“I was just trying to be rock’n’roll.” The words of Palma Violets singer Sam Fryer, bashfully nursing the self-inflicted boo-boo caused by an ill-conceived stage-dive at the end of their Friday night set on the Artrocker Stage.
Photo: Dan Smyth
It would be easy to denounce Palma Violets as imitators. Not a year goes by without an indie band, selected by the music press seemingly at random, being announced to herald the dawn of a new era of British guitar music. Such bands tend to ultimately drown in a sea of plaudits and platitudes before sinking without trace.
But it would be just as easy to be won over by their jangly post-punk swagger. You can see why they leave certain quarters foaming at the mouth, the band allegedly signed to Rough Trade earlier this year on the basis of just one track.
Looking and sounding like The Libertines, the band’s sharp cheekbones, tousled hair and scruffy, ragamuffin charm may well be the jewel in the John Peel Festival of New Music’s crown, having been featured only a week prior on the cover of NME.
Predictably, their headline slot proves to be one of the biggest draws of the weekend, the venue crammed well past its modest capacity as fervent indie kids rub shoulders with Norwich’s regular gig junkies. Not bad for a band with only one single to their name.
All cynicism aside, Palma Violets do boast a couple of decent tracks, and had they performed without any media buzz, they no doubt would have still impressed.
Debut single Best of Friends is, admittedly, a bit of a banger, and provides the cue for the crowd to go mental, whilst Fourteen stands out for its melancholic beauty as well as simplicity. Co-frontmen Fryer and Chilli Jesson’s vocals (somewhere between Ian Curtis’ melancholia and the howl of Joe Strummer) and shabby, boisterous charisma echo the bromance of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat.
Overall, it’s a decent performance from a talented group on the cusp of stardom, but Venue remains unconvinced as to whether Palma Violets could really be the musical revolution that indie rock needs, or just four kids “trying to be rock’n’roll”.