As one of the very first shows Marmozets have played since the release of their second full-length album Knowing What You Know Now, the room is buzzing with set predictions. A lot of what’s said reflects the leap Marmozets have made with the new record. Some, including myself, would just love to see the whole record in full while others are keen for the more obscure cuts from their career such as “Vibetech” or “Onemanwolfpack”, both solid choices. Whatever they choose to do with their set, the special feeling surrounding the show is palpable. With the looming impact of the quality of the record still in motion, it feels like these will be the last shows Marmozets will be playing in rooms and clubs such as this one tonight.
Opening the night however, were lone support band Queen Zee and The Sasstones, a part punk, part pop, part loud-rock five piece. Walking out on the stage in all-drag to a Marmozets crowd, Queen Zee and co. knew they would be met with folded arms and sceptics alike but, unphased, they kicked into what couldn’t be described as anything less than a raucous, rollicking, rock n’ roll rampage. Fronted by the ever-animated Zee, the Sasstones hit their stride best when their bassist and keyboardist join them on vocals in any of their massive choruses. Here they become an impenetrable wall of sound with their keyboardist particularly shining brightly through her piercingly shrieked vocals.
It was clear they gradually grew into their performance throughout their set as the best cuts came in the latter half of the show with “Bury Me In A Black Dress” and “Porno” (introduced as “a song about disappointing sex”). “Fly The Pink Flag”, which was written after the shooting in an Orlando nightclub, made a strong appearance but their set closer topped the rest of the set by far. Bringing Josh Macintyre out, Zee introduced their cover of the Electric Six’s “Gay Bar” and proved once again just how rabid and charged the Sasstones can be while being as fun as they are flamboyant. As the end notes of “Gay Bar” rang out I found myself, like many others, at an impass. Where do you even begin with this? There’s just so much to say.
Ultimately, it boils down to their essential elements. The Sasstones are proudly and unashamedly eccentric. This is not to put the trans-agenda before their music however, as on both a performance level and a sonic level, they have so much going on that so many young bands strive for. Granted, there were a few in the crowd who seemed somewhat alienated by the band’s character, but those thinking with their ears were obviously getting the most from the performance. It’s also great to see these underground bands be put in front of audiences. I felt the very same way with Ho99o9 supporting Dillinger. These bands, who would otherwise probably remain underground, get a light shone right on them and The Sasstones made a brilliant impression.
The same can assuredly be said of the headliners of tonight’s sold-out show, the weird and wonderful Marmozets, who put themselves firmly on the map with their breakout debut, seemingly sealed with a mid-day set on Reading’s main stage a few years back. In blending math-rock and pop, the Marmozets struck a goldmine that connected with all lineages of music fans.
Fronted by the inspired Becca Macintyre who herself discovered a brilliant blend of screamed vocals and hush, lulling tones, this band were the sh*t. After disappearing for a few years due to numerous complications and setbacks, it was on the cards that they might fade away into obscurity as with most bands after a period of absence. The Marmozets however, are no ordinary band and with that debut behind them, they had a legion of fans poised for their next move. Now with a follow-up record out, Becca and the band are on the verge of something really big. Knowing What You Know Now found them leaning more on the upbeat, poppy edge of their sound, primed to reach an unquantifiably large audience. It’s similar to what’s been said about Ghost except Marmozets are a little more normal… just a little bit.
I find it very hard to believe that the Marmozets don’t know the true weight of the material they’ve just unleashed with Knowing What You Know Now, and as such I was expecting a new-material-heavy set. They could easily have come out into album-opener “Play” and set the place ablaze. This was not the case though as they seem to casually amble on stage into a relatively obscure album track that people aren’t sure what to do with. The show seems to really begin with second track “Habits”, the chorus to which was literally a show-stopper. All the music cuts out into a gentle, serene acapella passage from Becca that’s as euphoric as it is melancholic. On the record, “Habits” is nothing short of an absolute creative triumph. A contemporary masterpiece. In the live setting however, it transcends this. It’s absolutely mesmerising and choruses of “I get carried away” are bawled back as if they’re the last words the audience will ever say.
The set is cut evenly between tracks from both albums. Naturally, the songs from The Weird And Wonderful… are rolled out to familiar, ecstatic response. “Move, Shake, Hide”, “Particle” and “Born Young And Free” (which is particularly awesome because it’s categorically the best song off the album) all get their due praise. It’s the cuts from the new record that are the most interesting prospect from tonight’s show, however. An early appearance from “Insomnia” was unexpected but not unsuccessful. A jubilant rendition of “Meant To Be” is much more widely loved. Same goes for “Suffocation”, during the chorus of which, drummer Josh Macintyre literally launches himself at the kit, at points jumping into his drumming.
The best tracks however, were the singles, not because people were unfamiliar with the rest of the album, but that these are just next-level songs. “Play” is a real dancer (as Becca demonstrates with her trademark blend of flamenco dancing and snake-like hip movement… except snakes don’t have hips) as is the galloping “Major System Error”. During their set, it becomes apparent that Becca isn’t particularly talkative between songs. Her brief “thank you”‘s and “we love you”‘s are shy but wholly sincere. This is no more apparent than on the modest introduction to album closer “Run With The Rhythm”, showing that they are either genuinely oblivious to the wealth of tracks they have on Knowing What You Know Now, or they’re perhaps the most down-to-earth people in the scene. I reckon it’s the latter, which made the performance so much more human than just rolling out the singles.
They close powerfully, if abruptly with “Captivate You” which has very few words to describe it. Becca’s performance is absolutely astounding and equally powerful. Having given their all to the performance, it’s accepted that they retire to the back of the venue with few goodbyes and while it was a really good show, I have no doubt they have absolutely brilliant ones in them. If there is any justice in this world, then hopefully we’ll find ourselves a few months down the line, when the general populous has come around to the brilliance of Knowing What You Know Now, seeing Marmozets get launched into the upper echelons of the rock stratosphere. The combination of that and catching them on the right day could find this band unstoppable and a legitimate flag-bearer of alternative music in the mainstream.
With another album on par with the first two, I have considerable faith Marmozets could become the best modern rock band, bar none. While there is work to be done and fun to be had still, this show takes another step in that direction. I don’t want this album cycle to ever end.
Photos by Katie Frost Photography (from previous tour)