Photo: Rowan Allen

Garage-rock four piece Van Zeller have been relatively quiet over the last few months since their headline show at The Louisiana earlier this year, a show that helped to really stamped their authority on the Bristol scene.

A chaotic, sweaty, raucous affair, the crowd put in just as much as the band, creating a seething mass of flying limbs to accompany their 100mph songs. The clichéd question that I asked myself before the show was whether they could scale up their sound to fill the bowels of Thekla, and the answer in short is yes, obviously they can.

Before I was able to get an answer to that question, post-hardcore outfit Milo’s Planes and Bournemouth riff-masters Leeches both had their chances to upstage the homecoming. Milo’s Planes are a familiar sight in the Bristol scene now, and their pummelling yet intricate post-punk set mixes FugaziBlood Brothers and other contemporaries into a unique sound that blew the ear drums out of anyone down early enough to catch them. With their added percussionist, Milo’s Planes stun the crowd through a combination of intricate guitar work, and thunderous breakdowns.

Leeches also brought down a mix of influences, ranging from sludgy grunge to early Black Sabbath style psyche-metal. Their set includes a hell of a lot of riffs, a feature from LICE bassist Gareth and a drum solo, a move that only Leeches seem to be able to get away with.

Van Zeller need to bring the thunder to compete with the two fantastic openers they selected, and boy oh boy they do. The band bound onstage – complete with fifth touring member brandishing a tambourine and in full Adidas tracksuit – and launch into the gritty, scruffy garage we know and love them for.

Much like their Thekla show earlier this year, bodies start flying early on in the set, with crowd members and band members combining in a sweaty mess. The band’s singles, especially the most recent ‘The Coward’, up the ante further. What the band has yet to properly put down on record is their slower, more considered numbers, including the last song they play, a slow burning and utterly hypnotic number, the kind of song that could close any album. These slower moments reveal a different side to the band, adding a depth that it can be easy to forget they have.

All that being said, it was the band’s raucousness which their known for, and the Thekla show is no different. As they slink off stage, the audience is left with every chorus swirling around their head, and it is easy to see the band take even bigger steps forward in 2018.