When a wild-haired, Cockney-accented man appears to be magically everywhere in a venue - from behind the bar, to through the bar, to dancing through the crowd, where he urges patrons to check out fresh-faced yet gritty openers Public Access Television, then leaps back, encouraging the audience forward (and this wasn’t the culmination of his activity) - you wonder what kind of show you’re going to see. Who is this man? What is he doing here? How is he connected to the band? None of the above was exactly revealed during Palma Violets’ noisy yet magnetic set, but he definitely provided, with the band’s utterly lax stage presence, a more intimate feel. This could have been a house gig, albeit with better sound quality.
Veering between something akin to The Clash and The Stooges, with a nod to The Libertines, Palma Violets showcased sonic dexterity, blending what sounded like three different songs into one - like with “Rattlesnake Highway” - seamlessly, to their credit. Overall, they belted out vaguely incomprehensible lyrics (and no, that was not due to British-accented vocals), yet the rousing singalong choruses, particularly with the anthemic “All the Garden Birds,” came through with a raucous clarity. At the very least, they got the crowd — and our wild-haired friend — jumping, and encouraged the clinking of glasses and imbibing of another round: activities thoroughly amplified with the “whoa whoa whoas” of “Girl, You Couldn’t Do Much Better On the Beach,” and its frenzied drumming.
The Brillobox’s ruby red lights and vintage wallpaper helped transport the crowd back a few decades as the hooting keys of “Step up for the Cool Cats,” boomed around the room. Onstage, the band gives the impression they’re a blast from the past, but fortunately do so with an endearing innocence that doesn’t reek of hipster cool. And how could they, with a song titled “Best of Friends” - one of their hits that the crowd loved, and band seemed to love playing, too. There was much jumping and thrilling to the song’s even pacing, deep and heavy bass, and rolling drums.
But back to our wild-haired Cockney friend who, along with another audience member, seemed to be rather swept away by the smash-your-guitars nature of the raw set, such that the duo decided to try, fleetingly, to smash each other (yes, there was an actual fight). Yet the band played on, eventually rolling out the drearily intoxicated “Last of the Summer Wine,” with a thick melody and banging drums. And closing with a bellowed “thank you,” guitar reverb and the echo of haunting keys filled the audience’s ears. Like the track “We Found Love,” this Pittsburgh crowd shared their affinity for the ‘Violets, and even our crazily-coiffed Londoner reconciled with his sparring mate as the lights went up. All beers were drained, no the guitars were not smashed and rock and roll, this certainly was, albeit with a curiously unique and entertaining twist that Palma Violets exhibited last night rather well.