You’re always a little bit suspicious of musicians with bad haircuts, so when The Chemist’s bassist Hamish Rahn paraded onto the stage with a Robert Smith-esque steaming pile of roadkill perched precariously atop his head you feel your stomach sink a little, and settle in for what was sure to be 45 minutes of shitty 80’s revival ‘rock’.
It was a pleasant surprise, however, when the band surged into their first song. While, admittedly, they failed to capture this reviewer straight up with their first couple of songs, they really hit their stride in the third song. Bringing out a piano accordion, the band really started to show their dark side. You can feel yourself being dragged into an ethereal, semi-gothic world of fucked up circus freaks and paralysing lullabies. They switch from a fun poppy sound to something very dark with the speed and agility of a bipolar teenage girl. Singer Benjamin Witt’s voice was just the ticket to take you there as well. With a range and haunting tone more characteristic of an ageing black woman than a 20-something man, the heights he reached his voice were really incredible to behold, and delivered with an amazing sincerity.
It was during the set’s last song that established they really were a damn good band. The climax of a set makes or breaks a live performance – the audience is always left mesmerised or entirely awkward. There’s no questioning that the crowd in the Grace Bandroom were the former of the two though, and as the instrumental died down, Witt’s a cappella vocals were just the drug to bring us down from the dizzying high that preceded it.
It’s hard to think of other bands to compare these guys with, or any genres to adhere them to – they’re definitely an entity that exists entirely on its own. They’re a band that needs to be seen live to appreciate fully, and with support slots for bands such as Birds of Tokyo and The Beautiful Girls, it’s safe to say that these guys are certainly going somewhere.