Live Review: Hands Like Houses w/ Jule Vera & Normandie | The Fleece, Bristol | 23/10/2018

It's been two years since Australian alt-rockers Hands Like Houses did a headline tour on UK soil. They released their fourth studio album, Anon on 12th October after announcing they'd signed to Hopeless Records. While the record may have received some mixed comments, we couldn't wait to head to the Fleece to check out their renowned live show for ourselves.

Alabama indie pop quintet Jule Vera (7.5) was the first band to face the eager attendees at The Fleece. The band's sound is predominantly pop. But this didn’t stop a vast array of their varying influences shining through in their big riffs, precise drum beats, and stunning basslines. Frontwoman Ansley Newman had a soft vocal that perfectly offset the heavier aspects of her band's music. '10,000 Hours' saw Newman bring out a ukulele, a controversial move that enticed scoffs and groans from some audience members.

As Jule Vera flew through their set they came out of their shells and got into their groove. Guitarists Jake Roland and Chase Haws whirled around the stage while Newman danced her way through ‘Bad Company' with admirable confidence. ‘Porch Swing' slowed things down and highlighted the musical and lyrical ability of the five. While it was a stunning song, it didn't grab the full attention of the crowd and ended up missing its mark. Nonetheless, Jule Vera played a commendable set and was an apt choice of openers for Hands Like Houses.

Post-hardcore outfit Normandie (8.5) proved themselves to be real showmen as they began their set in Bristol. They held themselves with certainty, and small pockets of the crowd already loved them – definitely a confidence booster. Both Normandie's energy and enjoyment were infectious; a large portion of the crowd found themselves beaming as the band threw themselves into their performance.

Vocalist Philip Strand showed off immense power in his voice as he switched from stunningly soft croons to anguished screams in mere moments. He spoke to the crowd as though we were old friends, and this connection made it easy for the band to encourage mass sing-alongs. The tunes in Normandie's arsenal were incredibly varied, from the danceable ‘Believe', to the anthemic ‘Awakening', and even the huge, heavy ‘Collide' which closed their set.

While many would see them as "just a support band", Normandie proved themselves to be stars in the making; their songs are catchy, their attitudes wonderful, and their shows packed full of fun and smiles. Their new album is out now, and we recommend you keep an eye out for these guys in the future.

Hands Like Houses (9) were the hotly anticipated band of the night. The crowd waited politely through Jule Vera's set and got a bit rowdy for Normandie. But this was nothing compared to the reception they gave the Aussies.

Bodies pressed closer together as the five-piece walked on stage. Energy levels rose as the quintet got stuck right into the groovy ‘New Romantics'. At singer Trenton Woodley's command of "bounce", there was wall to wall movement. With spot-on rhythm, the perfect blend of guitars and synths and a frontman/showman that perfectly directed the show, it was impossible not to have fun.

‘Tilt' struck a chord with the crowd; the atmosphere became euphoric as the room sang the lyrics alongside Woodley. While this song was a fan favourite, the reception it received was nothing in comparison to the older songs. ‘Introduced Species' from 2013's album Unimagine connected everyone in a single moment as they shouted "we don't belong here" back to the band on stage.

Hands Like Houses did so much to make their songs come alive in Bristol, particularly the few new ones which are being taken on their first international tour as part of the band's repertoire. ‘Drift' closed their set, receiving its first play on UK soil. The drums were punchy and guitars colossal, the band putting their all into it.

A band as charismatic and enthusiastic as Hands Like Houses are always going to put on a good show, but their Bristol gig went above and beyond “good”. The band’s smiles were picture perfect, and the contagious nature of their energy and enjoyment made the night a brilliant one.