As the sun lowered itself gracefully towards the horizon of a rather warm day, I’d set up to watch Personal Best, a gig sure to wash away the heat with a wave of cool, clear sound.
Crushing are Brighton based and share Jason Cavalier with Personal Best. This set was a solo performance from him and was infused with a hopeful and honest sentiment in both the music and the performance.
There was an incredible poignancy that rang out amongst the simple electric guitar and keyboard. The keyboard gave elements of Stranger Things to the music. There was an 80s electro wonder sense, like Tears for Fears and raw, honest vocals “You close your eyes and words come out like they were written on your eyelids”.
A gentle hum of feedback buzzed as he announced the next song “If I had a mouth”. His nervous energy really hooks you in. The way he taps his foot, the way that he anxiously steps to and fro from the microphone. The vulnerability of the open notebook that lay open on a side table and the way he flicked through the scribble covered pages. It was all very endearing. The way he pushed his glasses up and the over arcing story of a slug that ran through underpinning the songs. “Why are you sad, things aren’t that bad.”
Fake Empire were impressive. Radio ready, emanating sounds of The National and New Order. There’s a lot of feeling to the music and they sound great. Euphoric soaring bridges and great clarity to the vocals. Haunting guitar, evocative of memories lost through both the music and the lyrics, “So wrap your arms around me, break your arms around me”.
The vocals were solid. There’s a consistency in sound and poignancy “Lay me to sleep under the mean lights You never knew me so what was my name?” As the set progressed other artists seeped out of their sound. Bands like Skunk Anansie and Radiohead. This music is akin to a lot of established artists and they do it well.
Personal Best made for a gentle start moving into a heavy entrance. With Katie Gatt and El Morgan harmonising in superb fashion they have a great sound that has a personal resonance with me. It’s evocative of so much 90s feminine rising bands like Veruca Salt and solo artists such as Alanis Morrisette and Tori Amos.
The second song kicks in and I’m reminded of Daria, that emergence into adulthood with a certain distain for the world. There is a fiesty, plucky attitude. It’s all played really well. There are harmonies, the drummer is on form, there’s a sense of the chase, awkward off tones and slipping sliding sounds.
“How can we hold on?”
Katie’s vocals are spot on, powerful and well crafted. The echo on the mic gives a pleasing effect and adds to the sense of outlandishness, of spiralling, off falling away into the heavy breaks.
There’s an awesome sound and the band are well put together. There’s a pace to this, a sense of anxiety, of uncertainty. It’s hot and sweaty and Personal Best appear to be on their own journey. And I felt lucky to be in the crowd along with them.
They never seem to miss a beat, they are simply fantastic live. Flawless, in a sense. There’s a great crowd participation, and a good time was had by all.