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ex-The Chariot frontman’s new band ’68 hits Kingston

'68 Palm Reader In Archives Death Rattles poster

Arriving at the small pub venue early, there was a slightly ominous feeling as to whether it would still be standing after the night was over; after all, headliner ’68 frontman Josh Scogin’s previous endeavours in Norma Jean and The Chariot were anything but calm and reserved.

Small groups of fans who had arrived early to grab a drink were enjoying the setting sun over Kingston in South West London. As soon as I entered the upstairs venue it was obvious that tonight was going to be a bit more personal than my last visit – a gig for a local band – with the opener setting up all but drums off the stage.

Death Rattles are a band I hadn’t heard of before, but they fit the bill perfectly. The four piece coaxed their set in with a droning intro which burst into energy after a minute or so with bass-heavy southern riffs; a style aped by their comical yet deranged front man who until half way through their set passed himself off as an American southerner. There was such movement from the band that the amps and cabs on the stage were rocking side to side, and they certainly didn’t feel like an opening band – always a good way to start a show.

In Archives exploded onto the stage (or floor, I should say) and if anyone needed a wakeup call, these guys were certainly it. The members look like they’ve just hit their 20s, but are incredibly tight. I’ve seen them several times before and they never fail to bring heaps of energy to the table.

While their songs may lack that spark of originality (sounding a lot like While She Sleeps much of the time) their intensity and persistence live makes them just as good. Vocalist Zak Pinchin makes sure the crowd doesn’t just hear his vocals, but feels them too, and their new single “Lost Cause” manages to get some of the crowd getting back in his face as well. I originally thought In Archives to be an odd choice as the tour support, but with such an electric live show I was reminded exactly why.

As people piled back into the now busy upstairs, the new stage layout became apparent, with the entirety of Palm Reader set up on the floor. I’ve got a forthcoming review of them being tame at Ghostfest 2014, but their set tonight made me swallow my words. From what seemed like the sensible man’s chaotic hardcore in my mind, they quickly did away with these ideas.

Again, while originality may not be their forte (sounding much like a young version of The Chariot in fact), they enter the level of performance many artists seem to shy away from. Vocalist Josh McKeown even proceeded to set the stage stairs up to one of the mantles while the guitarists & bassist entered the crowd at multiple points towards the end of their set. It’s usually hard for a band to get progressively wilder through the set but these guys certainly managed it.

There was certainly anticipation for ’68 to hit the stage. With not much having been released yet from the duo – vocalist/guitarist Josh Scogin and bandmate Michael McClellan - it did feel quite momentous; especially to be seeing them in such a setting, almost like if Greg Puciato played your local.

Their set played out like watching a well rehearsed garage jam between the two. ’68 sound a lot more like a stripped down Queens Of The Stone Age than The Chariot, but Josh’s signature vocals and occasional piercing guitar feedback leave his mark on the project.

His southern banter with the crowd is endearing and amusing, and adds to the ‘garage jam’ feel of the show. That said, he hasn’t lost any of his chaotic tendencies, with various antics commonplace: getting McClellan to drum roll on his guitar strings, leaning his guitar head onto his octave pedal, and finally relocating to the top of one of the PAs.

Their modest yet riff-filled set is extremely pleasing, with some ‘songs’ being quite literally improvised. They even slotted in a Nirvana cover following a rendition of “Mercedes Benz” in homage to Josh’s former band.

They’re an interesting new project that make the most of what they have and prove that fewer members does not necessarily mean less noise!