Monday night gigs are never the most attractive, but when you have one of the fastest rising stars on the classic rock circuit in town, supported by a band whose debut album earned fulsome praise, it would be reasonable to anticipate a decent turnout.
Kris Barras Band, Florence Black, Aniimalia
Marble Factory, Bristol. 14 March 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
Photography: Georgia Brittain
Sadly, this was not the case with a relatively small audience in attendance for what one would deem a relatively ‘hot ticket’. For the couple of hundred who did head to the Marble Factory, the evening was a rewarding one.
For those who haven’t been to the Marble Factory in Bristol, its located to the South East of the city, hidden amongst a sprawl of soulless office blocks and industrial units. The venue, however, is designed for live music and is blessed with a high stage that allows all in the concrete-floored main room to obtain a decent view. Coupled with a good sound, it’s an ideal venue for hard rock.
For four of his shows, Kris invited bands to apply for the opening slot. Bristol winners were Aniimalia, a four-piece alt-rock outfit whose music brought a distinctly indie flavour with a rock edge. A quick trawl of the socials revealed several singles available for listening pleasure, and I’m sure these were included in the setlist. Visibly growing in stature as their 30 minutes progressed, all eyes were on diminutive vocalist Kira Beckett whose non-stop movement and shocking blue hair caught the attention.
Musically the band played with a confident style, not bad for the quartet, who are still in their early stages of development. Beckett waited until three songs in before introducing the band, which allowed the crowd to absorb Aniimalia’s intent to let the music do the talking. The Somerset group were met with warm applause from the audience, and whilst there is still plenty of work to do, particularly with the rather abrupt endings on their songs, they were a vibrant addition to the bill.
2021 was the year when Merthyr trio Florence Black really caught their wave head-on. Their debut album Weight Of The World was a fine record, and they’ve toured hard to maintain momentum. Their addition as main support added heft to the undercard and was a bonus for those of us who are fans of the band.
Kicking off with Zulu, the band roared fearlessly into their set. Lead guitarist and vocalist Tristan Thomas has confidence verging on arrogance, and he put it to great use, casually ignoring several early technical issues and generally cruising through the minor challenges this presented him.
Florence Black has a hard rock sound underpinned by bluesy, soulful elements that run through their music, and despite a couple of ragged endings, it was with a comfortable ease that they delivered their set, evidently reward for their constant road work. As the set evolved and Thomas’s guitar work took centre stage, the crowd, many who hadn’t seen the band before, slowly warmed and the fists in the air increased.
If you’ve seen the band before, you’ll know that they’ve made Budgie’s Breadfan their own, and they ensured a few eardrums were ringing with a raucous version. Closing their set with the gentler Sun & Moon, it’s easy to see why Florence Black are many punters tip for bigger things.
This wasn’t their best show by a long way. A rather flat audience and members of the band still recovering from an illness that forced them to miss the earliest part of the tour, both no doubt contributing. However, there’s still enough with an 80% Florence Black to keep the attention for the full set. 2022 is set to be an interesting year for the trio, and it will be fascinating to see if they can continue to build on their success.
Planet Rock new band of the year in 2019, three albums and numerous tours with support slots to Bon Jovi, The Magpie Salute and Black Stone Cherry, to name a few, former MMA athlete Kris Barras is a phenomenon.
If you like Planet Rock’s playlists, then Barras is probably already on your radar. With a revamped line-up who are already road warriors with the band, this was a cohesive and polished performance from start to finish. A dramatic intro saw bassist Kelpie McKenzie, drummer Billy Hammett and guitarist Josiah J Manning jam on stage before the arrival of Barras and the first of many blasts of smoke. Launching into Hail Mary, this was the start of a 16-song set that included a selection of tracks from the latest album, Death Valley Paradise, along with a smattering of songs from previous releases.
If you were in any doubt who the crowd had come to see, then one listen during the regular opportunities for audience participation would have confirmed that a Kris Barras Band crowd knows all the words. Switching tempo, Barras is a consummate performer.
Covered in tattoos, muscles bulging, he’s quite the frontman whilst McKenzie cannot stand still, bouncing around like Tigger on speed. The unassuming Manning is undoubtedly the main cog in the wheel, his sublime and understated supporting guitar and backing vocals allowed Barras to cut loose at every opportunity.
There is no doubt that Barras is a fine guitar player. His fretwork was exemplary and, at times, ferocious. I find his singing a little one dimensional, but he pitches it to the audience he knows will lap it up. A short acoustic interlude saw magic from Manning, and a heartfelt version of Skynyrd’s Simple Man encouraged more singing from those in front of the stage.
A poignant dedication to those who had lost someone in the past two years for Watching Over Me jerked a few hearts whilst releasing the blues machine that his earlier career centred upon. But it’s his bombastic anthems that are the strongest suit he owns, and the set finished strongly, with the new call to arms, My Parade, now a firm favourite with old and new fans alike.
An 80-minute set whizzed by, and whilst I am not the biggest KBB fan by a country mile, it would have been difficult not to have appreciated the quality on offer. How much further the KBB can push is questionable, but with attendances at other shows looking healthy, its clear that the market for radio-friendly hard rock is still very much alive.
In that theatre, Barras and co are up there with the best.