Opening this cold winters eve are the Bristolian DIY dynamos Kite Thief (8). Despite being relative newcomers to the scene, it swiftly becomes understandable on why the band have been handpicked to open this bill. Sharing the electrifying sense of mania that’s associated with their headlining counterparts, Kite Thief present snaggletoothed progressive metal in a form that’s hyperactive, full of sass and youthfully energetic. Through a short but blitzkrieging set of high-strung energy, the South West collective bounce and prowl across the venue, with alluring vocals that hide a shadow of malicious intent flirting with pounding snaggletoothed riffs and overdriven stringed aggression.
There’s a subtle level of nu-metal bounce within their sound, but one that’s tamed and in used in moderation in order to emphasis the swagger and bounce that reigns supreme - a sentiment that the newly released back hand slap of ‘Pinky Promise’ animates. It’s still relatively early days for Kite Thief, but with dashes of tech-metal, nu-metal and technicolor bounce swirling around within their sound, these Bristolian maniacs have a soaring future ahead of them.
The ones repping the local scene tonight, it's evident that Death Is A Girl (8) are certainly a bit of a contrast when compared against their peers. However, it’s something that evidently works in their favour. Presenting a sound that's more in line with refined and considerately composed prog and jazz, Death Is A Girl are a respite from the glucose fuelled mania that dominates this lineup. It's a not a hinderance in the slightest though, as the sold out audience immediately falls into their intriguing melting pot of musical intelligence whilst being hypnotised by their engaging kaleidoscopic sound.
They do share a number of similarities with their headlining contemporaries however. As soaring vocals fly over pools of digitalised bass, it's essentially impossible to pigeonhole the group's smooth, funk ridden sound into a singular genre. An attempt to do so would be criminal anyway, as it's evident that Death Is A Girl forgo strict genre conventions to allow their sound to breathe and expand naturally live, something that leaves the Cheltenham populace hanging on tender-hooks. On paper, such a band playing alongside acts known for musical and physical hyperactivity just shouldn't work. But with their finesse and charisma, Death Is A Girl wondrously hold their own. Potentially the only band that could play a show such as this and play this spa town's renowned jazz festival.
It’s been a singular hot minute since the Scottish dynamos Vukovi (9) last struck this venue, but what a minute it’s been. Since their last appearance in May of last year, the group have released their brilliant sophomore record Fall Better, toured the mainland in support of Counterfeit and have even topped the UK Rock & Metal album charts. Lofty accolades and achievements indeed, but as the group catapult themselves head over heels into the malicious neon strobe of ‘Violent Minds’ prior to painting the town in vibrancy with ‘Behave’ and ‘C.L.A.U.D.I.A’, it’s clear Vukovi have retained their sense of boundless mania throughout all of this.
Much like their last historic visit here, and no doubt the shows that proceeded it, tonight is a candy crush of manic hyperactivity that can’t be defined or contained within the boundaries of a single genre. Despite it’s the fact that it’s a Wednesday and many will be suffering from workplace hangovers tomorrow, Cheltenham absolutely revels in the new material from Fall Better, Yet, there’s a newfound level of tightness within the group’s set this evening, one that’s paramount within fresh tracks such as ‘Aura’ and ‘All That Candy’. Even when Vukovi are seemingly beyond consolable and bounding around drinks in hand, they’re musically flawless. Truly, they’re potentially one of the few bands that can be musically impeccable even when in amidst of a musical sugar rush.
Whilst Vukovi flaunt their reputation as being one of the most wild bands within this country, a surprise appearance by 2000 Trees’ reigning hero Mr. Fridge secures this show as one that’s set to be etched in local scene history. As rainbows of light glare, possessed fanatics swarm around a man in a cardboard fridge and as a neon clad Vukovi treat the venue like their own personal jungle gym, once again this quite frankly absurd band prove to be a sensory overload of raving proportions. Vukovi have spent the last several years honing their unique craft within the hidden shelters of venues such as these, but with the bolts of their sound tightened and with new material under their neon belts, 2020 will be the year where everyone will join the life affirming rave that Vukovi effortlessly provide life.