Guards at Birthdays, Dalston
Guards startle the crowd into silence and command their attention, as they close the Paint it Black night in the basement of Birthdays in Dalston.
An acoustic opening followed by the low vocals of I Know It’s You is an undesirable start to the band’s set, but their strong instrumentals have the capacity to stand alone. Richie James Follin is absorbing on lead guitar and Loren Ted Humphrey drums with such intensity; it’s as if every single beat is precise and calculated to be directed straight into your chest.
The vocals are still too soft in second number Silver Lining, but Follin’s quick solos are catchy and how he holds the guitar to his chest, with its neck pointing at the audience, establishes his enigmatic yet alluring character on stage.
Although the show incorporates minimal effects, the look and feel of the performance is almost dreamlike. When all you can see are their black silhouettes in the neon blue light, the result is an eye-catching trance that inhibits you from looking away.
The trio, along with their additional accompaniment, seem at ease on stage, with Nightmare and I See It Coming both ending with short jam sessions, as they just go with the flow. The drummer’s talent is undeniable: his hands move across the kit so quickly that all you see is a blur. There are no vocals, just the instrumentals going from a slower pace to harder and faster, powerfully emphasising the extent of their range.
The microphone issues and vocals aren’t sorted out until the fifth number and “the sing-along”, but it makes little difference, as those who don’t know the lyrics are still “oooooohing” along to the chorus. Follin gets creative and uses the neck of his guitar against the cymbals for the most peculiar sound effect that the crowd seems to love.
In the final number, Follin asks for the lights to be turned off and the band play in complete darkness. Building suspense, it’s all but silent with the exception of the bass. When the drums kick in again, they deliver such force and raw energy that the effect is intoxicating. The ringing in your ears is getting more and more pronounced, but you refuse to move away from the stage in case you might miss a moment of the set. Guards are well worth the temporary hearing impairment.
For further information and future events visit Guards’ website here.
Watch the video for Silver Lining here: