Junior – Level III, Swindon, 30/06/17

Junior

Salisbury trio Middlenamekill were the heaviest band on the bill, solidly cemented in rock ‘n’ roll. They were also the most confusing, their bizarre tracks veering from discordant to genius within seconds. This was primarily noticeable during the climax of ‘Ambulance’ and the middle of ‘Where’s An Octagon When You Need One?’, which both segued abruptly into vastly differing musical styles.

Instead of being a bad thing, though, it made for a fascinating set. It was impossible to guess what they were going to do next. From ‘The Kintner Boy’, introduced simply as “a song about sharks”, to ‘Eject. Eject. Eject.’, featuring raucous yelling of those exact words, Middlenamekill held my attention. At moments, I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying their set, but based on the fact that I can’t stop humming their songs to myself, I’m taking that enjoyment as a given.

Sharing that they had free “activity papers [with] some fun wordsearches, join the dots”, I genuinely believed they were joking, but I’m now the proud owner of a Middlenamekill activity sheet, complete with shark-centric wordsearch. If you’re looking for a band who aren’t afraid to experiment musically and will keep you on the edge of your seat, Middlenamekill have it in buckets.

Setlist:

Ambulance
Where’s An Octagon When You Need One?
Books
The Kintner Boy
Eject. Eject. Eject.
Astronauts and Liars
Kittens with Captions

All Ears Avow used their set to focus on new EP ‘Edge of This’, which they released back in April. Forgoing their old material completely, they only played tracks released in the past twelve months (the two not found on ‘Edge of This’ are from last year’s ‘Reach (Side A)’ EP).

Last time I saw the band, I noted that they’d shifted closer to the rock end of the pop-rock spectrum, and that transformation has continued with their new music. Frontwoman Claire Sutton sounds stronger than ever before, singing in a way that no longer seems to be straining her vocal cords. She seems relaxed and comfortable on stage – possibly because the band perform in their hometown regularly – and it’s unsurprising that they’re getting more attention than ever before. Claire shared that ‘Just For Me’ was recently played by Kerrang!, and the band are performing at 2000 Trees festival this Thursday.

Another noticeable change comes in the form of drummer Sean Ivens, who’s developed a more prominent role as co-vocalist. Claire and Sean’s voices complement each other beautifully, particularly on the most effective track in their set, ‘Gone’.

The band struggled with sound issues throughout their stage time, but they persevered and triumphed. ‘Hurricane’ has a beautifully epic crescendo, then there’s closer ‘Edge of This’, which proves itself worthy of being title track. The Rolleston (the venue above Level III) were hosting a free show that was audible at points throughout their set, but despite the trials that they had to overcome, All Ears Avow reignited my interest. They’re playing The Victoria in Swindon at the beginning of August: if you’ll be in the area, grab a ticket.

Setlist:

Caged
Gone
Just For Me
Hurricane
Reach
Getaway Car
Edge of This

I saw Junior perform at Download festival, and I knew their set was going to be even more fun in a venue of this size. I was right; they’re suited to smaller venues. Within the first few lines of ‘A House That’s Not Quite Home’, both vocalists sounded clearer, Matt Attard looking far more comfortable on stage.

There’s a big difference between festivals and headline shows. Junior didn’t add many songs – chucking in ‘Maria’, a cover of R. Kelly’s ‘Ignition’ and a sad one called ‘Anywhere But Here’ – but they changed the vibe of their set completely. ‘Maria’ is standard pop-punk, but the ‘Ignition’ cover was endlessly fun. Meanwhile, ‘Anywhere But Here’ proved that it’s impossible to write this trio off: they write fun and upbeat tracks about Halloween, but they also hit the emotional nail on the head.

Of course, this was a Junior show, so they paused for a moment during ‘That Pretty Dress’ to host their limbo competition. I asked drummer Si Martin the story behind the limbo and if you get the chance I highly suggest you ask about it: it’s a brilliant story, particularly when Si shared that they needed special permission to do limbo at Download! Vocalist Mark Andrews jumped down in the crowd, hand-selecting people out of the audience to give limboing a try – he even picked me, and I couldn’t resist taking part (even though I did fall on my ass!).

One thing’s certain: Junior deserve more attention. I discovered them after they collaborated with Sean Smith, ex-vocalist of The Blackout, but they shine even without his presence. The band said they’d be interested in playing Swindon again, so keep your eyes open. Junior are unmissable.

Setlist:

A House That’s Not Quite Home
If I Had The Time, I’d Tell You I’m Not Sorry
Veronica
Maria
That Pretty Dress
I’m Your Boyfriend Now, Nancy
Ignition cover
Anywhere But Here
Fall To Pieces