The STARS (Student Arts Representatives) are a team of students who are passionate about the arts, and get involved with promotional activity at Warwick Arts Centre. Tom Brady is one such member; an avid reviewer, Tom’s previous articles have covered the likes of singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez, musical comedy in the form of ‘Forever Young’ and the European Union Chamber Orchestra. Now he has set his sights on scottish four-piece Django Django, the headline act of Friday’s Warwick Music Festival, who were showcasing songs from their Mercury Prize nominated debut album alongside their 2015 LP entitled ‘Born Under Saturn’.
With pulsating beats, overpowering synths, and spikey guitar riffs, Django Django set out to bring Butterworth Hall tumbling, to raise the oddly-shaped roof of the Warwick Arts Centre. All the while, lead singer Vincent Neff hops around the stage, throwing shapes, imploring the audience to wave their hands and to shake and tremble: they need no such encouragement. Band and crowd have both come out to rock out, and with the volume turned up and the walls quivering with the bass, riotous scenes unfold.
While their studio music is notable for its carefully-crafted production and sing-along choruses, Django Django are a different beast in the flesh. The edges are a little rougher, the vocals a little lower in the mix, but it makes for a powerful performance. First-album-favourites ‘Hail Bop’ and ‘Default’ get the crowd singing along, but it is when Neff turns to the drums and his band-mates crowd around the synths that the atmosphere truly turns electric.
This is all aided by a light-show so dazzling that at times I found myself unable to look directly at the stage. While figures and shapes dance on the back wall, red flashes pulse behind the band. For a moment, it feels like the chorus to ‘First Light’ (“first light, the fields are ablaze”) has come to life.
The highlight, however, is when the poised musicianship and the infectious energy of Django Django come together on ‘Reflections’, the stand-out track from their new album, ‘Born Under Saturn’. For this song, the band invite saxophonist James Mainwaring (member of support act Roller Trio) onto the stage, and his jaunty, Mr. Scruff-esque solo is a perfect accompaniment to their heavier beats.
In fact, special mention should go to Roller Trio, whose free-form grooves kick off the evening. Even while a number of the audience were still enjoying the last vestiges of the evening sun, Roller Trio were setting the tone for what was to come. Mainwaring and his colleagues, Luke Wynter on guitar and Luke Reddin-Williams on drums, laid down some complex yet eminently-memorable riffs. It has been a while since I have encountered such catchy jazz-rock; already endowed with a Mercury nomination for their more ponderous studio sound, Roller Trio are a sensation in the flesh.
Along with further support from the soul-infused psychedelics of indie outfit Unknown Mortal Orchestra, this show made for an extraordinary evening at the Warwick Music Festival. Tunes which moved head, feet, and heart all at once meant that it was a treat for all assembled, and a demonstration that Django Django have enough fire behind their art rock to get the room shaking.