Wonder Villains with support from Be Like Pablo & Hot Cops
Saturday 21st June 2014 – Bar Sub, Belfast
Saturday night saw the Wonder Villains launch their début album, Rocky. It’s been a long time coming, so the band weren’t going to let the chance to celebrate pass them by. For their album launch they brought along the young trio Hot Cops, and Be Like Pablo, all the way from Scotland.
First to the stage were Hot Cops, a band few would have known much about but who certainly gained a few fans here. They were recently selected for Oh Yeah Music Centre’s development programme Scratch My Progress; and on this performance it’s easy to see why.
It’s an exciting performance from the band who mix grunge, indie and punk influences. First track, ‘Kenzie’s Farmhouse’ has all the energy of The Hives with deep baritone vocals akin to Casablancas of The Strokes. It’s a stellar introduction. The whole set is filled with nods to 90s rock, ‘Origami’ is heavy hitting and grungy with some frenetic guitar. ‘Fallout’ also brings to mind Nirvana with noise driven guitar playing that brings together Cobain and Morello. Hot Cops are pretty new on the scene but they showed confidence in their music. They have a lot going for them so with Scratch My Progress pushing their development and the band adding a few stronger songs to their repertoire they could have an exciting year.
Next up we have an altogether different prospect but one that chimes perfectly with tonight’s headliners. Second act Be Like Pablo are a five piece from Northern Scotland playing guitar-based power-pop. The band kicks off immediately with one half of their double A side single, ‘Julianne’. A poppy mix of synthy sounding keyboards and pop punk guitars.
Much like the Wonder Villains they bring plenty of fun and (mis)adventure to their performance, one track has them playing up their rap credentials, adding some rapping on top of their powerpop sound. It’s a sound the band have clearly spent time perfecting; pop punk guitar driving the songs on, with keyboards and well pitched backing vocals. There’s a distinctive Scottish twang from frontman Ewen and Karen that only makes them more endearing, to this reviewer at least, particularly when the two play off each other as in ‘Close to the Sun’. The band save their best for last with ‘Someone to Love’. It’s got a great uplifting chorus that’s hard not to get caught up in and a truly splendid 50s doo-wop and Beach Boys inspired bridge that turns the song into something special. It’s a wonderful way to end their set.
Last on stage is the band everyone is here to see, the Wonder Villains, here to launch their long-awaited first album. The band launch into ’33’ and the party begins. The atmosphere here really feels like a celebration, almost like a birthday with the band in a high-spirited and joyous mood. And it’s infectious. The birthday feel is supported by the band playing the first track they ever wrote at the age of 15, which has never been played live before. It’s a real treat that goes over well.
The set is filled with tracks from the new album, many of which will already be familiar to fans of the band. There’s great songs aplenty including ‘Golden 5’ with its key changes and sugary pop hook.
It’s difficult for a set filled with such short and sweet pop songs to keep its intensity up and indeed things do wane a little towards the second half. But there’s so much to like that one can’t have too many complaints. What really sets the show apart is indeed the energy and enthusiasm the band have. Almost every song is introduced by some little anecdote such as ‘Calgary 88’ and its dedication to fans of Cool Runnings. Its an example of the band’s ‘do what they like’ attitude that they cover such unusual topics as 1988’s Winter Olympics or How I Met Your Mother’s ‘Marshall’ – another fantastic moment tonight. ‘Blonde’, dedicated to anyone with bleached blonde hair, is reminiscent of Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine’ in a very good way. Latest single ‘Zola’ is the out and out highlight of the set, it is such an infectious pop gem and the crowd responds enthusiastically to it, dancing and singing along. The band ends on ‘Ferrari’ and the encore, ‘Space Jam’ but perhaps ‘Zola’ was the peak.
The Wonder Villains should be very happy with how their album launch went, Hot Cops and Be Like Pablo both brought something to the show and their own set went down a treat with their fans. As ‘Space Jam’ ended and the band left the stage, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ began playing and much of the crowd stayed to dance along with it. This was a party, make no mistake about it.