Live Review: As Elephants Are, Big Sixes & Coastal Cities at Bucks Student Union 7/11/13

Charlie Costello - Big Sixes

Charlie Costello – Big Sixes

The boys from Bucks are back where they belong and they won’t let anything halt their performance… not even a power-cut.

It’s 8:20 when I approach the students’ union for what I hope will be another memorable Thursday night of music at the heart of High Wycombe. On arrival, Charlie from Big Sixes reassures me that despite a major power cut during soundcheck, the gig goes ahead. Not only are these bands back in Bucks with a bang, but also with a few loose wires and short-circuits too.

Familiar territory, familiar faces. Almost everyone who enters the student union tonight is on the guest list and knows one of the bands somehow. So, we should be in for a good night. What’s more, all three Bucks- bred bands on the bill have known each other for some time and there’s a genuine admiration for each other’s work. There is no headline act tonight; instead they fairly draw straws on who will play each slot.

Before that though, k4mo, takes to the stage, Apple Mac and drummer in tow. It’s not such a spectacle to watch but is a gentle opener to the night and with his low grumbling vocals, you could almost be mistaken for thinking you were listening to ‘King Krule’.

As Elephants Are are next on the bill, after pulling the first straw out. Opening with slow and steady, ‘Lucifer’, crowds slowly gather to watch the foursome take stage. Lead singer, Ben Stratford’s, voice is quavering but more confident than ever and having had a taste of the big time playing at Reading and Leeds festival in August, they have matured with a consistent, moody sound, similar to that of ‘The Maccabees’. The band finish on newest single, ‘Crystal’, a more upbeat track bursting with energy, exemplified by the quietly exuberant drummer letting loose to the lively indie tune.

Make way for Big Sixes. Fresh from a tour with rock band of the moment, ‘Deaf Havana’, they may soon be ready to follow in their footsteps. Lead singer, Charlie Costello’s way with words and hand gestures are like a medieval court jester as he grasps out at the biggest crowd of the night – and they love it.  Since their first EP, Big Sixes have acquired two new members and a more bluesy sound. At points, the close togetherness of harmonies in ‘Love Let Me Go’ is similar to Mumford & Sons whereas other songs are more reminiscent of The Cure. Throughout the set Charlie teases the crowd with the opening riff from old favourite, ‘The Devil Makes Work For Idle Tongues’ until eventually bursting into the lively number; it feels they have been saving it especially for Bucks. They finish on the preaching tune of, ‘Swallowing Flies’ which leaves echoes around the room. No pressure then, Coastal Cities.

They needn’t feel any. Having recently shot a video for a Burberry advertising campaign, Coastal Cities have what it takes to break through the Bucks music scene. Presenting the crowd with a range of new songs, the quintet stay true to their indie-pop nature;  the synth is dreamy, the vocals are of an 80s drone, and they throw more bouncy riffs at the crowd than you could shake a stick at.

The ironic name of the band comes from the fact that High Wycombe is the furthest point from the coast in England but throughout the set, they make the crowd feel their summery vibes. Closing with new single, ‘Summer Reign’, the winter breeze outside is forgotten and the band bask us in their summer glory.

I was lucky enough to grab a few words with lead-singer of Big Sixes, Charlie Costello, after his band’s performance:

1. First things first, how was it playing back in Bucks?

It was awesome to be back. We played our last show of the year at Bucks SU last year, it’s cool to come back and see new faces each time.

2.What did you make of the other bands on the bill?

As Elephants Are have the sickest guitar tones in the world, I want to steal all of their equipment. I’ve been kicking about with the boys in Coastal Cities for years, its amazing how far they’ve come from just being five snotty nosed fourteen year olds in The Roundabout.

3. You played one of your oldest songs tonight but tend to focus on new material. Which do you prefer to play live and in what way has your style changed?

Haha, yeah we did. The new stuff is definitely my favourite to play live. I can’t be doing with that 190bpm indie punk shit my lungs would probably collapse if I had to keep singing those songs. I prefer all the acoustic and more chilled out stuff.

4. You’ve recently acquired two new members. Can you tell us more about them and what they bring to the band?

They’re just two really good friends of ours that come help out when we play gigs. Jim is an incredible singer/songwriter we’ve been knocking about with for years, and Niall is a bit of a Big Sixes super fan. He knew all the songs before we even asked him to help out. It’s cool having them as part of the live band, the dynamic is more interesting and it means we don’t have to be one of those backing-track bands, we hate that stuff.

5. Having been on tour with Deaf Havana, have you learnt much from them?

Umm, to not leave Max in their dressing room on his own. They force fed him lots of spirits and we had to pull the van over a couple of times to let him be sick, and to just be as real and honest as you can possibly be, learn your craft, get your head down and just do it properly.

6. Which place on the tour was your favourite to play?

 Camden Roundhouse was crazy, people were singing back at us and it was just surreal. Cambridge was awesome too and we went to this sick burger restaurant in Nottingham.

7. What’s next for Big Sixes?

 We’re gonna get our heads down in the studio for a while and start working on some stuff. We’ve got some really cool shows booked up for next year too.

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