Jonny Craig is a musician who divides opinions. On one hand he is known for his eccentric performances with Emarosa, Dance Gavin Dance and pursuits with Isles & Glaciers as well as his successful solo career. Yet for many his work has been tainted by a controversial personal life that includes accounts of drug abuse, twitter scandals, multiple arrests and fraud to name but a few issues…
Yet no matter where you opinion lies on the man himself, you can’t help but appreciate his genuine talent and beautifully unique voice. On the 8th October, Jonny headlined the intimate Borderline in London. We sent down photographer Tim Easton to capture the event in pictures.
The Borderline, London
13th September 2012
I remember the first time I saw The Xcerts. It was a cold and damp late summer night up in Glasgow. Having just moved there, and therefore knowing nothing about the Scottish music scene, I was truly happy and surprised to be watching them play in the crypt of a converted Church. So I set off for Soho, pumped and in an almost euphoric state, to see this trio blast their own brand of distorted punk-rock pop laced music into the faces of Londoners.
The first thing to mention is that the Borderline has never been the biggest venue, but tonight it is rammed, as you walk down the stairs you have to squeeze past people trying to get a view of the stage. On top of this it’s hot as hell, but there’s a real buzz in the air as we all wait for the band to walk on stage. All of a sudden they appear and the music starts.
Now this is the part where I’m suppose to tell you how much I loved the show, and how it was ‘THE BEST GIG EVER!’, but it wasn’t. The sound at the start of the set was shocking, and when I say shocking I mean really crap, as you can hardly hear the guitar or vocals beyond a wall of distortion. Thankfully after about three songs the problems with the P.A. is sorted, however, although the majority of the audience seems to be really loving this play-through of their 2011 Scatterbrain album, I’m not blown away at all. I loved their first album, 2009’s ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’, and I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of ‘Scatterbrain’, but I really thought it would gain a whole new dimension live. It didn’t really have that effect. While you can’t really say it’s a bad album, in my opinion, it’s just not as good as their debut effort.
The crowd are ready enough to sing-along towards the end and the band thank everyone for their enthusiasm. You can really tell it means a lot to them to see an audience who has embraced their music and a gig format such as this completely, but then it’s all over as they round up the set up after about 45 minutes and there’s not a trace of any earlier material, just one older track could have done the job.
You can’t fault the band’s musicianship, they played exactly the same way as the very first time I saw them in Glasgow, but the poor sound at the venue added to the lack of a truly gob-smacking set list made this, very sadly, just another ‘good but not great’ gig.
If you went and were new to the band, then I can appreciate you’re going to disagree entirely, but for anyone who’s seen them play live before this was not the best gig the boys have played.
POLAR BEAR CLUB
Into It. Over It.
The Borderline, London
31st August 2012
*FULL GALLERY FEATURE BELOW*
As the opening band, The Arteries finish their hardcore and clear up all the gear, a bearded man emerges begins to sets up, checks if everything’s in working order and sits on his stool addressing the audience. The man is Into it. Over it, the sole operation of Evan Thomas. The first thing he says is, “So how many of you know I’m actually an acoustic act?”. Personally it comes as a surprise as the album is raging pop-punk. Its soon revealed that he records everything but tours as a single unit, just one man and his guitar. It was a tad strange I must admit, most of the other newbies probably felt the same. A hardcore band just left the stage and the crowd in a sweaty state, the headline act are gonna go mental, yet there’s an acoustic act sandwiched between it all?
Those apprehensive in the audience were quickly converted. Evan charged through his set, with such energy and passion as though he was fronting a full band. You could feel his passion, every song he had was attached with some kind of emotional story with the crowd are left to immerse themselves in the song as he crashed through it. Into It. Over It. Are a different kind of acoustic act, this guy was shredding and singing along with such energy that he struggled to sit still on the stool! The Arteries didn’t take the mosh pits with them, even Evan kept the crowd going.
You can always tell when the headline act grace the stage. Always. The atmosphere shifts, the crowd start to roar and everyone’s ready to tear the place apart. And of course, the same was experienced at the Borderline. Tonight is Polar Bear Club’s night, they own the this tiny basement of a venue in heart of London.
Borderline couldn’t have been a better choice of venue. Its as intimate as they come, with fans climbing onto shoulders and making their way onto the actual stage, shaking vocalist Jim Sandt’s hand whilst he’s singing, and then taking a platform dive straight back into the pool of people below.
Polar Bear Club powered through a varied set list, mixing classics from ‘Sometimes Things Just Disappear’, the epic, ‘Chasing Hamburg’ to their latest efforts from ‘Clash Battle Guilt Pride’. Whatever the song played on the night, it was received with a roar of an applause and continued stage dive action.
The band finished with the fan favorite ‘Living Saints’ and left for the back room. The crowd then started to sing the ballad, ‘Drifting Thing’. Everyone in the room, shouts as loud as they can to each word from start to finish. A call for an encore doesn’t get better than that!
