Gently Tender – Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton – 2nd December 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

The demise of Palma Violets was a sad thing, indeed, both indicating the difficulty in keeping an indie band going and how hard it is to make the next step after minor success. Despite the sadness, however, there’s reason to be positive. While Chilli Jesson has created Crewel Intentions, who we witnessed supporting Johnny Marr early last month and called, “A heady, intoxicating mix of Nick Cave and Echo & The Bunnymen”, the remaining members – Sam Fryer, Pete Mayhew and Will Doyle – have created Gently Tender. Also recruiting The Big Moon’s Celia Archer and guitarist Adam Brown, the band’s first trip to Brighton was a positive and upbeat one, showcasing that Palma Violets’ collapse may be a blessing in disguise after all.

Support on the night came from Brighton’s Hanya, who showed promise with their fusion of shoegaze, garage and psych. Sadly playing to a meagre audience, their impressive vitality awoke the sleepy Sunday crowd with a bang. The duo, turned trio in the live sphere – fresh from their EP launch show for I Used to Love You, Now I Don’t a week prior at the Rialto Theatre – produced a brooding and moody display with Heather Sheret’s vocals providing beautifully dark intonations to their garage-rock and evoking the likes of Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell and (early) Black Honey’s Izzy B Phillips. With latest single ‘Radio’ going down a treat with the crowd, Hanya are an extremely impressive live outfit.

Thankfully the crowd doubled in size for the arrival of Gently Tender and there was a sense of genuine enthusiasm to see the band. Partly due to the Palma Violets connection, and partly due to their reputation as a brilliant live act, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar had a buzz around the basement venue. Impressively, this aura continued throughout their set despite the fact that the band were playing largely unheard songs. What can be identified, however, is that the band are burrowing a niche for themselves. Away from the erratic rock and roll of Palma Violets, Gently Tender are striving, and succeeding, to create a far more laid-back – but no less sleazy – sound that is far more reminiscent of the likes of post-punkers YOWL and Insecure Men than their previous band.

The arrival of debut single ‘2 Chords Good’, though, almost made the venue erupt. A genuinely brilliant single, with an elated sense of wonder to it, it provided a buoyant sing a long moment that was genuinely unexpected. With a chorus of: “‘Cause it helps me to see to my senses” being sung back at the band by the audience, with arms aloft, the band were incredibly impressive and worthy of the buzz surrounding them. An exceptionally tight live band, with an aesthetically pleasing ramshackle approach, the Palma Violets trio – along with Archer and Brown – are reinventing themselves very cleverly. Less of an indie sheen, and more of a post-punk London cultivation, Gently Tender were thrilling, gripping and surprisingly moving.

Liam McMillen