Live Review: Junior w/ Valensole & Down Not Out | The Frog And Fiddle, Cheltenham | 08/08/19

Whilst it may be evidently clear that the quintet are only just making their initial foray into the often treacherous word of the live scene, it’s also unambiguously crystal that tonight’s local openers in Down Not Out (7) possess a certain promising degree of collective skill and charm. Despite only forming in the preceding months of this year and having only performed a handful of performances thus far, the Cheltenham collective are evidently the focus of a budding following, and going from this evening’s set, it’s easy to understand why.

With their youthful, yet pacifying and educated take on inclusively modern pop punk, the group radiate the engaging and warm charm that’s synonymous with widely praised acts such as Muncie Girls and Fresh. Of course, with any emerging act, the band are still settling into their own personal groove and are ironing out the subtle kinks that come with a group’s initial endeavour into the scene, but still, with an EP on the horizon and with skill evidently present, Down Not Out have the aptitude required to further establish themselves in this constantly expanding and bustling scene.

Hailing from the costal views of Southampton, Valensole (7) show no shame in wearing their shared inspirations on their sleeves. Showcasing the melody and sonic construction of untouchable dominating alt rock artists such as Foo Fighters, Stereophonics and Feeder, the south coast collective take such musical elements and transplant them into a more corrosive, adolescent and DIY aesthetic without indulging into the sterile or stereotypical conventions often associated with such artists and genres.

Throughout the course of their set, it's proven that it wouldn’t be incorrect to state that Valensole present something akin to arena rock for the underground DIY scene. Universally agreeable and naturally unprovocative, the group prove their understanding of their contrast between their inspirations, their take on alt rock and the scene in which they inhabit, and ultimately, successfully bring a sound associated with almost unreachable heights to this DIY environment. With a EP under their belts and with more live endeavours still come, Valensole have a promising future ahead of them.

Whilst Cardiff’s Junior (9) have always been renowned for being a consistently reliable source for authentic enthusiasm and energetic fervour, the pop punk trio appear to be collectively infused with intensely infectious eagerness and vitality this evening. Of course, it’s no surprise given the circumstances. Tonight stands as the penultimate date of the group’s celebratory release run in support of their fantastic debut long play Beautiful Life, and even with tonight being an unseasonably dreary night in the heart of the cotswolds, Junior launch into their respective set with almost unparalleled vigour and passion.

With a setlist composed primarily composed of content from the aforementioned release, Junior are simply an utter life affirming joy to witness this evening. As the group ecstatically jump from the rousing anthemic ‘Boys And Girls’ to the jubilant ‘Playing The Part’, the group flawlessly animate the heartening and elated nature of such content to brilliant levels tonight, ultimately lifting the material from the restraints of it’s respective recorded platform. Even with Beautiful Life standing as a theatrical and grandiose release in nature, such material was clearly designed for the live environment in forefront consideration. Truly, content from the release simply sounds colossal and utterly fantastic in a live setting, with the astronomical bounce of ‘I Don’t Know What I’d Do’ and the hardcore tinged ode to wrestling that is ‘P.Y.D’ clearly destined to become permanent stapes of the band’s live sets for years to come.

Even with content form Beautiful Life taking the spotlight, choice cuts from Juniorland still resonate that bashful, riotous and combustable energy that made the release initially so irresistible. However, as the group tear through the bashful melodies of ‘That Pretty Dress’, Junior still clearly take pride in ensuring that their live spectacular is far more than standard musical performance. As many can attest to, Junior’s live show is not just a live performance, it’s a participatory and inclusive sport.

From their famed limbo tournament to the aforementioned ‘That Pretty Dress’ to the group celebrating the fact that ‘Brick By Brick’ has earned a place in the Finnish rock charts with a comical cover of the nation’s national anthem via low end chugging and gutturals, Junior constantly radiate genuine hospitality, warmth and humour at all times during their set, relishing this evening’s celebration of music at all times. Such sincerity and spirit is simply haplessly infectious, and as Junior close this evening with the adolescent animation of ‘The House That’s Quite Home’ an atmosphere of jubilant elation floats from the venue and into the blackened sky outside tonight. Truly, even with pop punk as a whole often perceived as a saturated genre, Junior effortlessly distance themselves from their insipid peers both on record and on stage. A pop punk band worth defending by all means.


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