosphere in the room and they were probably the best-received band of the evening. Much like with Lastoneout, Junior are a band that are very good at what they do, it is just not really my thing. I still enjoyed their set however, and it shows that seeing bands that are outside of your comfort zone can sometimes be a good thing.

Unsurprisingly however, Divide were the band of the night. It was 10pm by the time they hit the stage, but they ran through a strong set that featured all of their debut EP plus a few other tracks. Despite the small crowd, and the fact that there were a few people sat down at the back which clearly annoyed frontwoman Nicole Mason, the band played well and certainly impressed those who were present. Opening with Before I Go from the EP was a good move, as the upbeat song provided the perfect start to their set. There were a few people in the crowd singing along which was good to see, and even those who seemed disinterested at first seemed to take more interest as things moved along. The highlight of the band's set for me was an excellent performance of Sink This City, which is my favourite song on Embers. Mason's vocal melodies are extremely catchy, and the subtle lead guitar lines from founding guitarist David Lennon really help to bring the song to life - especially during that somewhat atmospheric chorus. The EP's hard-hitting title track was another stand out moment, with the whole band locking in together to create a tight, heavy sound. There were songs performed that I did not know, which could be the band's earlier stand-alone singles, but there was not a song played that I did not enjoy. Despite their short set, I was impressed with Divide and I will definitely be keeping an eye on their progress going forward. If they ever make it back down to Plymouth I will definitely make the effort to see them again and, until then, I will continue to enjoy Embers.

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