Blossoms O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire 13.12.2016

Let’s be honest, 2016 has been a year to forget for most. For obvious reasons. The same cannot be said, however, for Stockport band Blossoms. While the sanity of mankind has clearly plummeted, with a number one debut album along with a fair few air miles as a result of their unrelenting touring schedule, Blossoms’ career has soared. It certainly seems like a life time ago that Blossoms were on the grind, acting as their own roadies and playing in small rooms in places like Leamington Spa, Guildford and Kingston. No disrespect to these venues but they are relatively insignificant (if I was being cynical)/humble (if I was being nice) in the career of musicians, compared to a sold out date at the Shephards Bush Empire like tonight. In February I wrote of the Leamington gig, ‘It is unquestionable that this was a unique opportunity to catch a band destined for greatness in such intimate surroundings.’ I guess I was right.

The band emerged onstage to Kanye West’s Black Skinhead, ironic as the five piece are anything but, quite easily being mistaken for auditionees for a Head & Shoulders television advert such are their trademark luscious locks. Rattling through hits such as At Most A Kiss, Blown Rose and Getaway, it could have felt as though Blossoms were on a mission to finish before ten and get some Christmas shopping done before the stores in Westfield closed. However, the band demonstrated their growing confidence and live experience as the anthemic Blow provided a good opportunity for a crowd call and response, and later, Polka Dot Bones allowed them to throw off the disco shackles and simply ‘rock out’.

This growing confidence emanated throughout the band as towering frontman, Tom Ogden, strutted and sneered self-assuredly, and Joe Donavon whacked his drums emphatically. Either side of Ogden, lead guitarist Joshua Dewhurst and bassist Charlie Salt remained unmoved throughout the 70 minute set. It’s this arrogance that’s both striking and endearing about the band. They’re a band doing all the right things and they know it. Lest we forget Myles Kellock on keys and synth quietly going about his work transforming the band’s sound into, what is currently, the most danceable indie rock band in the country. Never is this more evident than when Honey Sweet recovers the set from the slight lull of set-filler, sure to be wiped from all memory once album number two is out, Fourteen.

Being Christmas, the night took a festive turn with a sing-a-long to Last Christmas, making up an enjoyable medley alongside Babybird’s You’re Gorgeous and Oasis’s Half The World Away. This followed Ogden’s solo serenade of the crowd with break-up single My Favourite Room. Charlemagne, undoubtedly one of the songs of the year, a bonafide dancefloor hit plucked from a 1980s musical mind, provided the obvious finale and made sure all went home satisfied. Exiting to rapturous applause, Ogden rolls up the sleeves of his long-sleeved t shirt emblazoned with ‘Marry Me’. I’m sure he doesn’t have a lack of suitors in tonight’s adoring crowd, but Ogden, and his bandmates have bigger dates in 2017: a night at the Roundhouse in March and Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl in July. Boy how 2016 has seen the career of these 5 lads from Stockport flourish or better, blossom.


Blossoms at Zephyr Lounge with Viola Beach 11.02.2016

Blossoms have quickly established themselves as the new heroes of the Mancunian rock scene, having been passed the highly decorated, highly respected (and admittedly highly drug-laced) mantle previously held by the likes of Oasis and The Stone Roses. This notion is riddled with inaccuracies though, as Blossoms are proudly neither Mancunian nor a rock band. With Joe Donovan sporting an ‘I ❤ Stockport’ t shirt, it is a vital detail that they originate 6 miles from Manchester. It would also be foolish to liken them to these artists, asides from their regionality. They acknowledge the pressure to follow in the footsteps of the bands who inspired them and the Britpop and Baggy movements but are not willing to imitate them. Blossoms have managed to put their own spin on things, but with these ‘elements of euphoria maintained’. To their credit, you’d have to be musically inept or hard of hearing to compare Blossoms to Oasis or The Stone Roses sonically.

Tom Ogden, lead vocalist and guitarist, openly declares the band to be a pop band – the second mistake being calling Blossoms a rock band. They proudly squash the cockroach-like stigma that is outing yourself as a pop band. Others should take note: Mr Healy of The 1975 and Daniel Smith of Bastille, own up. This possibly explains the band’s choice of music as I entered their dressing room backstage at Zephyr Lounge in Leamington Spa. It’s not The Smiths or The Courteeners preparing the band for the gig, it’s Beyonce featuring Jay Z’s Drunk In Love, and there’s no effort to hide this. They’re not pretentious in their musical influences with inspirations ranging from the Grand Theft Auto Vice City soundtrack to ABBA. Lead guitarist Josh Dewhurst takes the opportunity to prove his true status as a true ABBA fan by announcing the traditional Swedish folk background of ABBA’s Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, as if it were common knowledge. Although, when recalling his favourite ABBA songs, he could only manage to recollect ‘the one about money or someone’s mama’. Bassist Charlie Salt outdoes Dewhurst, crediting Kevin and Perry and it’s dance, techno and trance sound for his ‘hypnotic basslines’. This interesting and slightly obscure music taste is surprisingly reflective in their very current but simultaneously retro sound.

