Live Review: (hed)p.e w/Psycho Village at O2 Academy Islington

The O2 Academy Islington is tonights destination, a train and tube ride away to a venue which holds a lot of memories for this writer, in the company of a Lewis Hamilton edition can of Monster. It may not say it anywhere on the tin, but it’s peach flavour. One particular night we witnessed Australian Nu-Metalcore aggressors Alpha Wolf opening for Emmure and while the venue was still filling a sober collection of fans formed a line, sat down and did a rowboat completely unprompted as the band played on. That was a real moment. The kind of thing that you have to be there for. Tonights show is part of a rescheduled European tour trek that was originally put together as part of the 20th Anniversary of the seminal sophomore album “Broke” and has subsequently been redubbed “The Last Chance Tour” with a cheeky bit of small print that says “of 2022“. Have no fear, (hed)p.e. have announced they will be heading to Australia in January and are going nowhere. The remastered version of “Back 2 Base X” has been joined by a split EP with Dropout Kings as part of a wave of new material and collaborations they have worked on during the Great Plague years and time spent off the road. Now it’s time for some fun.

Vienna Austrian trio Psycho Village [7/10] are an experienced outfit who have played fast approaching 200 shows across Europe with everyone from Puddle Of Mudd to The Raven Age and come armed with a collection of songs with catchy riffs and sing-a-long choruses that feel inspired by Linkin Park but less introspective. They use screens either side of the stage to enhance their set with a visual element which works incredibly well, giving those that haven’t necessarily heard them before something else. However things fall down a little bit with the use of the backing track. For the electronics that bolster the sound it’s fine but using it to add a backing vocal layer for one cut and then to allow frontman Daniel Wagner to put down his guitar mid song to stalk the stage for a song and a half makes for a strange spectacle. New single “Fragile” bodes well for their next album, which the band promise for 2023. The real moment of their set however comes with finale “Legendary” as Wagner brings his guitar and microphone down the the center of the audience who form a circle around him. Skindred vocalist Benji Webbe then appears on the screens and is found on the backing track to recreate the track in fine fashion.

A lot has changed for Huntington Beach Californian G-Punk pioneers (hed)p.e. [10/10] over the past 25 odd years but some things have remained the same. Frontman Jared Gomes is the heartbeat of the outfit, driving things forward as a small business owner to provide for his family. Having seen them live 5 or 6 times over the years their live show is something that simply has to be witnessed, simply because it’s unique. While the band have operated as a six piece at times, these days they are a quartet, there are no gimmicks and there is no backing track. Instead, the guitar parts have been reworked to suit a single guitar while the Kurt Blankenship’s five string bass provides the rhythmic power alongside Jeremiah “Trauma” Stratton on drums who has the highest cymbals know to man on his rig. Gomes adds flavour with a Melodica, a breath powered keyboard similar to an accordion or a harmonica, it uses the same notes and familiar black-and-white keys as a piano. Tonight’s set is largely based around “Broke” with renditions of cuts like “Killing Time“, “Swan Dive” and “Crazy Legs” getting the full sing-a-long treatment while the band use some clever change ups to keep them fresh. Moments of reggae and funk with extended instrumentals give a fuller experience than simply playing the tracks as they are on the record. There are also career spanning moments with “Let’s Ride“, “Sophia” and “Peer Pressure” from “Back 2 Base X” going down a storm, the latter getting an impromptu circle pit. The band are a well oiled machine, they’re having fun and it shows as the audience are in the palm of their hands, keeping things going with the sheer amount of energy they exude. A surprise mid set comes in the form of “CBC“, which is darker than the original, not to mention a couple of impromptu face melting solos from Nathan Javier, before the obligatory “Bartender” and “Renegade” bring down the house. Both are incredible sing-a-long moments that have the crowd giving Gomes back every single word. The truth is that while people on the internet moan about the lack of the original line up doing shows for “Broke“, that band isn’t this one and the current line up are a group of musicians who ooze class. Would we love to go back to 1999 and see “Broke” era band shows? Of course! But this is 2022 and the current line up are.not only alive and well but a phenomenal band not to be missed.

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