Palm Reader play Sleepless in full, and it’s wonderful

Josh McKeown of Palm Reader at Rescue Rooms. Photo by Carrie-Anne Pollard

Palm Reader, Phoxjaw & Bone Cult – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham – 14 December 2021

Back in April 2018 Palm Reader headlined The Bodega to celebrate the release of Braille, the album that expanded the band musically and cemented them firmly as one of the best British bands you’ve never heard of. Fast forward several years and they’re back – this time at a bigger venue, with a bigger sound in the shape of Sleepless. Some bands falter, but Palm Reader manage to get better with every record. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

First up tonight we have local lads Bone Cult, who kindly jumped on the line up last minute. The duo bring the visuals, with full masks and two constantly changing led light panels. They stick out on the bill tonight but make the most of their time on stage, playing what they describe as ‘death electronica’, mixing tight drum beats with warping electronics. Bone Cult manage to give me nostalgia for bands like Static X and The Prodigy, while maintaining their own distinct sound. As a first time listener my only criticism is that the lack of any breaks or interaction between songs did make them all blend together after a while. Do I know the name of even one song that they played? No. But did I have an enjoyable experience? Yes.

Next up are Phoxjaw from Bristol, who burst onto the stage with power and presence. They are both heavy and catchy as fuck, this is how you make an impression. Guitarists Josh Gallop and Alexander Share, and bassist Danny Garland make full use of the room they have, throwing themselves around the stage, only standing still when vocal duties are required. Phoxjaw’s versatility is weaved throughout the whole set, going from heavy and eclectic to sing-along indie vibes and back again. They manage to end the set even more chaotically than they started it, Garland in the middle of the crowd, Gallop and Share sliding guitars across the floor to concentrate on their pedal boards, and drummer Kieran Gallop relentlessly pounding at his kit until the final crescendo. Phoxjaw know how to put on a show and have certainly grabbed my attention, if you get the chance to see them live don’t hesitate.

Finally, the band we’ve all been waiting for. Tonight Palm Reader play Sleepless in full, so we know what to expect. They open with the incredible Hold/Release, which has the perfect balance of heavy verses and a melodic, haunting chorus that will stick in your head for weeks (that’s not hyperbole, I can’t remember the last time I woke up and my brain didn’t immediately say ‘euphoria will never make a home in me’ – the irony of the lyrics versus the euphoria I experience when hearing the sound of those words is not lost on me…) The band are joined on stage by a dedicated synth player, and long time friend and collaborator Matt Reynolds of Haggard Cat fame, who provides an extra layer of guitar.

It’s a wonderful experience to listen to the album in full live, of course the songs with video releases like A Bird and Its Feathers and False Thirst shine bright, but we also get to experience the hidden gem tracks, such as instrumental Islay – named after guitarist Sam Rondeau-Smith’s recent edition to the family. Palm Reader are a band full of energy, bassist Josh Redrup leans over the crowd whenever he gets the chance, and vocalist Josh Mckeown is captivating as a frontman. After 10 songs, Sleepless is over, but the night is not. We are treated to not one or two, but five more songs. First the band thrust us into the past with two choice cuts off Beside the Ones We Love, sending the crowd into a frenzy of moshing and mayhem. The final three songs of the night are off Braille, though Inertia – the song Reynolds features on as guest vocalist – is strangely absent.

Sleepless is a massive stepping stone for Palm Reader and their future as a band, they consistently create masterful, well rounded, balanced albums, full of wonderfully crafted music and deep emotive lyrics. All they need now is for everyone else to catch up, stop sleeping on them and let them garner the well deserved title of best British band you HAVE heard of.

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