Walking onto the dimly lit Green Door Store stage to a swarm of intermittent strobe lighting and grungy feedback, the start of Formation’s UK tour felt more like the aftermath of a crime scene than a gig. But then, the London five-piece have never adhered to the customary way of doing things; the way the music industry dictates they should. Whether it’s the gorilla marketing, their interactive videos, the public Whatsapp number, subliminal advertising, an independently-produced magazine, Formation transcend music, and that manifests into a terrific multi-sensory live show.
Formed by Will and Matt Ritson, the brothers, along with their three bandmates, each have previous experience in the music industry in the form of publishing, production and writing to name just a few of their facets. They know what they’re doing and how to evolve their compositions onto a heightened level when on stage. “People have a collective power”, said the frontman Will. “We’ve always been on the fringes. We’re misfits, never a member of any scene. So we’ve built our own gang and if people want to join us they can.” And through this collective ethos they’ve manufactured sonic transportations that are joyous and angry in equal measure. Without a guitar in site, it was up to the synth and rhythmic pairs to create the soundscapes, leaving Ritson to patrol the stage with his cowbell; orchestrating the room to every cathartic drop and catchy groove.
With the likes of earlier releases ‘Under the Tracks’ and ‘All the Rest is Noise’ emitted from the set list, Formation are gradually exiting their LCD Soundsystem-influenced days and choosing to instead focus on more substantial, wholesome compositions. ‘Drugs’ was perhaps the turning point release for the group and served as the impeccable set opener. Its militaristic drumbeat and incessant cowbell kicked things off, before the pulsating bassline wrestled for possession and shook the room in the process. ‘A Friend’, meanwhile, turned out to be the biggest hip shaker of the night with the five note keyboard riff still ringing in ears the next morning. Meanwhile, ‘Powerful People’ was the closest the Ritsons came to drawing a singalong from the crowd.
Venn got the night off to a motorik start with a steady flow of urgent, krautrock-infused- post-punk that bared resemblances to the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen and The Horrors. Performing tracks from the recently-released debut LP Runes, the three-piece explored elongated industrial compositions which breath new life into the stagnant genre. Opener ‘Legacy Project’ quietly built up and morphed into an intense stomper, whilst ‘Real Blood’ combined chugging bass with an industrial soundscape that still retained a melodic heart – drawing screams of appreciation from the audience.
Clocking in at under 45 minutes without an encore, Formation’s concise set also led to deafening levels of gratitude. “Get out of the ring,” cried Ritson on set closer ‘Ring’ in what could double up as a mantra for the band before exiting the stage. Combining relentless hooks, a punk attitude and intelligent social insight, Formation have retained the best parts of the album in their gigs and managed to turn their varied combination of influences into an honest and immaculate live experience.