It takes something a bit special to tempt us out from our rural idyll in Devon to the hustle and bustle of London, but when we heard that the closest Nothing More were coming to the South West was Dingwalls in Camden, we had no hesitation in making the trip to see them. We first came across the Texans at Download 2014, when they appeared half way down the bill on the smallest stage. They were one of those “Nobody else we want to see, let’s see what these guys are like” bands that you encounter at a festival. Unlike most of those, they blew us (and the ever-growing crowd) away with a set full of energy and innovation. After the set, we chatted to them as they signed autographs, still dripping with sweat, and added them to our list of bands to look out for in the future. Three years later, we have seen them twice more, supporting the likes of Shinedown and Halestorm. This brief visit to the UK shows that the promise we saw in them has been more than realised, as they arrive on the back of three Grammy nominations, and having provided the background music to the trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster (the new Planet Of The Apes film). I will admit to just a little bit of a “thing” for vocalist Jonny Hawkins, and the evening started rather well when we encountered him just outside the venue and received a smiley “Hi” which I returned in an embarrassingly fan girl fashion.
Even though we were close to the front of the queue, the tardy door opening meant that the first band, Psycho Village, came on stage to a small crowd, when they could have started with a full auditorium. The Austrian band features vocalist Daniel Kremsner supported by what are described as a “touring band”, and have a surprisingly mature stage set up of two video screens streaming lyrics, statements, and video, as they power through a brief set that shows great potential for such a young project. Songs like “Without You”, “It’s Okay” (sung from the now far larger crowd), “Can’t You See?”, and massive set closer “Half Caste Symphony” all generate warmth in the chilly crowd. They certainly raise the energy levels several notches as Kremsner and his band deliver a set that hints at a bright future.
Sandwiched between Psycho Village and the headliners, we were treated to the bludgeon of Londoners, In Search of Sun. I wasn’t prepared for quite such a blitz of sound and power (In Search of Sun sounding like a laid back Caribbean vibe!) Opening with “Mega Piranha”, they took no prisoners. A blur of action, they ripped the small stage up, and already the front rows of the crowd were dripping sweat as they were carried along. There is an intriguing funk to their sound as well as power. A musical complexity rather than pure power. Vocalist Adam Leader leads them through some crackers. “Say It Like You See It” had the ‘tog up at the side of the stage nodding along, “Elevation” ramped the funk up another notch with some complex rhythm from drummer Sean Gorman, and the climax of “Bad Girl” brought all the elements of the set together, thanks to guitarists Rory Kay and David Mena Ferrer and bassist Faz Couri flowing through a beauty of shade, power and melody. Take a listen to their recent album “Virgin Funk Mother”, and see what you think.
Finally, the road crew brought up onto the stage an almost steampunk apparatus of a pair of floor toms, on to which is bracketed a contraption of Gigeresque complexity. The lights go down and we are catapulted into the headline set by the sight of Jonny Hawkins, stripped to the waist and barefoot, pummelling the living daylights out of that second drum kit as the band power into “Christ Copyright”. It’s an astonishing opening to a set. From 0-60 in a blink. The crowd are going bat-shit crazy, and Jonny is soon stood on the drums or pressing to the very edge of the tiny cramped stage against a sea of adoring arms. “Let ‘em Burn” with Jonny’s scream of “Everybody”, and “Mr MTV” with a huge bass line from Daniel Oliver follow on before the crowd has a chance to draw breath. It’s clear this is something special. An “I was there” moment. A gig that’s honestly going to live in the memory for a long time.
It’s back to the new album for “Don’t Stop”, and Jonny screaming the lyric “Like a shotgun in a fist fight”. The sophistication of the song writing is made gloriously clear in this track, as it moves from screams, to soft vocals, harmonies to clear lead lines, simple rhythms to levels of complexity, courtesy of drummer Ben Anderson. “Don’t Stop” leads into another of the unique elements of a Nothing More show, as Oliver straps his bass into the “Bassinator” and the band play a bass solo. That’s right, the band play a bass solo as Oliver and guitarist Mark Vollelunga both attack the same bass, quickly followed by Hawkins, who beats out a rhythm on the strings with a set of drumsticks. It’s far and away the most visual bass solo I have ever seen, and ends with the bass scything around in a vortex of feedback. “Go To War” has bought Nothing More to a much bigger audience, following it’s exposure via the Planet Of The Apes trailer, and helped them top the mainstream rock chart in the US. It’s a song of light and shade. Jonny’s soft vocal introduction to each verse being ripped to shreds by the huge hook of a chorus.
A total change of atmosphere follows with the acoustic “Just Say When”. If you want to sample the increasing maturity of their song writing, this is a great way to do so. It’s a sad lament, but tuneful all the same. “Do you Really Want It?” rips us back into the world of sweat and energy with another huge chorus, followed once again by a lull as a melange of “I’ll Be OK” and “Here’s To The Heartache” slow the tempo down and once again, showcasing the sheer depth of song writing talent. In terms of lyrical meaning, few songs are as powerful as “Jenny”, which is a modern classic if ever there was one, and it sends the crowd into yet another surge of energy. The energy generated by the crowd must now be powering half of Camden Market!
The songs to finish the set are “Ocean Floor”, “This Is The Time”, and “Skrillrex”, and we are treated to a cut down version of the Scorpion. An extraordinary sight even in its reduced form (it would decapitate the front row in its full form), it is a twisted, metal apparatus, designed and fabricated by Oliver in his garage, that enables Hawkins to play with a wild variety of feedback and howling sonic effects. He then announces that they won’t be doing an encore. They believe the idea of leaving the stage just to come back on is false, and so they will just play their last song with every ounce of energy they have left in their bodies; and so they do! The set closer is another stunning piece of Nothing More theatre, as a drum is set up either side of the stage and all four band members hammer out “Salem”, before we get the insane choreography of Hawkins playing drums in front of and to both sides of him as they are tossed and turned in the air.
As always, following this set of draining intensity, the band are pretty much straight out to meet the fans, and after one last lingering gaze at my crush, we are off out into the night, heading to a sleepless night due to the adrenaline still coursing through our veins. Jonny announced during the evening that they would be back in the summer for a longer tour. If you haven’t encountered Nothing More, do yourself a favour. They are going to be huge. It’s taken a long time to get where they are, but there is no sign of them stopping. Get yourself to see them the next time they are here, and if you see a small blonde looking longingly at Jonny’s chiselled torso, come up and thank me for turning you on to what could turn out to be one of the biggest bands on the planet.
Review: Danielle Kemp
Images: Rob Wilkins