Birmingham, the grey, gargantuan pulsing heart of the country. It’s not really our cultural heart, nor does it pull in a vast amount of tourists, and once you get out of the city centre, it’s kind of a dead zone, slap bang in the middle of the country. But once you get past its need for regeneration and the sense that ‘this isn’t quite London’, you might discover that there’s a passionate and unrivalled music scene that refuses to give up the ghost. Bands like Layers, who are uncompromising, innovative and incomparable, are the kind of bands that grow from these Midlands scenes and in this case, are going to take the UK by storm.
Traffic mishaps and misadventures meant that we walked in halfway through Dead Sea Skulls’ (3.5/5) set, but the half that we caught was good fun. Indie rock and roll but with a neat twist in that the drummer is the frontman and he plays his drums standing up. It’s an endearing and charismatic move, even if it means that on occasion, the songs end up becoming a bit simplistic in their structure. Nevertheless, their showmanship and cheeky hooks more than made up for it.
There is nothing at all lacklustre about Layers (5/5). From the very first bars of their set, it was clear that something special was about to happen. Frontman Lance Joseph is entirely captivating as he dives from stage to floor, running the length of the room with pure childlike glee, all while maintaining the perfectly soulful vocals that make Layers stand out from the rest. That’s not to say that the rest of the band aren’t equally as involving or brilliant – the harmonies that make the new EP so exciting sound just as incredible live, there’s a great bit of slap bass and Layers take their musicianship extremely seriously while still retaining that passion for live performance. For the encore, the band play epic Gradually in its entirety, complete with string section and their ambition is entirely refreshing and joyful to behold. It’s a set filled with crowd favourites as well as the stunning new tracks though, and the packed out Academy 3 is filled with grinning faces and sweaty bodies by the end of the night. After all, this is a hometown crowd at an EP launch, who knew exactly what to expect, but there’s no doubt that in a different venue in a different city, Layers would have just the same effect. For any who thought that the Midlands wasn’t capable of producing anything as innovative as Layers any more, who play a weird but compelling combo of soul, pop and hardcore, they need to get down to a show. Mindblowing.