Four was the magic number for the bands playing Cavern last Saturday night, as both support acts in addition to VANT were four-piece groups.
The first band onstage was a local(ish) band from Truro, Hypophora, who, with their blend of punk and grunge rock influences, and their red-haired female lead, reminded me a bit of early Paramore.
It felt like I’d been transported to another era at the height of either punk or grunge
While she fell into the trap of putting on an unnecessary slight American accent as she sang, her vocal range was good, and they were fun to listen to. Amusingly, the band seemed to synchronise their headbanging onstage, so it almost looked rehearsed, which, unfortunately, took me out of the moment once I realised.
The next act was arguably my favourite of the night, in all honesty: a band called The Velvet Hands. They had a very distinct genre influence, with shouty punk songs, and I could see hints of huge bands such as The Clash, The Libertines, and even Pulp in their music. It felt like I’d been transported to another era at the height of either punk or grunge, with a distinctly English vibe to the music, particularly emphasized by the intimacy of the space in Cavern – honestly, it felt cool. Despite not being well known to the audience at the start of their set (they have under 500 monthly listeners on Spotify), they soon developed some big fans at the front, jumping around and creating moshes. Tragically, before they had the chance to play their big finale – a song that they’ve released as a single on Spotify, they were ushered offstage, as the show had started late, and the venue needed VANT to complete their set before Saturday Indie Club began. I would definitely recommend looking into The Velvet Hands however if you’re interested in new-wave punk rock bands with swagger and depth in their lyrics, along, of course, with a bolshy attitude.
VANT came onstage quite rapidly after The Velvet Hands, and with a brief introduction: (literally, “Hi, we’re VANT”), they launched straight into their set, and the room was properly full for the first time this evening, as the band they’ve come to see is finally on, and I didn’t realise before this gig just how dedicated a fanbase VANT has. The moshing at the front was fairly immediate, and continued through most of the set, intermixed with singing and dancing for the (few and far between) less intense songs. There was little pause between songs, and I’m not sure whether they were speeding through because of time constraints, or to keep up the energy of the crowd, but I’m not sure it mattered; the crowd were absolutely loving it. A particularly zealous fan approximately a foot behind me boomed, “FUCK YEAH VANT”, after nearly every song, with no expectations of a response, just to show his absolute passion for the band. Even the slower songs such as ‘I Don’t Believe In God’ still garnered a great audience response; people sang along and replaced their jumping with swaying.
There was no shortage of showmanship with VANT – there were multiple guitar solos which put the guitar out close to the crowd, and towards the end of the set, the lead, Mattie Vant, stripped off his top and performed the rest without a shirt. It was just as well for him, as the last three songs were the most intensely received of the night: ‘Lampoon’, ‘Karma Seeker’, and ‘Parking Lot’. I’m not sure how it was managed in such as small space as Cavern, but there was even a short-lived crowd surfer being passed around. As the audience and the band both knew this was likely the first and last time they’d perform in Exeter (as the band is on ‘indefinite hiatus’ after this tour – read: breaking up), everyone was absolutely going for it, and each song built up the frenzied enjoyment of the crowd. It’s a shame that these boys are breaking up just as they seem to be on the brink of national success, but it was an incredible experience to see them on their ‘Last Days of Punk’ tour, and Cavern was the perfect venue to heighten the intensity. If you don’t want to miss the chance of seeing these boys, their tour continues into mid-November, and barring that, they have announced they will release a mini-album called ‘Talk Like Thunder’ for the songs that didn’t make it into their full album, so there’s still new stuff to see from them, even if they are breaking up. All in all, it was a night of classically-inspired English punk rock: anti-establishment lyrics, a sense youthful rebellion and short, punchy songs, that left us on a high.