Review: Sumo Kings + Support (Box, 14-Aug-2009)

I’ve just got back from an impromptu holiday — sun, sea, sand, and tacky amusements over in Scarborough — so thanks to occasional contributer and all-round superstar Mhari Gordon for this review of the Sumos headliner at the Box.

Well done to The Box, who dished-up another budget-friendly night of live music, three bands for a fiver. First-up was Saskia May. They’re a four-piece playing meaty, metally, rocking indie, which varies from thrashy, to the lighter, American end of the indie spectrum, so something to please everyone.

The singer’s petite frame belied a deep, rich, gutsy voice. Her vocals harmonised well with the rest of the band’s sound. Sadly on the night, something wasn’t quite right with the vocals, possibly due to a rushed soundcheck. The guitar, bass and drums all did their job.

Saskia May have a decent sound and they delivered promising material, but I look forward to them gaining more stage confidence and a greater complexity in their playing. I wanted them to show a bit of passion, a bit of movement, a bit of energy – I’m sure they’ve got those elements; they just need to release them on stage.

The Electric Kools came next. They opened with strong, strung-out chords – their musical recipe probably includes three grams of 1960s and a tab of pyschedelia – which immediately demanded attention.

The drums, bass and guitar come together well, creating a cohesive sound. Extracting sitar-like noises from the guitars, while remaining fast and rocky they create a drawn-out and spacey soundscape, akin to late-era Beatles or Kula Shaker. Occasional use of effects on the vocals contributes to the heard-from-a-distance, trippy sound.

Late-on in the set, another influence appears, with the vocals referencing South Asian music. I can’t quite pin it down, but I’m thinking classical Indian chanting by way of 1960s Bollywood soundtrack. The singer has a Roger Daltrey circa 1968 haircut, always good to see a bit of classic retro.

The Electric Kools’ set might benefit from more changes in pace, but I definitely enjoyed them, there was energy, creativity and good interaction with the crowd. They’ve inspired me to re-read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Playing their first Box headliner were the Sumo Kings. No surprise to anyone when the Sumos kicked-off in straight-at-ya style, the dancefloor filled quickly. The Sumos have been working on a demo EP with producer Mike Bell (Babyshambles, etc) and their sound is definitely evolving; tonight they were sharper, with a paring-back in the guitars.
There’s no shortage of energy at a Sumo Kings gig, epitomised by the crescendos of Steve (guitar and backing vocals) and Faz (vocals and guitar) singing on Disco Lights, and by the ferocious, driving drums and bass. At the break of Space Monkey, the Faz directs the mic at the crowd and we duly oblige by yelling, “Space Monkey has gone missing!” right back at him.

After a proper showman build-up, Faz finally jumps off the stage and dances about with his guitar among the crowd. The stage is too high to climb back onto though, so he’s a bit late returning onstage, but no problem as Steve, Ad (bass) and Jamie (drums) keep it all together. And the audience is able to sing, “You should know, I’m not a sex machina” until he gets back to the mic.

Sometime later, the Sumos pick-up their instruments again, for a very unofficial after-show party, playing a couple of their own numbers and then a few, shall we say experimental, Oasis covers. All in all, the Sumos’ natural mix of mayhem and lightly-worn professionalism.


1 Response to “Review: Sumo Kings + Support (Box, 14-Aug-2009)”

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