Reporting on Hacktivist’s most recent headlining show in London with The Algorithm and Zoax
Whatever one may think of the younger elements of the gig-going community, they are at least a punctual bunch, and a queue of at least fifty eager beavers is waiting outside the venue as doors open for this, one of the final dates of Hacktivist‘s first headline tour.
This means that even with Siege Of Amida‘s recent signings Zoax taking the stage within minutes of the first admissions, they are still greeted by a respectably sized crowd.
I caught Zoax opening for The Safety Fire earlier this year, but was skulking at the back of the venue, so had little idea what they actually looked like.
The sound is definitely much better this time around, and we are treated to an enjoyable, solid set of angular post-hardcore. It’s certainly not hard to see why SoA snapped them up; the band are tight, and the songs, like “Bitter Angry Fake“, are delivered with energy and enthusiasm.
Runaway star of the show, though, is frontman Adam. Turned out in a rather dapper suit and bowtie combo and sporting a lustrous beard, he comes across like the result of an experiment splicing together the genes of Daryl Palumbo and George Bernard Shaw. His Irish charms are infectious as he bounds around both the stage and the floor in front of it.
Between songs, he ventures out to the far depths of the venue to herd punters closer to the stage, and then negotiates a moshpit out of a group of young lads. Great fun.
The band definitely walked away from their set with a brace of new fans and the performance firmly embedded their debut EP, due in February, onto my list of anticipated releases for 2014.
This is the fourth time I’ve seen The Algorithm this year, and about the seventh or eighth in total, so it has been interesting to see the live performance evolve.
Playing in their two-piece configuration, without occasional guitarist Max Michel, there are a couple of small but important changes to the set. Most noticeable is that Remi has been given a mic to address the crowd where he had previously been content to smile and wave in silence. I presume this is a result of his increasing confidence in speaking English.
A slightly more subtle change is that his mixing desk has been angled to slope away from him, making it much easier for us to see what he is actually doing. This does add to the visual spectacle a little – at least for the beginning of the set. Remi’s hands become obscured from my vantage point for the second half by a moshpit – again, something I’ve not seen during an Algorithm set before tonight.
Hacktivist bassist Josh Gurner pops up to play the dub break in “Access Granted” and, sadly, makes a bit of a hash of it. In fairness to him, I’ve worked out how to play it myself and its nowhere near as intuitive as it may first appear. But, nevertheless, he has neither had the practice nor possesses the improvisational chops to pull off a convincing performance – which is a pity, as it’s a good idea.
The track is further interrupted with a quick burst of “Careless Whisper” in the ‘Rick-roll’ slot. Whilst this is pretty funny, it does rather break the flow of probably the best build-up on Polymorphic Code, so I kind of hope it isn’t here to stay.
On paper, a live show consisting of just a drummer and a guy with a mixing desk really shouldn’t work, but the combination of being able to hear the tracks through a full PA, together with the extra push given to them by Mike‘s phenomenal percussive skills keeps it interesting.
I think it’s probably reasonable to assume that Remi never envisioned what The Algorithm would become whilst writing Polymorphic Code, so its going to be fascinating to see where he goes next.
And so to Hacktivist. Anticipation in the room is high as the band bound onstage to something of a hero’s welcome.
I may not be completely convinced by Hacktivist’s repertoire as it stands – you can read my review of their re-released EP here - but I am clearly in a minority here tonight. As the band tear through these songs, the crowd reaction is as energetic and vocal as any I’ve ever seen in the Underworld. There are times when vocalists J and Ben don’t even have to deliver their lyrics – the crowd are more than happy to do it for them.
Again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of response for a band so early in their career. The crowd are energetic, and the pit is teeming throughout. During “Elevate” the pit becomes a veritable forest of middle fingers. Ben manages to instigate a circle pit of an intensity only matched by After The Burial owning this stage back in March. There are no crowd barriers, but a couple of particularly burly chaps have been employed to remove stage-divers who forget to actually stage-dive.
And, to be scrupulously fair, the band are definitely better tonight than they have been when I’ve seen them in the past. The sound is crisper and cleaner, and with the band having gigged pretty relentlessly all year, they are noticeably honing their stagecraft. But the live sound does ram home the generally unimaginative nature of the rhythm section, as well as the wholesale reliance on the low end gut-punch provided by a guitar equipped with an eighth string.
We get a new song in the form of “False Idols“, which doesn’t stray far from the path laid down by the EP tracks. But, barely 40 minutes later, the band say goodnight and leave the stage amid calls for an encore.
What happens next is thoroughly bizarre. Ben reappears to explain that the band don’t actually have any more songs they can play. So they run through their cover of “Niggas In Paris” again, despite only having played the track barely fifteen minutes beforehand. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a band do that before.
The throng in front of the stage don’t seem to mind at all – but I can’t help but think this isn’t something they’ll be able to get away with past the end of this tour.
In effect, what Hacktivist have done is hone a fine set for tearing the roof off a tent in a mid-afternoon festival slot. That, unfortunately, doesn’t directly translate into a set fully worthy of a headline slot.
The crowd, for now, don’t seem to care – but attention this easily won can be just as easily lost. Expectations for Hacktivist’s debut album are now stratospherically high, and I remain unconvinced that they are quite ready to deliver the goods, so all this hype could still spectacularly backfire. I’m more than happy to be proved wrong, though.
2014 is certainly going to be a memorable year for Hacktivist, but it is still open to question whether or not it will be for reasons they actually want to remember.