Sunday, 24 October 2010

Max Levine Ensemble, Men Diamler and ONSIND @ Slak Cheltenham Saturday 16th October 2010

This was one of the most exciting shows of the year for me so far, partly because it was the Max Levine Ensemble, partly because it was in a tiny little bar and partly because it was just two pounds to get in. With such an incredible line up on a Saturday night in a nice venue it was a show guaranteed to fill up quickly.

As ONSIND, or One Night Stand in North Dakota to give this Durham two-piece their full title, opened they turned mic stands to face each other; I feared the performance would be confrontational and aggressive. However, the face to face style actually made the sound more personal and created an equality to each track and emphasised the role each man has in the band. Musically the harmonies and balance between both voices were beautiful. The passion and emotion of lyrics and vocals created a live show which was compelling to watch. The quality of the set and balance between tracks was absolutely perfect with everything flowing gently into the next part. The intermissions were filled with awkward chatter, which only made the band more likeable.

After a performance full of honesty and emotion the evening progressed onto the wildcard that is Men Diamler, a man whose spontaneous performances mean you never know what to expect. The opening few songs were performed standing with a microphone, lulling the audience into a sense of false security before the show was taken to every inch of the venue. Audience members were serenaded and generally invited to participate in the set by singing, stamping, clapping, or in any way they felt appropriate. It’s hard to focus on the amazing level of the music and lyrics Men Diamler performs with as his live shows are so compelling. His impressive vocal range and clever lyrics balance surrealism and raw emotions in a very relatable style.

Although the previous acoustic acts didn’t lead up to Max Levine Ensemble’s punk pop, the surprise element of a band tearing through a set in such a small venue and at such a fast pace created a great atmosphere. The band fixated me from the first to last song of their set, as despite playing ferociously fast versions of tracks from their five releases, they did not sacrifice any musicianship or skill from the vocals. This was a fine example of what punk bands should aspire to with a positive DIY attitude, and gratitude to the audience for coming to see them play. The band put everything into every moment of the show and enjoyed themselves onstage, which is all a live music lover ever wants to see.

As this Washington based three-piece played I was left wondering how they (and the other two acts) had come to be playing in such a small venue, which made me realise how lucky I was to be seeing such a line up. The exclusivity you feel watching such a great show in a small venue adds to the memorable nature. This show was what DIY promoting is all about, surprising people with amazing line-ups in tiny venues.

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