Utopia All-Dayer – Green Door Store, Brighton – 9th June 2018

Photo by Jonski Mason

All day music events seem to be the in thing this year, this is the fourth one I’ve been to so far and it’s a great way to see a short set from a bunch of bands in one day. It can be a tricky thing to get right, especially somewhere like the Green Door Store where there is only one stage and quite a confined space. Though new promoter Utopia did a great job.

Except for the last two groups, all the bands got a 30 minute slot on stage with a 15 minute change over period and, surprisingly, the event mostly ran on time throughout the day. I arrived half an hour late and missed the first band Sun Scream but surprisingly the venue was already over half full. It looked like quite a few people had made the effort to get there early and take advantage of seeing all the bands.

Throughout the day local visual effects artist Innerstrings provided a great visual backdrop. This comprised of two projectors, one on the stage and the other on the venue’s back wall. With a nice added bonus of having the list of bands playing on the screens between acts, showing you who you have just watched and what’s coming up next. I’ve seen Innerstrings doing visual effects at quite a few gigs now over the last few years and he really seems to have fine tuned his effects over the year. Tonight’s show was one of the best I had seen where the visuals really added to the gig rather than, as can sometimes happen, being a distraction.

So for me the day kicked off with Buddha Blood, which was the perfect band to get me in the mood. Nice droney laid back rock from the local band, who usually have five in the group but it was a stripped down three-piece today.

Next up should have been Strange Cages, who are one of my favourite local bands at the moment, but unfortunately they had to pull out at the last minute. Luckily their replacement Heirloom were equally impressive. Describing themselves as a, “gloom-pop band” they have an interesting Gothic sound with Samuel Rivers and Jade Taaffe sharing the vocal duties. I have to say I was mesmerised with their performance from start to finish and they’re certainly a band to keep an eye on.

Skinny Milk took things up a level as the psychedelic garage punk duo made a huge sound. Interestingly, the singer plays a left handed bass guitar and is accompanied by the most mental drummer of the night. You don’t miss the fact there is no guitar or keyboard as they seem to be able to fill the whole audio spectrum with the noises they make. A very theatrical performance with high energy music at just the right time of the event and another very enjoyable set.

If you like your bands to have a memorable gimmick then Peeping Drexels will be right up your street. The singer turned up on-stage with a strange head mask that appeared to be cut out of a pair of pyjamas, looking like something out of a 50s horror movie. I think they were having a few issues on-stage, not being able to hear themselves clearly, though they have a dirty grungy sound anyway so it may not have made much difference. They call themselves both a band and visual artist and it’s not hard to see why. Both visually and musically they held your attention.

Atlas Wynd seem to be getting everywhere these days. I last saw them at the Brighton Dome Record Store Day all-dayer where, I have to say, they did not hold my attention much. Though here, in a tighter space with a more punchy impact, they sounded a whole lot better. The bass player Sam Evans steals the show whenever they play as he never seems to stop bouncing around the stage. At the end of the day they are a fairly standard rock three-piece but they do it well.

Bringing the heavy section to a close was Bad Nerves, whose singer loved jumping off the stage and getting down into the crowd. This five-piece from Essex provided a string of short, snappy punk songs in the vein of bands like The Ramones. Their song ‘Punk Radio’ summed them up perfectly, it’s punk music made for radio.

Wrapping up the half hour sets was Portsmouth band Is Bliss, you could tell instantly they were from Pompey because the bass player had a huge Portsmouth coat of arms on his bass rig. I’m not really sure how to describe their music, it’s very psychedelic, a bit shoegazing in places and often builds up into mental heavy sections. The light show from Innerstrings was spot on for this set and you have the strange mix on-stage of the singer / guitarist bent over for most of the set screaming into the very low set mic while the bass player dances around the stage non-stop.

By the time Fews came on stage the occasional technical problems and delays were starting to add up but, impressively, managed to only be about five minutes late to start. There were a few bits of nasty feedback in the set but their “post-post-punk, motorik noise-pop, whatever you want to call it” music continued regardless. It was another impressive set that got the crowd dancing around and nicely warmed up for the headliner.

One of the problems with spending eight hours at a gig with not much of a break is that it’s quite easy to get overwhelmed and tired by the end. So Toy needed to pull out all the stops to keep me engaged. Unfortunately they seemed to be having on-stage issues too, though it sounded fine out front and their music seemed a bit of an anti-climax after the string of heavier sets. Maybe with a bit more energy I could have gotten into the set more, it’s not like they did anything wrong on-stage but I found it hard to really enjoy the band live as much as I do on record.

Overall, though, it was a great gig put on by new promoters Utopia and I’ll be keeping an eye out for any other gigs they may do in the future.

Jonski Mason.