Last Saturday night at The Horn saw a crazy evening of insane live rock music, with Juicebox hosting their Christmas Party to a sold out venue. The gig featured sets from locals bands Written In Ink and Echo Infirmary, headliners Stone Thieves, and one of the most manic, intriguing bands I’ve seen all year, October Drift. As always at The Horn, the gig was a pure explosion of brilliant rock music, ranging from indie rock to post punk grunge to country blues. I loved every minute of the evening, with the best of our local music scene and the best of underground rock music being showcased perfectly. As always, Juicebox put on a fantastic night, with the crowd responding with energy, excitement and animation to each band that came on. Rounding off a killer year, Juicebox’s Christmas Party couldn’t have gone down any better.
Written In Ink opened up the gig, drawing a large crowd from the start of their set. Made up of Lewis Taylor, Mia Casey, Lewis Mackay and Sebi Rejahl, the four piece were able to channel a really lively, alternative rock sound on stage. Their set was full of dynamism too, with Lewis playing harmonica solos and the band performing a cover of Muse’s Psycho. I loved how much vigour and energy the band had on stage, with a brilliant indie rock bite to original tracks like Go Away and These Rules which were able to draw heavy dancing and mosh pits from the animated crowd. What I love about The Horn is how big a platform they give to small local bands who have just started out, and Written In Ink are just that; if anything, the fact they are such a small band on a local level made the professionalism and well-rehearsed solid performance they gave all the more impressive. Mia is a killer drummer too; really steady drumming and intricate riffs from her throughout the set complemented the guitar perfectly, with Lewis and Sebi taking it in turns with the vocals. What I especially like about Written In Ink is that they are growing into a dominating presence in the local indie rock scene; and for only their second gig at The Horn, they’re ridiculously promising.
Echo Infirmary were the next band to play, and their set was one I’d been looking forward to since I last caught the band’s headline gig at The Horn in September. The band are one of the most fun, lively groups I know of, who clearly love what they do. Max, Angus, Jake and Jamie have such a brilliant chemistry, which really shines through when they play- the set was messy and funny, clearly four mates on stage having a great time. What’s so unique about Echo Infirmary is their set up; with Jake on bass and Angus and Max on lead guitar, all three of them take turns on lead vocals. Jake rounds off the band’s sound perfectly, with meticulous drumming which has notably improved since the last time I saw the band play. Their overall stage presence was really crazy with a massively energetic and exciting aura to their performance. The friendship and tight relationship the group have was infectious too, and really engaged the audience in the best possible away, seeing moshing and circle pits to the majority of their lively, impassioned tracks. Like I said in my last live review, they really reminded me of an early Arctic Monkeys with their casual ‘have fun’ approach on stage, really reminiscent too of modern bands like Spring King and Get Inuit in terms of how much fun they had. The blaring riffs and classic rock vocals all intertwined perfectly, making the band’s comeback to The Horn a stellar one.
The next group to perform were manic grunge rock band October Drift, who blew me away. They were absolutely unbelievable, projecting one of the heaviest most insane sounds I’ve heard in a long time. The thing about October Drift which makes them so vividly exciting and intriguing is how uncompromising and in your face they are. In the sense of typical rock music, they’re weird and different, producing one of the roughest most filthy sounds I’ve heard. The heavy blurred grit of their set was phenomenal, ripping through that tiny venue. Despite the crowd declining in size after the first two bands, October Drift put on one of the sickest sets I’ve seen at The Horn. It was deep and dark, and just pure filth from that opening riff. As the band have been playing together for such a long time now (the band have existed since the start of 2015 but have been writing together informally for the past six years), every element of their set was meticulous; there was nothing safe or nice about the band- instead it was a manic burst of pure punk aggression, intertwining grunge with alt-rock in the best possible way. It was such a messy blistering force the band had on stage, which made them so thrilling to watch. My favourite track they did had to be Cherry Red, which was a hectic, explosively chaotic force on stage with the crashing guitar and drums producing this heavy, loud aggressive sound. Cherry Red is such a mad track, with the blaring guitar building it up and up until the guitar crashes back down in that roaring chorus. The agitated grit of October Drift is one they channel well on record, but it’s live where the explosive nature of the group is at its best, with Kiran even climbing down into the crowd to play guitar. For more on the band, and for upcoming live dates, you can check them out on their website.
Then for the headliners; Stone Thieves. What I got from their set was raw indie rock-country music, with a very bluesy rock’n’roll sound. Country and blues are genres I rarely listen to, but Stone Thieves managed to capture my attention by blurring these styles into each other and mixing in elements of rock’n’roll and indie. By combining all these different styles, and tying in western-cowboy influences and a Nashville soul/ country sound, the result is an incredibly interesting and unique sound. Stone Thieves had a packed out venue, with a brilliant feel-good atmosphere throughout; I loved how raw and real their music was, very humbling and honest. They were able to engage the audience, with a wonderful adrenaline accompanying their set. Composed of Aaron, Tom, Micky and Paul, Stone Thieves have a quirky lively element to them which makes their live sets really enjoyable and fun. They appealed more so to slightly older fans I think, with no moshing or circle pits to accompany their tracks, so in a way the young punk energy from October Drift’s set wasn’t carried through. But nonetheless they performed a flawless set of brilliant country-rock tunes. I especially liked the blurry distortion of the guitar, tied in beautifully by Paul’s softly steady drumming, which all built up this powerful country-rock sound.
Overall, the feel-good fun nature to Stone Thieves’ set rounded off the evening brilliantly, the perfect end to Juicebox’s Christmas party. As a promoter, Juicebox cannot be complimented or praised highly enough, with its award for 2016 Best Independent Promoter in the UK at the Live UK Music Awards being highly deserved. What Luke Hinton and Juicebox do for small bands is unbelievable, and the bands I caught last weekend were just a few in a long list of acts I’ve been fortunate enough to catch live thanks to Juicebox. And with an amazing line-up of bands already booked for 2017, including MONO 01, Pages, The Visitors, Asylums, The Sherlocks, BlackWaters, Strange Bones, and Fiende Fatale, the new year is set to be unbelievable.
©All photos to Sahera Walker