18th January | Crofters Rights

There are few bands around at the moment that can find the right balance of compelling catchiness and inventive improvisation quite like Bournemouth trio, Leeches. Combining  riffs in psych, prog and jazz with a tight conciseness that pushes their particularly absorbing vocal melodies to the fore, the three-piece warrant the reputation that precedes them. It is on full show, as the band take over Crofters Rights for a thoroughly enjoyable set.

Opening the night, wych elm prove themselves to be an even better live proposition than their excellent recorded output attests. Playing as a four-piece, there is a surprising richness to their full sound; the scratchy, mellow melodies that flow through their singles is backed with an immersive rhythm section that simmers effortlessly. Closer, ‘School Shooter’ is a bashful consideration live, the band thriving by maintaining the delicacy of its minimalism, rather than breaking into animated unadulterated noise – which you can imagine they would also be quite adept at. It’s the subtlety of their songs that shines brightest, even more so within a live setting.

Supporting Leeches through the opening half of this tour, The Dolce Vita bring their excitable dose of wiry rock ‘n’ roll to an excitable crowd. It’s enthusiastic, playful and assured all in equal measures, the shared vocal duties between Chris Jones and Michael-James Dent in particular bringing out the sardonic nature of their songs and excellent magnetism between the group as a whole. Jones strives to grace the whole of the stage, swinging from the side of the stage and brandishing a tambourine to smash on his chest. ‘Living The Dolce Vita’ gets an invigorating change in pace, possessing a much more raucous temperament, whilst retaining that sense of cheeky sentiment. Latest single, ‘What Would Your Mother Say’ is given the same understated adaptation, possibly evolving into their best song yet. There’s also the tenderness of ‘Sofa Bed’, perhaps their most intimate and mature song, and a comforting sing-along live (as well as a sleepy, psych wig-out). It’s a fantastic closer, and an exciting sign of what the group could deliver in the future.

It’s immediately observable from the off that Leeches are damn good musicians. The free-flowing, technical ability they possess not only riffs hard, fast and without restriction, but they know how to enchant and still have a lot of exploratory fun in the process. The songs flourish all the more for it live; ‘Stranger’ is an almighty track that still retains its eerie vulnerability in its verses, Frank Waloszek’s drumming explosive yet always impervious, while the vocal harmonies between Ben Lowe and Jack Pierce compliment each other furtively, the high and loose approach of Lowe’s vocal poised amongst Pierce’s roaring tone. Live, their songs remain undeniably irresistible, the tightness they display as a group somehow giving new songs like ‘I Watch TV’ even more clout and robustness, as they fling themselves from side to side without missing a note. It reaches near-breaking point with favourites, ‘Strange Bonds’ ‘Inside Voices’ and ‘Regular’, the crowd returning the sentiment in full voice. Closing with their 10-minute freak-out of ‘Bob Ross’, the group descends into full improvised noise for as long as they can possibly venture with as much commitment as they had from the opening break-out of ‘All My Fun’.

The quality on show this evening is testament to why engaging new music consistently finds new ground within such a city as Bristol. Leeches in particular should look forward to a very gratifying 2018, just as their own gig was for the crowd tonight.