Venrez, Hardcore Superstar and Buckcherry at KoKo, London, 22 November 2013

Recently I’ve started to fear for the state of Rock. Not metal mind you – aside from being plagued with an overabundance of elitist twats Metal is doing just fine. But the state of ROCK, à la Alice Cooper, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi and Guns N’ Roses has been looking a little sorry of late. Gone, it seems, are the days of men (and women) with gorgeously wavy hair shredding their guitars soulfully whilst wailing about the lack/abundance or drugs/sex/money/women/men/fast cars.

Given that I cut my teeth on all of the aforementioned bands and whilst I love me some metal, I also love me a damn good power ballad, I’ve been a bit depressed lately at the seeming lack of good ROCK. It’s all been a bit lacklustre…… until Friday, when I set foot in the former Camden Palace, now KoKo and had my socks quite literally blown off by the combined power of three different Rock bands who between them have got the LA School, The Old School and the Heavily Covered In Tattoos and Looking Awesome School covered. Due to a set of circumstances too complex to explain I spent the night right at the back by the Merch stands, so my photos did not work, but if you really want  you can go and look at pictures of the bands and imagine it.

Starting at the beginning with the mighty Venrez my ears were assaulted by a curious combination of Alice in Chains meets every band in the 70’s with some extra political lyrics. I love Venrez – and have thought they were excellent ever since I reviewed their album American Illusion. In person they do not disappoint. Not only are Ven and Alex (Frontman and Guitarist respectively) both utterly nice blokes, Alex has been on my ‘Heroes of Music’ list since I was 18, and the whole band bring an energetic and original show. They don’t leap around the stage – they’re a bit more chilled than that but Alex shreds frantically and Ven just growls away and then  the drums are totally on point and don’t even get me started on the harmonies. Anyway, if you like your rock to be Old School but original you’ll like these guys and you should check them out.

I have to have a little whinge at this point – whilst Venrez did an excellent job of warming the crowd up I do feel bad for them. Koko has a 10pm curfew on a Friday night, and so subsequently, the Venrez set was scheduled 15 minutes after doors, and was only 30 minutes long. This means that not even a third of the crowd was in at the point they started playing – Koko is a biggish venue and it was totally sold out. A huge chunk of the crowd didn’t get to see them and this does both the crowd (who have paid for three bands) and the band (who have to try and whip up the same level of frenzy from a teeny crowd) a huge disservice. They will be touring the UK again next year  though and I do urge you to go give them a try, as they’re rather good.

Now, you know a support act is good, when the OTHER support act spend ten minutes of your interview slot raving about how good they are! Both Ven and Alex made a point of telling me to make sure I watched the whole Hardcore Superstar set. I didn’t give it that much credence – I’d never listened to them and really I wasn’t expecting much.

Well that was just TOTALLY STUPID of me. Honestly, they tore the place apart. Tore. It. Down. I can tell you that this morning when I put their album on for my walk to the office I was DISAPPOINTED, because it wasn’t as good as seeing them live. The crowd agreed – they were going absolutely crazy and there were as many people there to see HCSS as there were Buckcherry. Their set was punchy, it was fast, it was energetic and they had the crowd screaming, and they’ve earned themselves another fan- I will be following these guys with great interest now. They remind me of what would happen if Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi and Alice Cooper somehow had a baby – an angry, long-haired, harmonic pit of rock, screaming about women and booze and leading their followers in Jägermeister toasts.

The only problem with having two great support acts is that they are then very hard to follow. And this proved to be the case for Buckcherry. I love Buckcherry. I’ve loved them since I very first heard Crazy Bitch, and I was first in line to see them a few years back when they toured with Papa Roach (playing in my hometown on my birthday no less!). That night they were incredible – the crowd collapsed three times, and everyone was a hot sweaty and slightly bloody mess by the end.

On Friday they were….. good. But that’s it. There were a couple of songs where Josh was slightly off key, and the crowd interaction was just a bit lacking. I still danced my ass off, but there was something from the stage show just missing. I was also disappointed by the lack of newer material played – don’t get me wrong I was thrilled to hear the likes of Lit Up, Sorry and Crazy Bitch but I wanted to hear a lot of the Confessions album and it didn’t see much play. I suspect that to be honest, the problem was that they were somewhat eclipsed by HCSS – had they had a good, but not amazing support act I’d probably have a totally different perspective on the set.

Either way it was a show that was well worth the £25 ticket price. The venue was absolutely jam packed, and it was a great atmosphere. It’s just a shame that I got more out of the support acts (both of whom I hope to see headlining in the next couple of years) than I did the main act. I’d still go see Buckcherry again though……..

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