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A varied evening for 48Hours and friends

48Hours Under The Influence Archean Soundtrack Wonk Unit Fiends poster

Camden’s Black Heart probably ranks as my favourite small venue in London, which always makes it easier to brave the elements and head down for a varied bill of up and coming talent. It’s also encouraging to see that a healthy number of other punters had done the same.

First up are young London quintet Fiends, who warm things up nicely with some well constructed rock tunes that carry an angular hint or two of post-hardcore. With melodic passages, some heavier riffing, a touch of tapping and even a bit of disco funk, its a well constructed set that would probably appeal to fans of Zoax.

Vocalist Luke gets out into the crowd and proves to be an engaging frontman, but their overall stage presence is somewhat let down by one guitarist standing virtually motionless in the centre of the stage for the entirety of the set. In what ultimately proves to be a theme for the evening, the bass sits high and boomy in the mix.

The band still have a bit of work to do in terms of tightening up, and Luke doesn’t always hit his high notes – but it’s clear these guys have some good ideas, even if there’s still room for improvement in their execution.There’s certainly nothing wrong that time and a few more gigs like this can’t fix; a promising start.

With a change of pace and a virtual doubling of the onstage average age come the splendidly named Wonk Unit. They give us an upbeat and pleasingly ramshackle set of garage punk that has something of a Billy Bragg flavour to it. They throw out short, sharp, light hearted tunes about horses and ‘the wankers who don’t know how to use public transport’. It’s hard not to smile as they clatter their way through their set with a real DIY charm.

The crowd in the room fills out substantially for their set, but it does seem like the majority of these new additions are only here to see them, and disappear back downstairs afterwards, which is a pity. But their appearance on this bill is a bit of a mystery, so it’s not all that surprising.

Nevertheless, there’s definitely something endearing about the band and their half-rehearsed set. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to see any punk at all, so it was a bit of an unexpected surprise.

Londoners Archean Soundtrack then bring us back towards the present day, albeit only as far as the early nineties with some rap-rock that strongly reminds me of bands from that time, such as The Dust Junkys and – especially – Shootyz Groove. Which is no bad thing.

The set starts in a slightly unusual fashion, with singing drummer Josh bounding around in front of the stage. He sings the brief introductory track, with bass player Jonny keeping time by awkwardly standing behind the kit to access the bass drum pedal.

Josh returns to his kit, and the band slide into some slinky grooves, topped off with some credible rapping from frontman Craig. The typical rap-rock formula of lighter verses and heavier choruses is very much in operation here. However, as the set progresses it becomes clear that whilst the verses are crisp and clean, the choruses don’t quite have the punch they really need. With ‘big’ chords and Josh’s vocals, they feel more like power ballads – not necessarily a negative, but as the formula repeats I find myself longing for something with a little more bite, and a little more pace.

Towards the ends of the set, Josh cofmes out front again, this time bringing the floor tom with him for yet another ballad. For a relatively short set, this feels like overkill and speaks of a band – or at least a drummer – facing something of an identity crisis. He can clearly both sing and drum, but whether or not he should really be doing both in this band is open to question – especially without another drummer, or backing track, to fill in for him while he has a microphone in his hand instead of his sticks.

So Archean Soundtrack’s set feels like a bit of a disappointment. They are tight and together, but it feels like they are pulling their punches in the heavy sections, and there’s a whiff of indulgence around Josh’s antics – which is a shame, as he’s clearly a talented guy.

Under the Influence then give us the evening’s second helping of rap-rock, but one that is rather more up-to-date than the previous act. Their imposing frontman tracks a lot closer to the grime stylings of Hacktivist, and the band’s embrace of technology is unavoidable. The big booming sub drops are sprinkled liberally through the set, but the canned gang vocals really can’t be ignored due to their sharp clarity, even with both guitarists and the bass player providing them as well.

However, it all adds up to a big, slick sound and the band clearly know what they are doing. They keep the energy levels high throughout the set, and the crowd that has clustered at the front of the stage is lapping it up. To an old crusty like myself, it feels a little over-produced and, by the end of the set, rather formulaic – especially the repeated gang vocals that feature on virtually every chorus – but judging by the reaction of the rest of the young crowd that has mostly replaced the older folk here for Wonk Unit, this may well be a generational thing.

There’s certainly no denying that Under the Influence put on quite a show. They’ve clearly put a lot of time and effort into delivering it, and there’s probably little reason why, if they keep it up, they can’t be biting at Hacktivist’s heels in the not too distant future.

Despite there being five bands on tonight’s bill, headliners 48Hours still start their set bang on time, which is no mean feat for all involved. With minimal fanfare, the trio launch into “Hollow“, from their debut album Recovery; a snappy track with a pleasingly choppy stop-start riff.

Despite the year being relatively young, this is already the second time I’ve watched 48Hours in 2015. Their set was the saving grace of a show that should have been headlined by the sadly and unexpectedly defunct Collisions, so my expectations were high.

And 48Hours didn’t disappoint. Mining the same rich seam of riff-focused, hook-laden Brit-rock as the Wildhearts, Feeder, Three Colours Red or – more recently – Bovine, they kick out a sound much bigger than their three piece configuration would initially suggest.

The band’s pop sensibilities shine through on a procession of memorable choruses, with latest single “Forget” being another highlight. The trio are Rizla-tight and guitarist Adam and bassist Gary’s harmonies successfully executed. But there’s still some weight to the heavier riffs, resulting in an engagingly well-balanced set. It all feels like it is over very quickly indeed, which is certainly a mark of quality. Fans of no-nonsense, high-quality accessible songwriting practically dripping with hooks need look no further. Great fun.