My initial disappointment after braving the chill wind of Oxford Rd to discover Chelsea Wolfe is not providing support tonight tempered quickly by a pint of lager and the arrival of PALMA VIOLETS, a four piece operating within a Vox amplifier, psychedelic garage rock vein, the opening track “Rattlesnake Highway,” buttressed by additional surf guitar sound. The quartet exhibit a classic, smart / casual look, suits and jackets offset by tee or opened necked shirts. Their set proves hugely entertaining, reverb drenched, bass driven, energy fuelled, inclusive numerous screams, hollers, false endings and tempo changes. The closing track a slightly bizarre choice, at odds with those previous, retroceding from the 60’s to the 50’s, a vocal crooner which could have secured Palma Violets the position of house band at Rydell High.
Quick research (well it is nearly the Easter weekend) reveals little, a number of bands sharing a similar name. Possibly local from the crowd reaction, or perhaps their girlfriends tagged along for the 2:54 ride, either way a great opening to tonight’s proceedings.
After the energetic opening, a completely different approach is witnessed via 2:54. The sisters joined on stage by Joel Porter on bass and drummer Alex Robins bolstering the otherworldly nature of their sound. Vocalist Hannah the focal point, pale faced, ruby red lipstick, flowing white dress and contrasting black boots, her appearance projected by the black attire Collette, Joel and Alex prefer. The influence of punk bands, (2:54 taken from the timeline in a Melvins song,) not immediately apparent although subtle hints emerge, primal rhythms, Collette, slightly hunched over her picked, chiming Fender quickly displacing via an effects board to spikier or harder distorted edges and Hannah’s translucent face on occasions displaying a curled lip and occasionally vocally snarled elements. More obvious comparisons could be made with the 90’s shoegaze scene, perhaps towards post punk Siouxsie and the Banshees and musically even of Echo and the Bunnymen. Whatever or whoever the influences, 2:54 create a Gothic, wraithlike presence and atmosphere, eddying soundscapes enhanced by swirling lighting throughout a relatively short, but utterly compelling and captivating set.
Crowd interaction is minimal, both the Thurlow’s almost reluctant performers certainly between songs, preferring their music establishes itself. As someone not overly familiar with the material, the lack of a visible set list and shy nature leading to, at best a whispered introduction proves frustrating although conversely, endearing....unable to detract from beautifully manifested execution. I do recognise however stunning versions of “Scarlet” and “You’re Early.”
OK, I admit it, I’m hooked, I need more 2:54 in my life, the end of May feels an interminable wait, although based on tonight’s proceedings, guaranteed well worth the effort. In the meantime, memories, YouTube videos and last years “Scarlet EP” will suffice. www.twofiftyfour.net
Review/videos by Andy Barnes / Photos by Phil King