Picture the scene: Midnight, Saturday 8th May 2010. Against the flickering glow of streetlights, a girl stumbles towards her rented accommodation. Her clothes are sodden, reeking of beer and sweat. She’s lost a contact lens and gained a swelling (thanks to a sudden, unexpected ninja-kick to the face). In a scene reminiscent of ‘The Crystal Maze’, she wrestles with a bent key and runs into her bathroom. She showers, rubbing the grime from her hair with an unnaturally erotic relish. She leaves, sits on her bed and tries to process the night’s events. Thankfully, the police don’t need to be called. The girl has returned from a gig. The bands were Kill Hannah, My Passion and Octane OK, and she had no idea what she’d let herself in for.
I’m a ‘gothy type’; pessimistic and proud of it. I like melancholy music and monochrome t-shirts. I wear corsets to lectures and read Edgar Allan Poe in a fully non-ironic fashion! I thought I had this thing covered, I thought I knew who I was – that is, until tonight.
Firstly, I like Kill Hannah, but I’ve always regarded them as one of my secret guilty pleasures – something only your nearest and dearest need to know about. You file such pleasures away with the other unnatural urges you have – like how you like to sniff flannels and new sponges, or how you secretly love to stick your head in a washing machine after the cycle’s finished. Basically, they’re great, but let’s face it; they’re as dark and sinister as a Labrador puppy shitting marshmallows.
My first introduction to Kill Hannah, like many of us in the UK, was in 2007 when they supported HIM on their Venus Doom tour. Although they didn’t sing about unrequited love, satanic temptresses or torturing butterflies, their upbeat, high-energy ditties had me hooked. By the time Matt Devine (vocals) belted out those last few lines of ‘Lips Like Morphine’ I knew I had to see this band again, on their own shiny, happy terms. Three years later, that chance finally came- A headline tour, with an unfamiliar (to me, at least) support band. While queuing outside the venue, I was particularly surprised by the great lack of merch-laden Kill Hannah fans; while much of the crowd fulfilled my physical expectations, being waifish and heavily pierced with hair to rival Rainbow Brite’s, the majority seemed to be emblazoned with small heart designs. While Kill Hannah drew me, it seems the support band, My Passion, drew the masses.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I loathe squealing fangirls and scenekids as much as the next self-respecting person, and being surrounded by them was slightly intimidating. Not in that they looked remotely fearsome, or that I envied their retina-melting fashion choices, but because they made me feel so damn old. It’s a hard fact to admit, but these kids didn’t come out of the womb with those piercings, I’d shuffled through my little northern life while these kids were networking, dancing and shoving pins in each other. I’m coming up for twenty, but in this environment, it may as well have been fifty. Jesus, I mean, these kids couldn’t even remember the ‘golden age’ of Nu-Metal! (Okay, I admit it was far from a Golden Age, but humour me – nostalgia’s all I’ve got to keep me going before arthritis sets in).
The gig itself was held in the Birmingham O2 Academy 2. Being a foreigner to these parts, this was an unfamiliar venue, but, like much of the evening, turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise. Unlike many other venues I’ve frequented over the years, the door staff were pleasant and efficient and for once, made sure everyone kept their place in line- no fangirls were going to come to blows over queue-jumping (which, coming from someone who’s been to their fair share of HIM gigs, is a familiar, yet unpleasant sight). After tottering in from the back of the queue, me and my companion did the ‘usual merch run’, spending our hard earned student loan (!) on over-priced t-shirts and novelty necklaces as so to beat the post-show rush.
After shunning the crowded bar and taking our place in amongst the backcombed masses, the first band soon took to the stage, the snappily titled ‘Octane OK’ . These four guys from Birmingham really brought the goods, and provided a high-energy fun set of harmless pop-punk ditties. Octane OK have a particularly well-polished radio friendly sound to them, and it really is only a matter of time until we see their fresh Brummie faces grace the ‘introducing’ pages of Kerrang! While they did indeed provide a suitably danceable opening, it could be said that (in places) some of their songs seem to be far too derivative of All Time Low (which resulted in a number of painfully predictable choruses and chants). As for the aesthetics of the group, it could not be ignored that these lads loved their v-necks, with their bassist taking the neckline into ‘chest-porn’ territories. And, while we really should’ve been listening to their music and appreciating their high-energy stage antics, their lustrous hair proved far more compelling to watch.