While the band are delighted with the sold out Zephyr Lounge gig and do an impressive job rocking it, it’s obvious that the sell-out, 2,000 capacity gig at Manchester Albert Hall later in the month cannot come soon enough. A homecoming gig of that magnitude is a salivating prospect for a band yet to release an album. The band recently supported The Libertines at the Manchester Arena and they reveal they ‘felt most comfortable’ on the 20,000 capacity stage, and rubbing noses with Pete Doherty. Blossoms clearly have their sights set on bigger things and more specifically, bigger stages. This quiet confidence is refreshing and gives them a competitive edge over annoyingly modest others. Ogden exemplifies this, stating that they ‘feel like they deserve it and the songs are good enough’, which is evident in their live performance brimming with swagger and self-assurance. They have been recognised by placing fourth in the BBC Sound of 2016, after all.

The unassuming Blossoms member Myles Kellock sits in the corner behind a curtain of blond hair plugged into an Apple Mac as if recharging himself. His only contribution to the interview is when talking about a lost laptop in a taxi in Manchester after their Libertines support slot: ‘completely f*cking gone’ accompanied by a cutthroat gesture. Despite being a man of few words, it is, in fact, the mute keyboard player that makes the band’s sound truly outstanding. His significant contribution of 80s synth and hints of psychedelia add to the already exceptional combination of the impressively mature vocals and towering Joey Ramone-like presence of frontman Ogden, Dewhursts’s powerful guitar solos, the ‘hypnotic basslines’ of Salt, all held together by Donovan barely breaking a sweat on drums. This fusion of dance, synth, rock and indie proves they really are more than a pop band, and shows why Blossoms won’t fade into the endless abyss of British indie-pop bands.

Blossoms’ big hit and the highlight of the night is undoubtedly Charlemagne. An instant indie classic, it encapsulates all the individual talents of the band into three perfect minutes. The name was introduced to Ogden by his historian brother: Charlamagne AKA Charles the Great, King of the Franks who united much of Western Europe in the early Middle Ages. The elaborate but fitting title serves as a metaphor for placing someone on a pedestal, and the song is cited as a ‘turning point for their sound’ which has been recognised by the band with the new album reflecting that. Other notable mentions are Blown Rose which has obvious Smiths and Suede influences, At Most A Kiss, which demonstrates Kellock’s importance in producing head-nodding, toe-tapping beats, and set-closer Blow, just another example of their contagious melodies.

Blossoms have a big summer ahead of them, consisting of unrelenting festival touring as far as Japan. More importantly, the release of their highly anticipated debut album, date currently unconfirmed but projected by Ogden to be sometime in the summer. As teasingly far away as this seems the band were clearly feeling very positive about it, promising that it sounded ‘really good’ and even ‘exceeded their expectations’. Ogden proclaims that it is ‘best thing they could produce’ and recognises The Coral’s James Skelly, who produced it, for bringing the best out of the band. Donovan summarises the band’s feeling towards their forthcoming album perfectly, like ‘the feeling of doing your homework the night before’. For someone who knows this feeling all too well, they evidently have reason to be quietly confident.

On my exit, Drunk In Love is resumed, and the band returned to frivolities before effortlessly owning the Zephyr Lounge stage. It is unquestionable that this was a unique opportunity to catch a band destined for greatness in such intimate surroundings. Expect to see Blossoms playing much larger venues in the near future, which is why I will be catching them again at Kasbah on March 4th.

About half way through the interview, the room starts rocking as the sound of the opening band reverberates around the dressing room. I manage to catch the second half of this exciting set by an upcoming indie-pop band called Viola Beach. They play tightly and energetically, reflecting the enthusiasm of a group fresh to the world of touring; the desire of a band hungry to make it big and the confidence to do so. This is most evident during their final song, Swings and Waterslides, as Frontman Kris Leonard tosses the microphone stand onto the floor of the crowd and falling to his back shredding his guitar from the ground. It’s the sight of aspiring rock stars living their dreams.

On Sunday 14th February news emerged of a fatal car crash in Sweden involving Viola Beach members Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Tomas Lowe, Jack Dakin and their manager Craig Tarry. The horrific details of this incident are not worth focusing on. What is worth acknowledging is the reaction of the music world, rallying to support and honour this band. The aforementioned Swings and Waterslides has shot from 60,000 Youtube views to well over a million. It has also reached number two in the iTunes chart (at the time of writing, three days after the news of their deaths), following a campaign to get the song to number one. The campaign’s success isn’t out of sympathy, however, it is the genuine appreciation of a talented band on the cusp of big things. What a tragic way for millions of new fans to discover and adore a young, promising band called Viola Beach.