Well blow me down, the Harley has put together another bloody great lineup; this is getting boring now! 2012 has seen the likes of Japandroids, Alt-J and Johnny Foreigner grace their stage, and there’s no let up in quality in the run up to Christmas either; local metallers Rolo Tomassi decided to wrap their homecoming in tinsel, and brought Kappa Gamma and Blood Sport along for the ride.
Blood Sport kicked off proceedings with a characteristically hypnotic set; bringing intricate afrobeats and playfully tangled guitars which could melt your rhythm receptors in a matter of minutes, if only they existed. At times it’s a little untidy, but the chaos is part of their allure; set highlight Palamar is built on Parkin’s clickety-clack beat, paving the way for Potter’s cyclic surf-pop riffs and Keegan’s elaborately picked patterns. It’s only after Potter’s inarticulate hollers that the band unites to abandon the jazz ad-libbing in favour of raw unadulterated punk. For the rest of their set, they glide between the experimental jamming of Can and the effortless density of Battles, while the lifeless audience are divided between disinterest and fascination.
Kappa Gamma are a whole different kettle of fish. They fully engage with the crowd yet never seem to find their feet. Their set is book-ended with their two best songs, both sounding like watered down radio friendly versions of some of Rolo Tomassi’s most ambitious work. Otherwise, it’s paint-by-numbers mathrock that Youth Movies were doing ten years ago. The band clearly are excitable and have a keen ear for a memorable melody, but it’s not enough for them to stand-out in an already saturated market.
When Rolo Tomassi replaced two members and left their record label earlier this year, there was a collective raise of eyebrows. Where most bands would crumble at these events, it only seems to have galvanised them. It’s immediately evident from the get-go as Howl begins with James Spence’s ghoulish keyboards and ends with Eva Spences’s guttural screams over doom-laden riffs of kitchen sink melodrama; when Eva once described the band as bi-polar, she wasn’t kidding. Despite new album Astraea’s more direct sound, they prove their zest for the extraordinary once again on Ex Luna Scientia; a first half of complex rhythms and perplexing riffs, before the song thaws out into the warm and melodious intricacies of Oceansize, sugar-coated in Eva’s eerie floating vocal. Of course, plenty of old favourites make an appearance as if to show what an impressive musical journey such a youthful band have travelled since their formation; debut album opener Oh Hello Ghost showcases their talent of blending barbaric riffs with quirky rhythms and Nintendo keyboards while making it sound like the most natural thing in the world. I Love Turbulence appears to be the long division of mathrock with its time signature changes and Guitar-Hero-on-maximum-difficulty guitars, none of which stops the front-end of the crowd going delightfully nuts. Rolo end their set with Party Wounds before returning for Illuminaur; the former presenting the band at their most beguiling and infantile, while the latter is adorned in theatrics as the larger-than-life coda draws Eva’s most impressive melodic performance yet to shush any doubters of her singing voice.
And so the precedent has been set. What perhaps began as a bit of novelty, these Sheffielders have proved they have the longevity and purpose to evolve with the world around them, never compromising their sound and always escaping the wickedness of the pigeon hole. Rolo Tomassi have outlived the many genres they have flirted with to fashion something that is truly their own, and it doesn’t look like that will be changing any time soon.