WORDS BY JANET HARDING AND IMAGES BY WARREN MILLAR
Back in the city of sounds… It’s my second night on the run in Liverpool, and even in awful weather I’m more than happy to be here at the wonderful 02 Academy Liverpool again, this time Academy 2, the larger venue, 1500 capacity, for tonight’s headline, The Slow Readers Club. I’m way excited for this one, it’s to be my first time seeing them live, and quite frankly I cannot wait! It’s worth battling the driving rain and wind, and it would seem I’m not the only one of this opinion – a fair crowd is already gathered, and we can feel the musical energies manifesting!
Support – Klangstof
Koen van de Wardt – lead vocal/guitars
Wannes Salome – synths/keys
Erik Buschmann –drums
Support tonight is in the form of Klangstof, and my goodness what a sound they produce! This Dutch prog rock/alt rock band fill this venue with their music. It’s completely fascinating: immense layering, starting off low key, albeit with a driving drum beat, it’s subdued and shadowy, building, building more and more layers of sound then reaching an all out crescendo of musical showmanship. I love this band already. Think early Radiohead, often times I get a Muse influence, then it becomes reminiscent of the acoustic movement of the early noughties, a Coldplay type sound, then it changes and borders on psychedelia, but with that ever driving bass line providing grunge feels. The vocal provided by Koen is quite special, ranging from angsty and low with a broken quality, to high notes and wailing sequences. It all binds together into something exceptional.
The guys are completely engrossed in what they do, totally absorbed in creating their craft and it’s incredible to watch. Genuinely giving it their all, all 3 become lost in their music making. The harmonies are haunting and the entire set has an air of mystery about it – it’s eerie and enticing at the same time. Although each song is different from the last there is a definite sound/style that brings the set together. It’s very moving, it’s shimmery, spiritual, but dark and sad, and happy and uplifting all at once. It’s felt like a seismic shift has occurred musically. An outstanding set that finished with all 3 guys playing their hearts out, dancing, bouncing and playing like their lives depend on it. Very likeable and very watchable and the sound…well, I’ve just found another new favourite band!
I urge you to check out Klangstof, they already have a huge following, and I’m not surprised. If you’re into big, atmospheric and powerhouse, angst driven euphoria (if that’s even a thing) then this band are for you. I loved it. Thank you Klangstof.
2/ Silver cloud
4/ Death 09
5/ New Congress/new father
The Slow Readers Club – Headline
Aaron Starkie – vocal
Kurtis Starkie – guitar
James Ryan – bass
David Whitworth – drums
Through chants of “Readers, Readers, Readers” in a haze of dry ice, strobe lighting and lights flashing in sequence our headline act, The Slow Readers Club takes to the stage. Opening with ‘Yet again’ it’s what can only be described as mind blowing. The energy is intense right from the off. The excitement levels were high and have now reached frenzied and are still gaining momentum, It’s on another level. More atmospheric feels, both in sound and in visuals; masses of dry ice swirls around the stage, enveloping our band members in a swirling sea of smoke, the backlighting creating silhouette forms standing like crucifixes on a darkened hillside.
Aaron stands on the very edge of the stage, tall, arms out wide on either side of him, in some Messiah like pose, as the sounds of good solid beats, electro, soaring guitar lines and guttural bass, then the unmistakable vocal – deep, austere and monotone. Like a preacher, converting the masses, the sound and effect is so immense it actually feels almost biblical. It’s honestly something to behold! I’m getting real 80s electro feels, retro but modern, vintage but new. Think Depeche Mode meets Editors. It’s original and of its own genre. Performance is very tight, very well produced and sounds exactly like on recorded tracks; the musicianship is of another world. The feels are moody, sombre, apocalyptic. Post punk, indie electro, alt rock all collide, keeping us on a knife edge before exploding into euphoria. The crowd are bouncing, pogoing, shouting back lyrics to every song. With such a loyal following and many in band t-shirts it’s a brilliant vibe and quite some crowd to be amongst. It’s huge sounds, like some epic score to an 80s Dystopian sci-fi film, and you feel it right into your soul, impossible to not bounce. We’re swept away in it all and it’s brilliant.
As a front man Aaron holds our attention fully and without distraction. He commands this stage. The vocal range goes beyond impressive, from those deep and full lower tones to high end soaring and rousing notes which he holds effortlessly. Literally he has us hanging on his every word, it’s like gazing up at four Shaman, as we ride the magical, musical waves they create before us…mesmeric, musical wizards casting a spell over us.
It all feels so illuminating and uplifting in that creative way only music can. Throughout the set Aaron walks about stage, often coming right to the edge, leaning over and singing at us directly. As an audience, people always love this. At one point he reaches right over across the narrow photo pit, grabbing hands with fan, Claire Dobson, who was standing right next to me, he holds hands across the space for a few moments and sings right to her as she sings back to him. It’s moments like this that are treasured. The feels go up and up, it’s blistering in here, and I can honestly say it’s one of my best gigs ever (and there have been a good few).
After a very comprehensive set list, to thunderous cheering, the band exit stage. After a few minutes of the loudest cheering, chanting and screaming I think I’ve ever heard (Slow Readers, your fans truly love you) the guys are back on stage. The energy explodes, and then some, It was lovely to include a stripped back acoustic section, it highlights the true extent of Aaron’s voice, and was very evocative, and took the feels to a whole other direction. I missed the final song, having to dash out for the last train. Wow what a gig! I’m completely in awe of what I just witnessed – the energy, the wonderful sounds, the atmosphere created. It’s all encompassing, it encapsulates us fully and really leaves us feeling like we just experienced something very special.
If you haven’t seen Slow Readers Club live, go see them. If you have, then you’ll know exactly what that feeling is. Hands down, one of the best bands I’ve seen live, and I will do my utmost to see them again!
I’ll leave it there…Slow Readers Club… up to now, gig of my lifetime.
I’d like to say thank you to the fans I met on the barrier – Claire Dobson and Mat Coffe. Thanks guys for being my gig buddies! and for sharing such a fantastic experience.
1/ Yet Again
2/ Start Again
3/ Something Missing
4/ The Greatest Escape
5/ Forever iin your debt
6/ Plant the Seed
7/ Here in the Hollow
8/ Everything I own
9/ Zero Hour
10/ No Surprise
11/ Tell no Lies
12/ You Opened up my heart
13/ On the TV
15/ Like I wanted to
16/ Block out the sun
17/ Wanted much more
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Warren is a live music and festival photographer based in Cheshire and covers gigs/festivals mostly in the North West of England. He has been photographing live music for over 10 years and has covered major artists and festivals