The night starts with Welles, a stoner-rock four-piece from Arkansas, all styled like they were raised on Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’. Yet despite their generic looks, the band have developed a sound that’s not so obvious, as if they have taken the lyrical immaturity of Weezer, and infused it with the shaky melancholy of early 90’s psychedelia and the sub-pop movement. In introducing their songs, they adopt again an immature approach, as frontman Jeh Sea Wells announces “This next song is called ‘Seventeen’, and it’s about being seventeen”, a similar line used for ‘Codeine’. However, I wouldn’t say this stereotype is to be taken at face-value, but rather be as a clever satire of their generic stoner-image.
There is an eager buzz in the Garage in the intermission between bands, with the age divide clear- indie kids at the front, and more mature gig-goers at the back. The former later prove to be the greater source of energy throughout the night, not being afraid to let loose and dance, while the older crowd generally stayed within a safe distance of the bar.
Highly Suspect soon strut onstage while a Michael Buffer-like voice booms through the venue, exciting the crowd, asking if they are “fucking ready”, launching straight into their set with their breakthrough single ‘Bath Salts’, and two more tracks from their 2015 debut album Mister Asylum. The band leave a 30 second pause between ‘Bath Salts’ and the follow up song ‘Lost’, with this build-up of anticipation encouraging the young crowd to explode during the song’s guitar-heavy intro.
Despite being coined ‘The Boy Who Died Wolf Tour’, very few songs were played from the album in comparison to Mister Asylum, with the debut proving much more popular among the crowd. In introducing politically focussed ‘Viper Strike’, Stevens calls out to inform the crowd that the band “hate [their] fucking president”. This declaration is unsurprising when considering the song’s direct and explicit attack on Trump, with the chorus “We’re all equal / Except for you / ‘Cause you’re an asshole, with an ugly point of view”.
The crowd are their most dormant when bassist Rich takes the helm with unreleased track ‘Round and Round’ – an honest, vocally spiralling song of heartbreak, demonstrating the diversity of this band’s talent. Later through the gig the crowd are again nullified, this time by Ryan Meyer’s three-part intense drum-solo. The crowd enjoy this for the first two segments, launching into a nervous pit, but by the third part this enthusiasm was lacking, which is unfortunate as Meyer exercised proof of real raw talent, which of the drummer more than not goes under-appreciated. He did not take this in bad spirit, though, as he proceeded to applaud himself before exiting the stage.
Perhaps the greatest misfortune of the night though was how Garage staff caused the encore the be cut short to just one song, on the premise that there was a “disco” after the gig, which had to take priority. Despite this set back the band immersed themselves in their last song ‘My Name Is Human’, which in parts is reminiscent of the rap-rock duo Twenty One Pilots.
Overall, Highly Suspect and Welles complimented each other nicely, delivering a night of heavy, emotionally and politically driven music, in which it remains a great shame that this had to be cut short by a venue that is typically supportive of the musicians it houses.
Image: Jenn Five