The Rosemaries / The Rosettas / Balcony Plants – The Victoria Vaults, York, 30th September 2022

Posted: 2 October 2022 in Live
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Christopher Nosnibor

The Fall’s ‘Fiery Jack’ is blasting from the PA as I line up behind a cluster of gothy / alternative types: promising signs, always, and Wire and Sleaford Mods feature on the playlist while we’re waiting for Balcony Plants.

York has suddenly begun sprouting a new crop of indie / alternative bands, and tonight’s event showcases three of them.

First impressions? They’re kids. Of course they are. And they’ve brought a lot of mates along. They all congregate and hug in the front rows as the band take the stage. Second impressions? Jesus. Balcony Plants are into introducing the band members and making and calls to make some fucking noise while they’re still tuning up, before launching into some lame-assed rap-rock with elements of early Beastie Boys, with songs about house parties and nightclubs. Then something happens mid-set. After tinkering with some pedestrian Kerrang! flavoured alt-rock that shows they’re as stylistically coherent in their music as their image, they lunge towards ever grittier punk as the set progresses, and improve exponentially as they do, and there’s lots of moshing, especially to their cover of Nirvana’s ‘Breed’, which, is undeniably storming. They do know how to build a set to a climactic finale, I’ll give them that, and by the time they’ve orchestrated some tidal waves of crowd action during their signature song, they’ve convinced me. They’ve work to do, but it’s early days and they’ve got clear potential.

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Balcony Plants

So the guitarist in Balcony Plants is also the bassist in The Rosettas, a more visually and sonically coherent proposition. The singer makes an entrance….and it kinda takes a brief nosedive there. The riffs are meaty and the drumming is particularly tight, but the vocals merely so-so. I’d always question throwing in a cover as the second song of any set, but especially one of The Foo Fighters’ ‘Everlong’, however well played.

That tonight’s bands – all clearly made up of millennials (and I mean that factually rather than in any way disparagingly)– scatter their sets with choice 90s cuts is interesting; I suppose in context it’s the same as young bands of the 90’s dredging up songs of the 70s from their parents’ collections, or every band of the 80s covering ‘Sister ray’ and ‘Louie Louie’; there seems to be a two-decade loop which essentially corresponds with the emergent generation gap.

‘Save Your Time’ may be their idea of heavy, but… Still. They play with energy and are decent enough in a middling gruge-tinged alt-rock way. They probably need to work on the between-song chat, though, since “We’re about to play a song some of you might know. It’s on a thing called Spotify” is about as good as it gets. Blur’s ‘Song 2’ is the second cover of their set, and they seem to play the covers better than their own songs, but also manage to deliver a strong finale.

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The Roosettas

The Rosemaries exude an air that they’re a cut above from the second they walk on. Tonight, they’re all wearing dresses, but still look the most rock ‘n’ roll of tonight’s acts. The 90s covers continue as they open with a passionate cover of ‘Killing in the Nam’, and it again seems an unusual choice. The squawking vocal uplifts are unexpected. But there’s a lot that’s unexpected about this bunch, and it’s all good. They’re political, they’re tight, and they’re solid. Sprechgesang verses bounce over buoyant baselines before breaking into mega choruses. ‘Pogo pogo pogo’, say my notes. Those squeaks are an interesting post-punky vocal quirk that seem to reference early Fall more than anything, but then also make a nod to Siouxsie.

Overall, The Rosemaries land between The Sex Pistols and Yard Act with a dash of Pulp, although ‘Easy Peas’ bludgeons away at two chords Fall style. The singer heckles the audience in classic northern style: “Are ya gonna do some proper moshin’ or what?”

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The Rosemaries

They slip into a three-chord punky thrash with sneery, shouty vocals that call to mind Jilted John and hammer out as their second cover – the most contemporary of the night – Fontaines DC’s ‘Boys in the Better land’, which had been aired over the PA earlier. It’s a faithful rendition that’s delivered with zeal, and one can’t help but feel its relevance to bands knocking around in York. There are some decent pub venues to be grateful for, but there’s a world outside, starting just a few miles up the A64.

If this seems critical of the bands or local scene, it really isn’t: bands have to start somewhere, and with grassroots venues closing by the dozen, it’s a joy to witness nights like this – bands cutting their teeth in venues what are happy to give them a platform, and what’s also encouraging is the embracing of the ramshackle, rough and ready. I’m tired of a scene where bands strive to sound like arena acts in pub venues. It’s just not punk, and what we need is to hear live music that sounds and feels live. This is what tonight brings. It’s unpolished, unfinished, work in progress. But it’s great fun, and this is the next generation coming through. Just wait.

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