Date: April 26th 2018
Venue: Thousand Island, London
Support: False Heads / The Cruel Knives
Located above the renowned Garage in Highbury is a tiny little venue called Thousand Island. Formerly known as “Upstairs At The Garage” (no prizes for whoever came up with that name), it holds just 150 people under its mirror ball ceiling, and so tends to play host to bands just getting their feet off the ground.
Tonight, as a throng of thousands makes their way through Highbury & Islington for the Arsenal match, Nottingham rock quartet Eva Plays Dead will take to the stage for the launch show of their latest EP, ‘The Fix’.
False Heads  clamber on stage with no shortage of energy, and launch into a medley of punk ‘n’ roll tunes that sadly feel rather uninspired. Riffs and rhythms that sound like they’re taken straight off a Slaves album repeat over and over with little variety. Recent single ‘Retina’ comes the closest to getting off the ground, with its toe-tapper of a chorus, but the set as a whole is a bit of a lead balloon (weighed down by too much bass). Guitarist Luke Griffiths does inject a bit of excitement into the set by clambering on the speakers and throwing himself on the floor – can’t fault him for trying. The energy is great, it’s just a shame there isn’t stronger material to work with.
On the other hand, The Cruel Knives  definitely have a defined and unique sound. Featuring former members of Heaven’s Basement, this alt-rock four piece deal in big anthemic hooks and riffs. ‘Itch’ is stubbornly catchy, while ‘Crawl’ lives up to its name, creeping in with foreboding drums before exploding into a chorus that seems almost too big to be contained in this small room. Frontman Tom Harris has great pipes, but could work on his crowd interaction – “I’m not gay,” he replies sheepishly to a zealous fan professing his love from the crowd – and the performance as a whole occasionally devolves into arena-rock-by-numbers cheesiness.
Oddly, the crowd seems to have thinned out considerably by the time Eva Plays Dead  come on stage, which is truly a shame as they’re definitely the strongest band of the night. Their modus operandi is big riffs and even bigger hooks, well showcased on the Marmozets-esque ‘Spin’, the opening track from new EP, ‘The Fix’. Pint sized frontwoman Tiggy Dee has absolutely monstrous vocals, and no shortage of charisma. “We’ve just released an EP! Go and get it, because it’s fucking sick,” she declares, but the confidence is endearing and not obnoxious. The lukewarm crowd doesn’t seem to bother the band at all, and there’s something to be said for an act who will still give it their all, even in a half-filled room.
It’s a set packed with melodic choruses and very infectious rhythms, thanks to a manic performance from drummer Seb Boyse, whose skills are showcased when the band move the drum kit out on to the floor during closing track, ‘Monogamy’. At times, it feels discursive, and lacking in synergy – like this is a band still finding their feet, and not entirely sure where they want to go. But, this is a very solid foundation for Eva Plays Dead, and if they’re as good on record as they are live, they could soon be playing much bigger stages than this one.
Written by Lottie Cook (@pixelottie)