Photos by Sapphire Mason Brown

It was decided that on the 4th of July 2012, Born Blonde would release their new EP I Just Wanna Be. Having heard one of their previous tracks, 'Solar', I was more than willing to pop along to the 'quaint' Shacklewell Arms to catch them live.

At 8:50pm a few lads casually strolled on stage, swigging beer and acting incredibly blasé, despite the fact that people had been waiting in what can only be described as a stuffy wardrobe, with a minuscule stage and small sound tech hut at the back, for well over half an hour. (Delays are fine, but it's always nice to be given an indication as to when the music's going to start.)

The first support act, who I believe were Sulk - still somewhat unsure though as the lead singer failed to introduce them… Introductions really are highly underrated - began promisingly. The vocalist had a good voice and very rarely (if at all) went off key and I enjoyed his enthusiasm when bashing a tambourine against his knee. The first track was pleasant to listen to; however, unfortunately the tracks the followed were all very similar. All were listenable, but there was nothing groundbreaking and original; to me, Sulk were a combination of Stereophonics and Oasis (Stereoasis perhaps?) and I would much rather listen to something original, than a blend of existing material. Also, I must highlight that I was phenomenally unimpressed with the vocalist's attitude. He made reference to the stage numerous times; once, claiming that he "...couldn't dance for shit because the stage was too small" and another towards the end of the set where he mumbled into the mic that they would soon finish as "...he had no intention of standing on a stage this small any longer". Everyone was able to see that the stage was a small one, but they forgot about it and attempted to enjoy the music, but the lead singer refused to let it drop, in turn coming across as somewhat arrogant.

Next on the bill were Vices. As soon as they walked on stage I couldn't help but smile as the lead singer was wearing an incredibly flamboyant, Hawaiian-inspired shirt - brilliant! Their set began with a beautiful M83-like synth and then progressed into vivacious alternative rock. The vocals were rather intriguing as they consisted of lovely tuneful singing, intertwined with surprising, catchy and bordering on anthemic talking/shouting - although it shouldn't have sounded decent, it worked fantastically. On top of their quirky Pink Floyd-esque sound, the lead singer was nothing short of incredible. His audience interaction was good, but he really came alive during the music, where he jumped and flailed all over the place - at one moment I did wonder if I was witnessing an exorcism! His enthusiasm was contagious and I definitely saw members of the audience jumping along.

Last, but most definitely not least, was the group we'd all gone to see, Born Blonde. The atmospheric intro changed the tone of the entire room, as everyone listened intently. The introduction of an acoustic guitar brought about a lovely change of tone, as it took the listener form to a beautiful form of nirvana. They made the most of the small stage by using minimal choreography, e.g. the lead singer stood with his back to the audience, then swiftly pivoted 180 degrees when the drums kicked in. The use of minimal lighting also added to the dynamic set, as the initial calming combination of red and blue washes over the stage suddenly became strobes during the bridge - this was a clever addition as it helped to create a change of mood and a sense of urgency. The lead vocalist had a lovely tone to his voice and the melody lines were both thoughtful and beautiful.

Unlike their predecessors, their volume levels were considerably easier on the ear, (previously the high frequencies cause my ear drum to feel as if it was being repeatedly pierced by a swarm of wasps) and everything was placed brilliantly in the mix. Also, their song transitions were highly professional and both the timing and key changes were perfect. There was a nice variety in their set and I particularly enjoyed their second number, which cleverly combined a funky dance bass with soothing, trance-inducing synths. The song writing was of a very high caliber, the lyrics were thoughtful and the singer's diction was good, which enabled his words to reverberate through audience members' ear canals and skulls - always a bonus!

All in all I enjoyed the evening, and Born Blonde's live performance and set was fantastic. They wouldn't be out of place at 'Lounge On the Farm' next year and huge festivals like V and Glastonbury in the future!