LIVE REVIEW // Howland, Fever and Bel Esprit @ The Joiners 22.01.16

"OH boy, that was a bit good!" says guitarist Lee Vincent of Howland as they watch the main band of the night, Bel Esprit perform on the stage of The Joiners in Southampton, that they took to just hours earlier. 

With a stellar local line-up and an iconic venue, you know you're in for a treat and nobody leaves disappointed. Brighton-based band, Howland who deal in the art of spawning hits like they're going out of fashion kick things off. Choosing to open their stunning set with upcoming single 'Slow Down' featuring tumbling riffs and the glitzy frontmanship of Tyler Adams, it's clear that the four-piece have stepped it up since their performances in 2015. 

'Waiting For You' comes thick and fast, proving to be one of the many highlights of their set. With powerful drumming doused over huge, soaring riffs and integral bass lines fed by the tiny, yet epic masterpiece that is Tim Beavis - the combination is an utterly bewitching fusion and it's safe to say these lads are onto something big here. 

Their live set continues with 'White Light' which sees Tim rival that of Este Haim's infamous bass face before the group dip into the major tune that is 'Bruises'. The vocal delivery sounds a lot smoother than previous airings and the band's clear-cut chemistry makes for an enjoyable atmosphere. Frontman Tyler is by no means shy, cracking a few jokes between songs as guitarist Lee remarks "you're not even funny." 

The quartet plan to unleash tracks 'Callout' and 'Slow Down' on 1st April, which is no April Fool's trick they assure us, and it's the former track they select to end on. Howland are sending many heads spinning and they unquestionably have the tunes. Every ingredient of Howland works and now they're steadily building up a solid catalogue of successes. 

Fever, who are like no other take to the stage next. The Southampton-based outfit have been around since 2013 and continue to blaze more impressively with age. They exist as a tasty template to show others how it's done and they're acing everything they do. Peaks of their set include latest track 'Sucker' with distorted guitars and captivating hooks.

The psych tinged groove of 'Shell Shock' that hooked fans in the beginning goes down a storm live. Watching the group, led by frontman Connor Smith is exhilarating and they've racked up plenty of local support in Southampton, which reflects in the assembled crowd. 

Fever distill that much needed dose of beach groove into the South Coast and the monstrous rumble of their live set never lets up for a second. They once said that their ambition is to "become popular enough to slap Harry Styles and get away with it" and if they continue with such mind blowing material as that which has already been heard; they'll certainly be on their way to making that dream a reality. 

The final performance of the night comes from Bel Esprit, who draw in the biggest crowd by far. The four-piece are also Southampton based and with a notable fan base backing them all the way. 'The Mad Ones' erupts with a wickedly infectious core, whilst slower number 'Midnight, Midnight' is announced and an adoring voice shouts "TUNE" at the band. The frenzied crowd turn slower numbers into floor shakers, which serves as testament to how white hot their brand of indie is right now. 

Bel Esprit accessorise their set with a cover of Radiohead's 'Creep' which they more than pull off and leads to a smug feeling emerging from the crowd. It's a jubilant performance and the gem that is 'Lose My Mind' is the ace up their sleeve. Witnessing them live is equivalent to riding a white-knuckle wave of excitement. Bel Esprit deal in riff-orientated rock at its finest and their set is packed with belting tunes from start to finish and finish they do with a bang. 

Bel Esprit draw the night to a close with a raucous cover of Palma Violets' 'Best of Friends' that might even be better than the original version. With circling reverb, crowd surfers and a chant-fuelled energy in the air of The Joiners, the cover that's all riffs and wails sees a stage invasion take place. Bel Esprit are the new ambassadors of feeling good and this is something they convey consistently throughout their set.

With a new single on the way soon, Bel Esprit are heading for the big league. The Joiners is an ideal venue, steeped in history and reputation, for Howland, Fever and Bel Esprit to tackle and win even more fans over in. The bar has been raised even higher as a new wave of talent has been ushered in. Southampton's display of the finest homegrown sound was nothing less than bone-shakingly exciting. Long may this musical hotbed continue. 

Words Lauren Wade

Photo credit: Tara Matthews

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