Heading out for their first ever headline tour anywhere in the world, US rockers Venrez found themselves in a sparsely populated Audio in Glasgow, Scotland. Not many may have braved gale force winds and sideways rain that happily stung faces, but those that did were treated to an eclectic line-up of bands where everything from upbeat jangly rock and grunge to powerful melodic rock and a slice of sleaze, was served up. Add into that mix, one of the hottest up-and-coming UK rock acts, in the shape of The King Lot and the only thing missing was a capacity crowd!
Often you take your life in your hands when you make the effort to turn up early, rain soaked and cold (the door in the hall leading straight outside wouldn't help that fact all night…) to watch young local acts earn their spurs; the standard not always up to that desired. However we were immediately in safe hands with Static Rock, a Motherwell band who knew how to put the jangle into rock via a twelve string acoustic guitar running alongside some keen electric fret work. However the star of the show was singer (and twelve stringer) Mathew MacConnell, whose sweet yet strong voice set the tone for each of the band's selections. Although guitarist Eddie Callaghan also did some sterling, understated work . "Take My Chances" and the slow potential hit, "Loving You" were the highlights, but in all honesty, the standard was surprisingly high from start to finish.
Rank Berry (now that's an awful name…) were a different proposition altogether. This was an act who obviously felt they belonged on a stage somewhere on the Sunset Strip, with flashes of everything from Aerosmith to Guns n' Roses and The Black Crowes right through to the Sex Pistols. Guitarist Brian Kerr had the moves; twirling, shaking and pouting as he oozed attitude and confidence, while frontman and second guitarist Jamie O'Donnell utilised convincing a high pitched vocal attack. Songs were introduced as "the new one" and "the second new one", although during a number that did actually possess a name, "Love On The Battlefield", drummer Grant Dallas was so loose he nearly came undone. It would be interesting to witness Rank Berry (still not feeling that name) in front of a big, enthusiastic audience to see if their "we're too good for this" vibe cuts the mustard. However in front of a few hardy souls who wanted to be invited in to the show, rather than be treated as bystanders, it was a hard sell. This lot do have a lot going for them, but in truth, while they were enjoyable, at this stage, attitude over songs, is an apt description.
Having previously been treated to a storming set from Bathgate trio The King Lot when they gave seasoned veterans The Answer a run for their money in Edinburgh last year, it was no surprise when they romped out of the blocks with the simply awesome "Let's Get Together" from their hugely impressive self titled debut album. "Addicted" balanced the punchy melody of the opener against a more adrenalin fuelled attack, before "Telegram" kept the intensity levels amazingly high. Utilising a three man harmony assault, one of the most impressive aspects in the TKL's armoury is that each of the three guys in this power trio can seriously sing. Although in bassist Jason Sweeney there's no denying that they have a frontman of real class. The full throttle "As They Burn" set everyone within striking distance aflame, while the Power-Pop-Punk-Rock wallop of "One Of These Days" simply roasted all in attendance alive. A superb and unexpected cover of the Love/Hate cult classic, "Blackout In The Red Room" showed the versatility of this threesome, before the smooth attack of "Until My Dying Day" gave drummer Chris Gillon the chance to once more show his controlled power behind the kit, while guitarist Michael Fairbairn peeled off another in a succession of captivating solos. "The Bang Of A Drum" beat hard as the small, but hugely appreciative crowd showed their enthusiasm for a band who seem destined for bigger, better things - and soon. Remember the name, for The King Lot look set rein for a long time to come.
All of which left tonight's headliners Venrez with a lot of work to do to catch up with an act who are obviously and deservedly local favourites. With a vocal harmony attack which strongly reminds of Alice In Chains, new single "Hang The Predator" kicked things off in uncompromising fashion. Guitarist Jason Womack was completely in the zone, as the awkward but effective mainman, Ven, orchestrated proceedings from the centre of the stage. "Intellectual Drool" continued in the same vein, a mid-paced thump the order of the day; title track to the just released Children Of The Drones proving just how effective the approach can be, Ven and Womack combining voices to quite startling effect. Not that this style worked for everyone though, the crowd thinning a little as time wore on. Drummer Ed Davis couldn't have cared less though, the sticksmith a blur of hair and cymbals, his full on pummel an impressive sight and sound to behold. Marry that percussive persuasion to Womack's guitar and there's no doubting the talent the ex-Juliette Lewis and And The Licks pair posses, while bassist Nico D'Arnesse was no slouch either. Using his mic-stand as an elongated slide on his fretboard, Womack then found himself attacked by said stand as it insisted on falling on him and almost following him around the stage before Ven stepped in to break-up the tussle. However that wasn't the last of the drama, with D'Arnesse's monitor not satisfied with making a break for freedom by nearly falling off the front of the stage, it started to smoke rather worryingly; a roadie darting from the gloom to cut off its power supply and save the day. On record the Venrez punch really hits hard and yet, in the live setting, the lack of alteration in pace from song to song doesn't quite have the same effect. And even with a charismatic frontman at the helm, the results don't always hit home as they should. That said Venrez are still an imposing proposition on stage and there's no denying the craft and skill on show. However on this particular occasion it was the local lads, The King Lot, who ran away with the crown.