Words & Photography by Dev Place
Deaf Havana were once lumped into the Kerrang! Crew with the likes of The Blackout, Kids In Glass Houses or Young Guns. What makes Deaf Havana the dark horse of this ilk? They’re a band that have never followed the path set for them, and they’ve survived the past ten years. Each album has seen a dramatic change, with a certain ballsiness to their unapologetic attitude in seeing where the wind takes their sound. It’s divided opinions along the way, but no one can deny their artistic integrity and growth.
A surprise, then, that the first support for this tour comes from a band such as Hot Milk. Comparable to the likes of We Are The In Crowd (NOT due to having a female vocalist), but rather because they share that sing-along, mid 00s vibe pop-rock. This is a band that would fit nicely on a bill with Set It Off or As It Is. Their set is nostalgic of those types of acts; with Hannah Mee jolting around stage, playfully directing her performance at the front row.
We’ve sort of seen this band before, but it’s not been around for a while. It’s wild to think that they will be supporting Foo Fighters this summer, the most celebrated rock band in existence. Hot Milk are the type of band that would have been cut up and stuck on teenagers’ walls a few years ago. There’s still a market for those young alt fans who want to jump around and sing about friends and innocent fun, and Hot Milk will be here to boil the kettle to fill all their cups of tea.
Next support on the bill comes from Glasgow’s The LaFontaines. Their stage presence is riddled with that charming, laddish humour and personality that never fails to get the crowd on side. They’re obviously enjoying themselves, making it their mission to involve every person in the room and put all eyes and ears on them. The venue takes to them immediately. Their hooks are undeniably catchy- drummer Jamie Keen cuts through their riffs with his clean, powerful vocals, while lead vocalist Kerr Okan spits out his brash lyrics, talking of class, reputation and respect. It’s a refreshing treat to see a band blend genres from rock to punk to riff-rock so effortlessly. This is a party band. As soon as they kick into each song, your head subconsciously bobs, and several people in the crowd involuntarily show a ‘stank face’ to Darren McCaughey’s irrefutably contagious riffs. Okan belts out: “I’m trying to write something that these kids might repeat”. Oh, will they. Just after a short thirty minutes, each track from the setlist is instantly recognisable when listening back in the car. Tracks like ‘Up’ and ‘Release The Hounds’ are nothing short of genius when it comes to infectious melodies and slapping instrumentation. The LaFontaines are an absolute pleasure to watch and will wiggle their way to stick in your head.
Deaf Havana are somewhat veterans of the live show now and have lived a varied career for sure. Tonight, they walk on stage with not too many frills or gimmicks. Illuminated by the modest neon church logo behind them, they open with ‘Fever’ from 2017’s ‘These Countless Nights’. An album that seemed to mark a fork in the road for Deaf Havana in terms of fanbase. This band’s discography shouldn’t make sense. Their debut album is fuelled by dual-vocals of emo and distorted howls. Fast-forward a couple years and the band have lost vocalist Ryan Mellor and they continue on to release ‘Fools and Worthless Liars‘ which created a real dent in the alt-scene at the time. It showcased how fantastically capable of a singer and songwriter James Veck-Gilodi was/is, and took a lighter, more experimental route; dropping folk and blues influences into the mix. This progression showed no signs of slowing down over the years, and it’s a treat to watch Deaf Havana evolve with each release and each tour.
James in particular used to have somewhat of a reputation as a bit of a loveable idiot, meant in the fondest of ways. He was a bit of a jack-the-lad; self-deprecating, yet a diamond in the rough with sheer talent and genuine character, always proving to be lovely company with fans and industry alike. A decade later and nothing has changed, other than Deaf Havana have polished their act a bit, they’re not waltzing across stage with a cocksureness. Their precision is more noticeable and it’s a nicely oiled machine. What is charming however, is the playful energies between one another, the same smirks of enthusiasm and fun attitude as they play through a set of old and new. The show is indulgent for fans that have followed the band for years, all the while being a spot-on showcase for newcomers who have hopped on the journey at the last couple stops. Now we wait for the next big thing in the Havana camp.