Norfolk’s Deaf Havana have had a fair few stylistic changes throughout their nearly fifteen year long career thus far, and their most recent with last year’s full-length ‘Rituals’ saw them tread into more pop-driven territory.
Admittedly it’s a direction that plenty of bands have started to favour and walk down in recent years. For some it comes across as disingenuous, but for others – Deaf Havana included – it’s a comfortable fit that breathes a breath of fresh air both into the world of rock and indeed pop too. Now, the Norfolk quartet are showcasing this new era of their career across the UK.
At the Manchester stop of the run, latest pop-punk talk of the town Hot Milk  are performing their first hometown show. Despite only two songs to their name to date, there’s been plenty of buzz surrounding them since their inception, and without a doubt their debut single ‘Awful Ever After’ is a bonafide bop, but there’s a risk here that the quartet may be running before they can walk.
The boy/girl vocal trade-off akin to We Are The In Crowd is a tried and tested formula that works, and James Shaw and Hannah Mee even take it in turns to ditch their guitar and just handle a microphone for two currently unreleased songs mid-set. Yet, there’s an air that the band are trying a bit too hard to please the masses. ‘Are You Feeling Alive?’ ironically sounds a little lifeless, Mee can’t seem to stay still for a moment, and a nonsensical mention that “Brexit is a lie” without any fitting context just seems odd. There’s potential, sure, but for now this glass of milk is a little tepid.
Scottish troupe The LaFontaines , however, seem cool, collected, and confident in their boisterous and rap tinged brand of mid-00s era Biffy Clyro. It’s a simple and effective format as a trio, stripping back the pizzazz and flair in favour of letting the energy of the set do the talking instead.
Kerr Okan is one hell of a frontman, standing atop the barrier at the front of the crowd, and at one point making his way up to the rafters above the stage with the seated audience, walking amongst them shoulder-to-shoulder whilst spitting along to cuts like ‘Release The Hounds’ and their newer offering, ‘All In’. This three-piece could fairly easily headline rooms like this on their own if the industry gives them a bit more of a push into the spotlight.
Not ones wanting to be overly flashy and in-your-face, Deaf Havana  keep their stage show straightforward and minimalistic with just a fluorescent fuchsia coloured light of their Holy logo at the back of the stage, which also looks pretty similar to Vivienne Westwood’s orb logo, complete with its religious connotations.
Cutting right into the thick of it with ‘Fever’, the Norfolk quartet prove throughout their over hour long set that they’ve now got a hefty batch of material to work with. Admittedly, it takes a few songs for Deaf Havana to swing fully into life, but by the time we reach ‘I’m A Bore, Mostly’ and ‘Trigger’ their true potential really starts to show.
‘Hunstanton Pier’ is a bit more of a sombre moment, and makes the following number ‘Hell’ all the more intense. Indeed, it’s at this point where electricity really gets charged into the room. James Veck-Gilodi puts down the guitar for the first of a few times during the night, and though by his own admission not the most comfortable frontman to ever take to the stage, it’s clear how much passion and conviction he feels for the song and its message, borderline yelling its chorus whilst joined by a returning yet fleeting visit from The LaFontaines‘ own Kerr Okan who incites the frenzy at the barrier.
The night really soars on from this point, and it’s truly the band’s freshest material that stands the strongest. It’s hard to not sing along to the toe-tapping ‘Holy’ or the catchy as hell ‘Sinner’ once they rear their heads, and you can’t ignore how fitting these somewhat religion referenced songs are in a venue that was originally a Methodist central hall.
Deaf Havana aren’t deities and they’re not preaching a religion, but they sure know how to put on a captivating ritual.