As December Falls – SWX, Bristol (26/11/23)

As December Falls – SWX, Bristol (26/11/23)

7th December 2023 0 By Gavin Griffiths

If I may channel my inner wombat, Christmas came early for this suddenly marsupial reviewer…sort of. (Hell of a seventeen-year-old reference, aged yourself wonderfully by there, Gav). While still in the tail end of November, December fell prematurely into our laps on a cold, wet, Wintery night in Bristol, before we could even look at where the first door was on our advent calendars. (I have a Taylor’s Port one, let me know what calendars you have in the comments!). Yes, Nottingham-based independent alt.-pop rockers AS DECEMBER FALLS pulled up to SWX, to kick off their biggest UK headline tour to date, celebrating the successes of their latest album; “Join The Club”, and they brought friends. All About The Rock was welcomed along to tonight’s initiation…here’s what went down… 

After a brief wait in the impressively sized Sunday evening queue, that wrapped around the corner of Fairfax Street in the damp, drizzly conditions, we were ushered in at around 7pm, with enough time to take out a mortgage for a beer before our first support act. Born in Chester but having grown up in North Wales, LIZZY FARRALL [7] gets tonight underway, with her blend of almost soulful indie and bouncy pop-rock. With her backing band in tow, she’s very visibly grateful for all of those who came out early to catch her set, and she’s really quite coy and, humble in demeanor. 

With a Palestinian flag very boldly and clearly draped over the guitar stacks on stage, she’s obviously aiming to spread a message of love, peace, togetherness and positivity, despite nothing really being spoken of; the flag is enough, but what are her songs like? Most of her set is taken from her debut album “Bruise” and she gets us underway with “Gas Lighting”. It’s initially a hushed, husky piece of subdued percussion-led shoegaze, but the chorus comes to life with a more assertive, commanding presence. “I miss the fucking but I hate the fighting, and every week we were gas lighting”, she’s clearly gone through a rough breakup; there’s regret, and a reluctance in her voice. It’s simple in delivery but raw in presentation, and mildly hypnotic. 

Set highlights include “Yellow Paint”, which channels the likes of YONAKA with its catchy, indie-driven groove, and let me tell you, any song with a saxophone solo/fill is an automatic win, here it adds an air of sadness to the already heartfelt solitude of the lyrics, given its tone, and it’s just superb. “Barbados” just has this, bright, Summery feel with its retro synth underlay, tinny guitar and up-beat presentation, disguising very longing lyricism about watching your love, love another. “Games” has elements of TWENTY ONE PILOTS in its production and delivery, with a quirky rhythm and joviality, while new single “Room 42” is more of an electronic, light dance pop number. Her set is brief, but bright, and she warms tonight’s early crowd up wonderfully, and there’s surely promising things to come from this artist, one to watch out for this. 

Next up we have DREAM STATE [9] who, and may I say, Jesus fucking Christ, tear the place a new one. The South Wales based post-hardcore outfit have practically undergone a complete transformation in terms of line-up, and it seems to have invigorated them tenfold in terms of purpose and drive. New front woman Jessie Powell couldn’t be anywhere further from Lizzy in terms of presentation and performance, even if you shot her into fucking space. Treading a fine line between finesse and ferocity, they tear through tracks like their new singles “Still Dreaming” and “Chin Up Princess”. The former, being a fine slab of melodic, hard pop-metal with some brutal verses vocally, while the latter houses a tinnier percussion, a feeling of true angst and bitterness, while in Jessie’s softer moments, she could easily appease fans of THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE.  

Tracks like “Taunt Me” harbour more of an electronic core sound with genuine dance along qualities, which truthfully have the crowd jumping up and down like maniacs…but that’s nothing. Jessie, despite her small stature, in her simplistic, unassuming white dress shirt, gets the Bristol crowd making full-on circle pits. It’s not the BIGGEST of venues, there’s room, don’t get me wrong, but there’s not one single fuck given, and it’s brilliant. They close up on “Primrose” which is a painfully relatable track about mental health. An astounding set, as Jessie innocently mentions her parents in the crowd, waving and smiling, before snarling like an absolute demon to a sweaty, ravenous audience. They may be called Dream State but they make soundtracks for nightmares and it’s beautiful. 

Finally, then, as I grab my fourth pint, expecting bailiffs at my hotel room because the drinks are that pricey that they’ve come to take a car I don’t even own to cover my outgoings, we get tonight’s headliners; AS DECEMBER FALLS [9], who are greeted with rapturous cheers. They open up with early cut “More To You” which is an enjoyable by-numbers melodic pop rock piece, setting the tone for tonight’s crescendo. There’s a hint of PANIC! AT THE DISCO in there if you pay attention. 

A lot of the set comprises of their newest album “Join The Club”, which is understandable, as it did incredibly well in the charts. Top 20 overall, topped the rock, download and independent charts, which, to be fair, for a completely independent band is fantastic; nothing but quality, hard work and word of mouth got them here and its commendable. The title track incites frenetic energy as the crowd here are 100% behind this band. Guitarist Ande asks the crowd who has seen them in Bristol before, showcasing the growth the band has seen in a few short years, naming smaller venues. You can’t not respect their determination, and it’s healthy for the industry to see this band do well. 

Singles like ”Little By Little” and “Carousel” are eagerly received by tonight’s packed crowd, highlighting exactly why the album has done so well. The former is rich in energetic melody and pop-punk vibrancy, while the latter houses a slightly gritter, meatier guitar sound adding weight to the band. Speaking of guitar, Ande does love a slick solo it has to be said, and ”Alive” just knocks it out of the park. There’s an extra sense of swagger here and it brings everything up a level. The same can be said for older tracks like “I Don’t Feel Like Feeling Great”, which has a similar energy resulting in big crowd sing-alongs, but it’s a surprisingly tender moment that stands out here. Bethany and Ande, albeit briefly, break into an acoustic rendition of “Happier” and it’s genuinely touching. 

At the end of the night, what we’ve witnessed here are three fierce front-women leading bands that, while, who are all maybe at different stages of their journey, are well equipped to ensure alternative music coming out of the UK is in good hands. This is just a small sample, of what is a vibrant, colourful UK music scene right now, and I’d recommend all three of these. Join the club…you won’t regret it. 

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