One of the problems being a music fan living in the far South West is that there are so few live music venues, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Kobra And The Lotus playing an independent pub venue not that far up the road, in the backwater town of Bridgwater, Somerset. It is such a shame more pub owners dont see the benefit of providing decent live music venues, with a powerful sound system and flexible lighting rig, but thank goodness the Cobblestones landlord has that foresight (and provides a damn good range of beer too!)
Proving how a local venue benefits the local music scene were first act (and judging by their relationship with the crowd, house band) Pretty Little Enemy. It’s almost impossible to not like a band with such a great name, but P.L.E. provide the image and music to turn that like to love. Vocalist Louise Body is the consummate rock chick. The bottle of tequila by the mic stand, the latex skirt, metal effect bra, and punk attitude, all catch your eye before the band kick into the first song. Ably backed by some shredding and riffing from the equally visually striking guitarist Georgia Bell, bear-like bassist Jason Coles, and drummer Ben Dean, their brief time on stage is a delight. Body puts the already enthusiastic crowd on “tit watch” as her stage attire does its best to leave her exposed, and there is even a small but enthusiastic mosh pit (a first for me for an opening band in this size venue!) To make a mark in this business you need a U.S.P. and Pretty Little Enemy have several. Check out their cleverly titled EP “Bitch PLEase”, and in particular “Vertebreak”, which shows their potential and vitality at its finest.
Brutai take a more cerebral approach to their music. We were treated to depths of complex keyboards, twin guitars, and thought provoking song craft. The Londoners, nominated for ‘Best New Band’ at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, showed us why they are being talked about in some impressive circles. Vocalist Felix Lawrie switches impressively between a soft, tuneful style and a deep, growling metal roar. Lead guitarist Henry Ryan lays down layer after layer of complex guitar sounds and blends them with the works of keyboard player Alex Lorimer. The animation comes courtesy of dreadlocked bassist Christian Sturgess, and backing it all with some technically impressive drum patterns is Mathieu Bauer. This end of the spectrum isn’t usually my cup of tea to listen to, so it’s a real compliment to say I thoroughly enjoyed their set, and the range of songs they gave us. Set opener “Deep”, the soundstage of “Relapse” and the complex crescendo of “The Border” were my highlights of the set, and their 2016 album “Born” is definitely worth giving some ear time, if the idea of a young pretender to the prog/metal ranks appeals.
Before the show, I was part of a conversation with Kobra And The Lotus bassist Brad Kennedy, where he was talking about how they have played venues from 30 to 30,000 and try to treat them all the same. A laudable aim, but can a band really do that? Well, in the case of Kobra and the Lotus, they sure can! The Cobblestones is tiny, basically a skittle alley with speakers and lights, but the band hit the stage with the attitude of a festival headliner, and earned huge respect from me in the process. “Hello, Bridgewater”may never carry the weight of “Good Evening, Budokan”, or “Scream for me, Knebworth” but for one night it really did! This is a band loving what they do, and making sure they send the crowd, however big, home having seen a show.
Kobra Paige brings a more mature attitude to the business than her predecessor in P.L.E., with a kettle of hot water as refreshment and vocal support, rather than a bottle of tequila, and a stage costume that’s going nowhere she doesn’t want it to. She is just as energetic though, leaping, posing, preening, and leading the band with huge energy and commitment. The band behind her make the most of every inch of the tiny stage, and are as tight as any four musicians have a right to be. Opening with three songs from new album “Prevail I”; the massive, anthemic “Gotham”, pure head banger “TriggerPulse”, and “Specimen X”. Kobra’s voice is sublime, and Marcus Lee drives the sound from the back, with huge presence, my other half’s commenting that he looked like Khal Drogo! We leave the new album for some older material that shows just how underrated Kobra and her team are. Delights such as the almost Nightwishy “Soldier”, a snippet of Led Zep’s “Immigrant Song”, “You Don’t Know”, and “Prevail”, with its twin guitar attack, pepper the set, and the energy levels don’t drop for a second.
As leaving the stage involves walking through the crowd and out of the venue via the smoking area, Kobra announces that rather than play the game of waiting to be called back for an encore they will just keep going, so the band don’t even get a break before hitting the encores. Final song “50 Shades of Evil”, with its frantic guitar from Jasio Kulakowski and insane drumming from Lee, raises the energy level even higher, and is probably the best showcase of Kobra’s soaring vocals in the entire set.
I hope I get to see Kobra And The Lotus on a bigger stage sometime soon to see how their infectious energy and musical ability translate, but for a little pub in a sleepy backwater, known more for the Morrison’s delivery hub than heavy metal and flying hair, this was a cracking night out.
Review and Images: Rob Wilkins