It’s a sweltering 30 degrees in Highbury tonight, the location of tiny upstairs venue Thousand Island, which sits above the famous Garage. Formerly known as Upstairs At The Garage, it recently underwent quite a revamp, and is now decked out in sparkly fabrics, velvety walls, and mirror balls.
Looking at the camp décor, you’d think the venue usually holds funk and disco club nights – and you wouldn’t be wrong. But, surprisingly, it hosts its fair share of shows for up-and-coming heavy bands, too, and tonight three of the finest will take the stage, headlined by underground darlings Palm Reader.
First up is COVE , five fresh-faced youngsters from London out to make a name for themselves. They recently parted ways with their old vocalist, but new boy on the block Harvey Freeman takes to the frontman role with confidence and conviction. There’s metallic riffs, breakneck drums, doomy bass – everything is drenched in virulent, youthful anger, and it’s a perfect warm-up for what’s to come. Tearing through a set of indisputably heavy bangers culminating in the epic ‘Reflect:Resolve’, which is a mosh starter if ever you’ve heard one, these guys prove to be a worthy addition to the circuit.
Up next is Haggard Cat , the chaotic two-piece born from the ashes of defunct hardcore mob HECK. These guys are pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll, and they’re ready to tear the venue a new one. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Matt Reynolds and drummer Tom Marsh, their set consists mostly of material from their acclaimed ‘Challenger’ LP, which they power through with so much energy that you feel tired just looking at them.
There’s a maniacal glint in Reynolds‘ eye as the filthy groove of ‘Bone Shaker’ sets the room alight, and the infectious chant of ‘American Graffiti’ clearly leaves a lasting impression on the now sweat soaked crowd.
With the room now packed to the rafters, the temperature doesn’t seem likely to lower any time soon, as Palm Reader  take the stage to a recording of instrumental track ‘Breach’ from their latest album, ‘Braille’. Interestingly, they kick things off with ‘Sing Out, Survivor’ from 2015’s ‘Beside The Ones We Love’, and it’s evident that whilst this might be a ‘Braille’ tour, the setlist is more than just a celebration of the album: it’s a celebration of their career so far.
That said, the excellent material from ‘Braille’ does feature heavily. The melancholic ‘Inertia’ sees Reynolds return to the stage for guest vocals, lead single ‘Swarm’ causes a mass eruption, and the sprawling epic that is ‘Coalesce’ provides possibly the night’s most poignant moment.
It’s interspersed with older favourites like ‘Noble Host’ and ‘Stacks’, which all go down a treat with the audience crowd, though none more so than ‘Seeing And Believing Are Two Different Things’, which produces audible gasps from fans who rush to engulf frontman Josh McKeown.
With performances like this, it’s anyone’s guess as to why Palm Reader aren’t playing to rooms three times this size. But perhaps we should be grateful that they’re not, or we wouldn’t get intimate, chaotic, incredible sets like these.