The Red Paintings / Louie Raw / James Leese – Subside, Birmingham (12th June 2017)

Where do I start? At the very beginning I suppose. I have this rule: any band that ‘follows’ me or ‘invites’ me on social media, I listen to at least one track, regardless of genre. Around four years ago The Red Paintings did just that, described as orchestral sci-fi art rock, the track it led me to was “You’re Not One of Them” from their The Revolution’s Never Coming albumI remember watching the video over and over, mouth wide open and wondering where this band had been all my life! I immediately bought the album and started delving into their back catalogue; over ten years of EPs and an ever evolving band. Luckily there was an imminent tour and I knew I had to be there.

Stage painter and human canvas, Germany 2017

To cut a (very) long story short, the first night I witnessed one of their incredible live stage shows, I was part of the stage show. You see, it’s not just about the music for Trash McSweeney (guitars, vocals) and Alix Kol (violin, backing vocals), it’s about the art and the creativity itself and they encourage local artists, fans and members of the crowd to get on stage and paint during the live show; either a canvas or a human who has been covered in paint to then become a canvas. Over the years I’ve painted and been painted during elaborately themed stage shows featuring Geisha outfits, and a number of weird and wonderful props and toys. It’s incredibly exhilarating and highly recommended if you get the chance.

Over the years I’ve formed a strong bond with Trash and Alix and it’s great to have a catch up prior to the show, laid back in jeans and a baseball cap no-one would ever guess the transformation about to take place. Tired and mentally exhausted by the struggle within the music industry today, it was still good to see Trash in good spirits and hyped for tonight’s show.

So to tonight, we arrive at the venue in just enough time to catch the end of first support act James Leese, who provides a powerful acoustic set of his own original material that is warmly received by the few that have arrived early.

Louie Raw

Next up is Louie Raw, who leaps out full of punk energy and attitude and delivers his pent up frustration at the world via his clever lyrics. A set full of disappointment at his educational years, lack of teacher’s support and concerns for his future self, this feisty 17 year old writes way above his years. Bounding around with his acoustic guitar, I’d love to hear him fully backed by a punk band. He ends his plucky set with a few covers, the crowd undoubtedly won over.

And then for the main act, a nice crowd has formed and moved forward now, I spot new and regular long term fans. This band has an incredible fan base, like minded people moved by the band’s music, creativity and passion to make this planet a better place for all species who reside here. Currently in the process of finalising the touches to their new album, funded by a pledge music campaign, I was buzzing to hear some new material as well as some old favourites. Two new members join this tour as well; Zoë Parr on bass and drummer Violet Stow.

The band appear in their beautiful, extravagant stage gear, the girls Geisha’d up to the eyeballs and Trash draped in a gown of forest growth and eyes, with neon blue glowing lights donned in a crown of black, spiky offshoots and a beetle rucksack. Propped on his Mars(hall) amp are a running hamster in a wheel and robots dancing. They launch straight into new track “God Save Silence” and the room comes alive. For a small venue the sound is intense and haunting. Trash’s powerful vocals against a back drop of Alix’s strings is truly enchanting and the hairs on the back of my neck are up.

Trash McSweeny

Trash: “OK, so it’s a free show tonight so you gotta throw money if you want us to keep playing” (laughter). “I’m not joking,” he mocks, eventually someone tosses a coin and we’re treated to second new song, “Chinese Whispers” before the sublime cover of Michael Jackson’s “They don’t Really Care About Us” which is punked up and angry, Trash screaming down the mic, his emotion palpable. Violet comes into her own here, and I’m blown away by her ferocious and tight drumming, what a powerhouse!

Trash’s clean guitar riff belts out as the intro to “It is as it Was” begins, a song that delves into the universe and the existence of life outside our world; it builds into a massive crescendo which completely engulfs me and it’s easy to forget the intimacy of the venue, Zoë’s thrash bass tones are felt deep within my chest and Alix’s violin playing gathers speed and intensity, the passion and power of performance that oozes from this band is like nothing else I’ve witnessed and it’s incredibly moving. The sound team were absolutely on point tonight.

The set continues with the incredible “Streets Fell Into my Window” that is equally as dark and eerie as it is comforting and thought provoking. Alien abduction inspired “Wasps” follows, again Zoë’s bass tones taking centre stage, Trash screaming empowered lyrics and Violet going hell for leather on drums, this is a real crowd pleaser and we’re all dancing and singing.

Trash then lets us a little into his and the band’s ups and downs of touring (sadly mostly downs), disheartened about it all, his struggles are overwhelming to listen to. It’s truly heartbreaking that a band of this creativity, musicianship and quality are getting smacked down at every opportunity. He takes time to thank his fans for their continued support and like minded community that has evolved from it. He doesn’t know how long it can continue but endeavours to finish “this fuckin’album” which is met by cheers! He dedicates “Fall of Rome” to the very struggle he’s been telling us about and it’s probably the most passionate performance of the night.

Alix Kol

The “Mad World” cover is always well received, the crowd singing along – this song could have easily been written by Trash, it’s so perfect for the band. Ironically as he sings the line “Look right through me” two pub-goers stroll through the middle of the set to take a smoke outside. “Fuckers,” he screams in disdain then interlaces a Chris Cornell tribute into the lyrics.

Whale song reverbs around the room backed by Alix’s haunting strings for the provoking “Artic is Screaming” then back to where it all began for me with compassionate “You’re Not One of Them”. Trash loses a string and a guy from the audience sits and restrings it for him as he plays on. “Hey, I know you, you’re the naked painter guy!” “Yeah,” he cries back; just your average Red Paintings show!

The set ends in a blistering performance of “The Revolution’s Never Coming” Alix’s violin solo at the start bringing tears to my eyes and has me clutching at my chest and reminding myself to breathe! This song just says everything about how I feel about the world today and touches my soul. These shows and this band are really something special. Whatever rock genre you’re into, give these guys a listen. They’re a breath of fresh air!

UK Tour Dates Remaining

  • June 16 Workington, Lounge 41
  • June 17 Wellingborough, Riffs Bar
  • June 18 Thirsk, Willowman Festival
  • June 19 Nottingham, Bodega
  • June 20 Edinburgh, Opium
  • June 21 Glasgow, Broadcast
  • June 23 Dundee, Redd Suite
  • June 24 Bridgwater, Cobblestones

The Red Paintings: official | facebook | twitter | instagram

Louie Raw: facebook

James Leese: facebook

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