Despite following the progress of the local scene in Kent over social media, I have not been to a gig since Avokan headlined Woodlands Youth Centre last year (reviewed here). But when I arrived earlier I found a small queue outside the venue, with many other attendees hanging around the various houses and shops in the area. A lot of these people were wearing shirts of the bands, predominantly Avokan and Near Ruin. Near Ruin’s drummer Tim Morgan said to me “It’s surreal seeing people wearing your band’s t-shirt, especially when you don’t know who they are. I once walked past someone on the street wearing a Near Ruin t-shirt and it was a weird feeling but cool at the same time.” I had never seen so many t-shirts for the band at the local gig, especially when the merch ranges had just been released, this made me incredibly excited about the gig. Even though there were lots of people wearing metalcore and post-hardcore t-shirts (Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, Beartooth, Crossfaith, We Came as Romans and Aasking Alexandria to name a few), there were also a few other genres there. I spotted Insect Warfare, Conan, Watain, Iron Maiden, Metallica and AC/DC t-shirts amongst the attendees as well. The venue itself while much smaller than Woodlands (about three times the size of Hole in the Wall in terms of stage space and crowd space), had a great atmosphere and served alcohol at a reasonable price! After a few cheeky beverages it was time for the show.
Running on stage resembling extras from an 80s cop show, in aviator sunglasses, moustaches and wigs, it was the pop punk band Doubt. Launching into a cover of Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’, it was a fun show and surprisingly memorable. They performed some other covers too, ‘Stacey’s Mom’ by Fountains of Wayne got the crowd going and increased the energy levels, the energy levels peaked later on as the fans headbanged to their cover of Taylor Swift‘s ‘We are Never Ever, Getting Back Together’. But the band were not a cover band as they had originals too in their arsenal, singer Matt Hallett conducted the crowd like an orchestra for ‘Barricades’ and crowd-surfed during ‘Substance’, letting the fans do the singing for him during the catchy chorus of ‘I sleep in the same bed every night’. Ending with their EP’s title track ‘Nice Guys’ I was impressed by this band. Could this be the next Blink 182?
Up next were the UK’s Congress. The band formerly known as Silence Remains encountered major problems before their set, guitarist Brandon Grzegorz broke his finger and was relegated to bass, with new bassist Billy Kent playing guitar instead. Despite having learnt the entire set the night before, they did a good job in their new role and it didn’t affect the set. Opening with a colossal ‘Clarity’, you could hear the fans yelling ‘As I walk out the darkness’ at the top of their lungs. Following that they launched into ‘The Forgetting’ with fans rushing forward to yell into Theo Halpern’s mic. Despite the setbacks they were on fine form and didn’t seem out of place. It was great to see so many dedicated fans moshing and expressing themselves despite the setbacks. Playing a mixture of old and unreleased, it was a pleasure to hear it live and to hear Halpern’s savage vocals again. Ending with a brilliant ‘Milestones’ from the EP of the same name, they excelled despite having the odds stacked against them. Drummer Harry Taylor’s comment of “well that went alright” seemed rather fitting. Great things will come from Congress, there is no denying it.
It’s been a magical year for Near Ruin. Their new album No End (reviewed here) came out to rave reviews after a four-year wait, they supported The Defiled and best of all they were interviewed by myself. As they set their backdrop up I was incredibly excited for them to start, I had been waiting for this for ages. As soon as the opening riff to ‘Descent’ kicked in, pandemonium broke out, with energy levels maintaining for the mighty ‘Relinquish!’ It was a show stopping performance literally, as the power went out after these two songs. After some improvised jamming from Tim Morgan and bassist Luke Knight the power came back and ‘No End’ kicked off. The piano intro was as entrancing live as it was on record. The highlight of the show for me was ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ and not because I was a lucky sod who got to sing into the microphone during part of the chorus, but to get caught up in an entire crowd singing it too. The second half of the set was a blast from the past as they stormed through material from their debut Rebirth (reviewed here). Concluding with a mammoth ‘The Masterpiece’ producing a wall of death, this anti modern art anthem produced one of the highlights of the night. Earlier on I said “Near Ruin are back, and they mean business”, and back they are.
Playing their debut Virtual Reality (reviewed here) in full, Avokan treated us to a high octane show. With fans struggling to breath and security staring at the mosh pit like vultures, chaos certainly ensured. Sam Moore excelled as the frontman, leaping about the stage and into the crowd as he ordered his minions to do his bidding. Whether it was ordering the entire audience to sit down and jump up or getting Arthur Walwin on stage for ‘Paralysis’, it was a chaotic show. Legions of fans draped in merch sang every word to songs from an album that had only just been released online a few days before, the show was certainly a testament to the fans’ dedication. The importance of caring for your fan base was shown tonight, with fans being passed the microphone to with the band wanting to do nothing more than make the crowd happy, sweaty and screaming more. With this in mind, Avokan excelled producing a show with results similar to that seen by Municipal Waste. As the great Tommy Wiseau would say “What a show Mark!”
The Medway and Kent music scene has faced many setbacks, it’s been beaten, broken and bruised. But now it is thriving and stronger than ever – tonight certainly proved that.