So low and behold, Jimmy turns up on stage, quickly mentions that their current guitarist is a fill in and he might not know the song, to which a fan fumbles onto the stage and says if he could have a go. He introduces himself, Toby. Toby straps on the guitar, strums an a chord and the crowd erupt. He composes himself and is told, “3 strikes and you’re out kid!”, No pressure right?!
A few miss timings here and there, but the rest is perfect. You have to give the sweaty teenager credit, he’s on stage performing to a sold out crowd! Toby pulled through, Polar Bear Club loved it as did the crowd. This was clearly a stand out show for 2012 so far.
After the collapse of this years Sonisphere festival many of the estranged bands from the fallen line up have been turning up in London to continue to make their presence felt. In a week that’s seen two sold out shows by Refused it’s the turn of Norway’s hottest metal export Kvelertak to slay London with two sold out nights at the uber tiny Borderline.
The bearded throng of punters chant as the sextet saunter on to the tiny stage and launch into ‘Sjøhyenar (Havets herrer)’, vocalist Erlend Hjelvik hurling himself into the crowd. We’re treated to further choice cuts from their 2010 debut as the powerhouses that are ‘Fossegrim’ and ‘Blødtorst’ rain down upon the swirling audience. There really is something unique about this band and their punk/metal/rock/blastbeat hybrid is difficult to define or imagine on paper yet it gels in with a sadistic coherency both on record and in the live setting. Some new tracks are aired too tonight and if monsters like ‘Spring Fa Livet’ are anything to go by album number two is going to be a bruiser.
As their frenetic set rumbles on the crammed confines of this miniscule venue really begin to heat up and mic after mic is replaced as crowd surfers and divers alike get entangled in Hjelvik’s cables as he stalks the stage. The climax of the show is a rousing rendition of ‘Mjød’ which featured in the Troll Hunter movie, fists punching in the air and the crowd mouthing along to Norwegian lyrics they can neither understand nor pronounce. This is the beauty of Kvelertak, a band who let the music do the talking and transcend language barriers. More bands need to play with this venom and conviction, album number two soon please?
Former Thieves have had some bad luck over the past couple of days with van trauma in mainland Europe and illness plaguing the band’s members. Yet they’re gracious and potent on stage tonight, their visceral yet carefully paced set pulsating through the venue despite a largely unmoving crowd. This two band bill makes for a show that rivals La Dispute’s last London appearance at the Underworld with Touche Amore. The rather more intimate feeling of The Borderline lends itself well to both bands’ clear desire to connect with the audience. Despite everyone’s lack of movement for the openers, you can tell they’re being well received as attention is fully on the music emanating from the stage. The bar is quiet. It’s the music everyone is here for tonight.
La Dispute have already proven themselves as live favourites amongst those in the know on these shows. Their deeply emotive music verges on the uncomfortable at times but tonight’s unrelenting emotion is delivered with a rawness and a sincerity that is undeniable and ultimately appealing. Perfectly crafted songs balance sparse textures with dramatic riffs and vocals that sound so close to breaking, you can’t help but empathise with the lyrics.
Ever the socially conscious, La Dispute have chosen to donate a portion of their merch sales to Teenage Cancer Trust tonight. They also requested a donation (of any amount) from those lucky enough to be on the guestlist for the event. There’s certainly a sense that this is far more than a token gesture and that this a band who really want to make a difference wherever they can. And it’s oh so evident that their performance tonight has made a difference to each person present. Stirring stuff.
One of Crossfire’s favourite records of 2010 was Black Breath’s undeniable, thrash and hardcore hybrid Heavy Breathing. Having signed to Southern Lord for the release (who can count the likes of Boris, Nails, Earth and Saint Vitus among their roster) the band received wide acclaim for the record, and return to the UK this month for its final hurrah before putting the finishing touches to their next album. Having missed the band at The Borderline last November when they clashed with Touche Amore across town, Black Breath return to the same venue eight months later off the back of a winning appearance at Sonisphere festival.
The band is on top form as they rip through the likes of ‘Black Sin (Spit on the Cross)’ and ‘Escape from Death’ at a frantic pace, so much so that the drummer carries a worried expression on his face as though the whole thing could collapse at any moment. In truth, though, there’s no danger of that, as the band’s rhythm section demonstrate near mechanical levels of control, laying the foundations for searing lines of tremolo picked lead guitar. Their sound is powerful like the best heavy metal bands, but it’s also their directness that stems from hardcore influences that makes them such an intense listen, even more so in a live context.
Two new songs are played from their forthcoming album (due in early 2012, supposedly) which are met with the same enthusiasm as old favourites ‘Eat the Witch’ and ‘I Am Beyond’. The strength of these new songs suggests the band is set to produce a worthy a follow up to ‘Heavy Breathing’, which in itself is a truly mouth watering prospect.