It was cold, to say the least. I was zooming back from class when I spotted Palma Violets kicking back on the steps of Sproul Hall facing a crowd of eager fans. At that moment, I knew 50 degree weather would hardly hold me back from the Brit-rock sensation. I’d soon find an escape into the loving crowd and high voltage rock.
Before Palma Violets, Skaters opened up the show. By their name alone, I expected head-banging noise punk, a cliché that follows a history of bad rock openers. How very wrong I was.
Based in New York, Skaters epitomized the classic post-punk, garage rock revival outfit so characteristic of the modern NY music scene. The first 15 seconds of the set did worry me. They were sad musical statues, a band bored to tears. But once the chorus set in, the band and the crowd awoke and the music took off.
After a couple of relentless crowd pleasers, Skaters unleashed an amazing ‘dance’ tune called “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)” It brought everybody to the stage. The lead singer tossed the mic stand in a very Strokes-ish manner while the drummer simultaneously stood and danced and tapped away at the snare like it was second nature.
Being an avid wheelchair user, I warily backed away from the swarming mosh pit. Sadly, thrashing audience members and wheels don’t mix. Nonetheless, malady turned to fortune as I found myself conveniently parallel parked next to the members of Palma Violets as they cheered on their awesome openers. I was hoping for an interview that night. In a way, this article is the self-centered manifesto of a nervous young journalist and her encounter with rock and roll.
Fast forward a few songs, Skaters had finished up favorably to allow Palma Violets to hit the stage. I took the intermission as an opportunity to grab some munchies and prepare myself for a surreal performance. When I returned, the band had launched into a clever Beach Boys cover to sound check before wowing the audiences with original masterpieces.
The atmosphere screamed of mania and euphoria. Although my hands had frozen to the point that I could no longer record the set list, my heart had warmed at the fond recollection of the familiar songs I had grown to love the night before, such as “Best Friends,” “Step Up For the Cool Cats,” and “14.” It was as if I’d heard them years before and known them forever.
As I melded into my new favorite band, I noticed the mosh pit transform into a wave of crowd surfers, girls being hoisted into the air and carried by love. One particularly enthusiastic bloke ran through the audience, urging people to always live life close to the stage, before jumping up on stage and joining bassist Chilli Jesson in a singing/screaming powwow. He later introduced himself as Harry Violet, the band’s merchandise man, mascot, and unofficial fifth member. The duo chased an unstable mic stand as it whipped around the stage (previously tarnished by the Skaters)—a comedic sight that only added to the intensity of their performance.
Sadly, as the show ended, I was once again reminded of the piercing cold so typical of a Bay Area winter. Nevertheless, I hadn’t endured it for nothing. After about 15 minutes of excited fan mingling and post-show ecstasy, I sat down with drummer Will Doyle and Harry Violet.
Under ideal conditions, I would give you a complete and wholesome interview with one of the biggest indie rock bands coming out of London. Instead, I give you sincerity. My hands were much too frozen to press the record button so I sat and took it all in.
I learned that the title of their debut album, 180, pays homage to the recording studio where its exhilarating tunes were mastered. When asked about their influences, they cited The Clash, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Kings of Leon.
Amidst the DJ music and the casual chatter, I managed to glean a curious insight into the European touring experience: “It’s different in the sense that, when touring Europe, crowds at first can be very standoffish and judgmental but if they like you, they really will go for it. Over here—“
Suddenly, the DJ decided to interrupt us by cranking “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” to the ultimate decibel. Being too cold to actually move to a quieter spot, I froze in the literal and figurative sense. Could my first interview get any worse? Was I that disabled? Dare I ask one of the coolest bands I’ve had the honor to witness in the past year for help?
I sure did, reluctantly and embarrassingly. Yet I must say, one of the coolest bands reacted in the coolest way and graciously offered assistance like it was the biggest non-issue of the night. After Will pressed a few buttons and turned a few knobs on my wheelchair, he punched the big red record button and we were back in action as if nothing had happened.
They described San Francisco as “a beautiful city, one of [their] favorites in America. It’s completely different with loads of character.”
Of course, as if fate were trying to tell me something, my recorder gave up the ghost after a mere four minutes. A full interview was not in the cards for the night. However, the cards did include an analysis of American food, a hilarious conversation surrounding Alexander the Great, and an engaging chat with guitarist Sam Fryer about his favorite TV show, Game of Thrones.
Before long, my limbs were popsicles, my wheelchair was acting wonky, and I had just finished my first and worst interview. But somehow, I drove off with a warm heart and a fond memory that will stay with me for a long time.
Article By Jade Theriault
Photos By Atreyue Ryken & Auliya Giddings