Live: Backspace and The Elephant Trees – Wardrobe, Leeds

When you look forward to a gig a little too much you risk being disappointed. Fortunately both Backspace and the Elephant Trees live at the Leeds Wardrobe in October 2018 were top notch. I’d wanted to catch young Guiseley based Backspace all summer but wasn’t in town for any of their gigs. Likewise, it has been a while since I’ve seen Manchester based The Elephant Trees, and I always have a good time at a Trees gig – indeed as far as the beer goes – too good.

If you might imagine I am kind to Backspace and generous with my comments because they are a young band (13-15) think again. Music is an adult business and in my book you either cut it or you don’t, however tender or advanced your age. Backspace certainly cut it; their 30 minute set was well paced with good bouncy music, and Otis my gig bud for the evening is a music student and was particularly impressed with the drumming for the loose but crisp and rolling playing style (the description actually echoes through all the band members performance) and for the musical ability of the band. The drummer turned to trumpet for a song, and the rhythm guitarist was in charge of the keyboards for one also. Lead vocalist Rosie meanwhile gave an assured and confident performance, and Boys was a particular highlight; it is clear Backspace are both naturals for the stage and love it too.

When the band played one of their early tracks, the aptly titled and enjoyable Don’t Stunt Your Growth, it was clear compared against their more recent work you could see how much all band members have developed. There is always a risk that the music loses its original charm as new styles and interests come to the fore, but I still loved the sense of confident space in the songs and they are still framed in that classic indie setting. Backspace were great this evening and were brilliant support for the Elephant Trees.

What to say about the Elephant Trees? This gig was part of their tour to celebrate the hatching of their new single Uncomfortable and it felt like something of a rebirth, even though they haven’t been away. Each time I review the Elephant Trees I just see a huge future for this band. Uncomfortable moves them further up the ladder towards becoming naionally established and recognised artists. Uncomfortable is full of complex rhythms and beats, and it feels like it has been produced by a band of many years experience rather than comparative newcomers.

The start of Uncomfortable has an almost indie funk rap feel to it before launching into its emphatically uncompromising and seriously banging energy and emotion fuelled chorus. Add the looping tunes and chords and this is a tune that perfectly melds those things that are current to those cherished indie things from the past. The song is a strong antidote to a view of youth being lazy and demanding, and also confronts the stigma of mental health.

Given the tune was the star of the show, The Elephant Trees gave a blistering performance and it was clear these particular trees were headed towards the skies. The drums of Tom Palmer were particularly noteworthy for being tighter than a Tory manifesto and together with the bass of Alex Goodall and the sizzling lead guitar of Sam Hugh-Jones this was one hell of a performance. With Martha Phillips being such an engaging lead the performance was pretty much top, and I can see live tickets for the band becoming scare as time moves on.

Backspace have gigs lined up at Hollygarth Social Club in Ilkley on 13 October and at Leeds Wharf Chambers on January 20th. Meanwhile the Elephant Trees finish their tour at Manchester’s Night and Day on Monday 15th October. Even more exciting is that the Elephant Trees are about to lose themselves in a recording studio for a while with an EP the aim.

Chris R


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