Having never listened to My Passion before, and not being terribly aware of the extent of their rabid following, I was in no way prepared for the set I was about to witness. Before My Passion took to the stage for their sound check, the excitement in the room was thick like London fog, with a distinct crush beginning to occur in the front rows of the excitable crowd. As My Passion’s peroxide guitarist, John Be took to the stage to the stage to tune his guitar, the screams were deafening. The same reaction was received by each member, aside from My Passion’s elegantly coiffed frontman, Mr Lawrence Rene. The noises emitted from the waifish girls crushed against that metal barrier were not dissimilar to that of a jet engine (if a jet engine wore fishnets and eye liner). Aesthetically, the band command attention- with their monochrome outfits, hair and guitars, they look like a band with a clear idea of who they are, and what they’re here to do. My Passion are also particularly lucky in that each member would not look out of place pinned to a teenage girl’s bedroom – the dramatically good looks held within this quartet are sickening
Yet from the first few bars of the anthemic ‘Day of the Bees’, no-one could be in any doubt that My Passion are going to be huge, and not just a pretty flash in the pan. With a melodic blend of synths and heavy guitar-ridden choruses, My Passion have carved their own niche and have sculpted a fresh and exciting sound all of their own. During their brief set, My Passion pumped out tune after blinding tune. The passion (excuse the pun) and raw energy within the foursome is truly breathtaking, with each member clearly relishing their time on stage and the very vocal adoration of their fans. As a frontman, Lawrence Rene is faultless, throwing himself, and his guitar, around the stage as though he were wired into the mains. The energy from their live performance was contagious, and soon, the whole audience was moving as one, hanging onto each chord and each considered word. The crowd-pleasing ‘Crazy and Me’ and polished ‘Never Never Land’ finale proved that they are indeed the much-needed voice of the Kerrang generation.
After My Passion returned backstage, a noticeable portion of the crowd seemed to move away from their choice spots against the barrier, towards the back of the room (Yet as soon as Kill Hannah take to the stage, many of the My Passion fans realised they’d made a clear mistake and soon ploughed back into the crowd). After a suitably dramatic, smoke-filled entrance, the Chicago collective took to the stage with ‘Mouth to Mouth’, a particularly powerful opener from their new Album ‘Wake up the Sleepers’. With a carefully considered blend of old and new material, Kill Hannah, and their stylish frontman, Mat Devine command the stage with great ease and grace. Devine’s amusing reckless demands for ‘a tidal wave of crowd-surfers’ and generally amusing banter entranced and entertained us all, ensuring that there was no dip in energy and excitement, even if some songs were down tempo. Although Kill Hannah jokily refer to themselves as a ‘fag band’ and are seemingly inoffensive, the crowd madness brought about by Devine’s crazy demands was like nothing I’ve experienced in years – the moshing and synchronised pogo-ing brought the room to fever pitch. And oddly, the multiple kicks to the face I sustained through Converse-wearing surfers could all be forgiven thanks to Devine’s infectious rock ‘n roll attitude. The music of Kill Hannah has undergone a great evolution from their ‘American Jet Set’ days in 1999, yet their Killer Hooks and raw energy has remained intact in their work and, after so many years of touring, still retain a clear belief and passion in their music, which is a trait lacking in so many bands of a similar ilk. After listening to their beautiful cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’, and their surprise performance of American Jet Set’s title track, it was clear that Devine and co. were more than capable of providing the gig of a lifetime.
Anyone attending this cramped little Birmingham gig could not be failed to be blown away by the energy and sheer dedication of both My Passion and Kill Hannah- indeed members of both stayed long after the gig had finished to sign merchandise and pose with waiting fans. The UK needs more bands like Kill Hannah, but while they’re back in their homeland, My Passion will be ready and waiting to entertain the masses. Catch them both while you can, as they’re sure to go stratospheric, but whatever you do, don’t forget to bring your eyeliner.