There’s back story to this review. I first caught Tranqua Lite at Thinking Cap Festival over a year ago, under what we might call ‘less than ideal circumstances’. Even so I made a mental note to catch the band playing again when I could. For various reasons – and not always the reason I actually said I’m ashamed to say, but there were reasons for that – I had to say no to Tranqua Lite’s many invitations to come and see them (Thanks guys for not giving up on me!). Tranqua Lite are sadly not the only band I’ve turned down over the last year, it’s been a bit of strange time. The good thing is that the ‘strange year’ has come to an end with a move to Huddersfield, so at last I can go and see bands in Leeds without having to leave early to get the ridiculously early last train to where I used to live. So at last I could say ‘yes please can you put me on the guestlist’ to Toby (Tranqua Lite’s bass player) when he asked whether I could make this gig.
It appears that Tranqua Lite have also been going through some changes – Toby told me rather intriguingly that ‘things have changed since the last time’, and indeed they have. But more of that later, before we got to see and hear Tranqua Lite’s set there are two ‘new to me’ bands.
Avacet flavour their alternative rock with that bass heavy sound and ringing guitar of classic post-punk. My review notes – scribbled in the virtual blackness of the Wardrobe – say ‘Sorta Cure-y in places’, and I’m sticking with that. And key is that they mix this with something we can recognise as alternative rock BUT it’s dark people.
The thing that stands out about Avacet is the bass playing, frankly that bass was cool as fuck, it basically held my attention for the whole of their set.
The problem with seeing a new band for the first time is, of course, that it’s hard to focus down on the detail, you really only get an overall impression. The notes – yep it’s those again – say I sometimes, only sometimes OK, felt that it sounded a tad samey in places. That may be because I wasn’t listening properly hard, that may have just been me on the night. Sometimes I’m a bad reviewer OK. What I do know is that my notes say ‘see this band again’ and yes I was impressed enough to make a big note to catch them again. My recommendation, check out the band on your download or streaming service of choice and go see them live.
Contrarians had me intrigued from the start. Their first song started with some really nice piano led stuff and then it exploded, I mean really exploded. And the band put on a show, visually they’re exciting. Musically, rather strangely, it sounded a little System of a Down in places, although the note that says this is also followed by the phrase bizarrely ‘bloody hell, this sounds like a rocky Divine Comedy’. I’m not entirely sure the band would be happy with that description. I think what I’m trying to say is that it – if there is such a thing – there’s a sort of alt-art rock thing going on.
This band can play, I mean really play, I was hugely impressed with that. And that wasn’t at all comprised by the show. You know sometimes bands put on a show and the playing suffers, Contrarians didn’t do that at all. And the lead vocals, really loved those.
The songs are epic and big, and they sound important. There’s light and shade, they’re really well put together. And there’s variation in the sound of individual songs but, even on this first listen, I got a ‘band sound’, there’s something that makes them hang together and work as a set. Look, and this is an order OK, go and see this band, they rock, they rock big time.
The thing with going to see gigs to review and photograph is that you miss out on the ‘inter-band’ drink break. You have to stand in or near the best place to take photos from so that nobody else takes your spot. What this did mean was that I got to Tranqua Lite setting up and there was a lot of percussion coming on stage, I mean a hell of a lot of percussion. A little mysterious to say the least.
From the very start of their opening song the band are sounding huge, I mean really fucking huge. There’s layers and layers of sounds BUT there is a tune, a funky danceable tune. There’s wonderful bass and these little lovely hits of keyboard. The vocals don’t disappoint, something I noted the first time I saw the band a year ago.
And this doesn’t let up, the second track is something that had me throwing shapes – OK small shapes, I was holding a large heavy camera and attempting to write review notes. Sometimes it’s hard being a reviewer. My notes say ‘yes it’s poppy but it’s alternative pop with a rock edge. It’s rock tinged pop with depth and thought’. And they’re not afraid to throw something entirely unexpected into the mix. This second song has something going on at one stage that sounded a little like Yes, it’s those layered vocals people.
And when Tranqua Lite do rock, they really rock, it’s a riot but there’s always a tune boring it’s way into your ears and brain. Objectively it’s clever, very clever but subjectively it’s just this wonderful sound thing going on.
‘Balance’ (hey I may have that wrong, apologies if I did) the first song from some new material is all off-kilter and, as those notes say ‘damn hot funky as hell’. OK so I may have been losing my reviewer edge there but it’s way cool.
The band finish with their upcoming new single and it’s all choppy and funky, it’s rocky but with huge pop sensibility. And it’s for this that they deploy the vast amount of percussion, including the assistance of the tracks producer. It’s a really cool fantastic way to close a huge set.
Tranqua Lite have come a long way since I last saw them – a lot can change in a year – and I’m really converted, I’m a fan. Can’t wait to see them again. And if you like alternative poppy rock with funky tunes and great playing, go see Tranqua Lite you won’t be disappointed.
All photos on this page © Frank Roper Photography