Gig Review: Radkey – The Louisiana, Bristol – Tuesday 4th March


Review By Scott Hammond –

The brothers Radke are all instantly recognisable as they stand amongst the scant group of early-comers during first support act Lyger’s set. The distinctive dreadlocks, afro-mohawk and more conventional ‘fro, belonging to the 3 siblings from Missouri, all bob with an attentive reverence to the thunderous clatter emerging from their tour buddies up on stage. Within this first acquaintance is a clear impression that will prove to be vindicated as the night progresses: Radkey are clearly in thrall to the intoxicating power of loud guitar driven music and, via the visceral racket of heavy Rock n Roll, they are just 3 young boys looking to have a blast.

With an appearance on Jools Holland last October, two released EPs and a very first headline tour of which tonight is the penultimate date, these 3 cool kids from the Midwest are enjoying a heady momentum that has seen them emerge as one of the best young rock bands of the moment.

Before the opening track, 16 year old drummer Solomon looks expressly nervous and childlike as he quietly sits at his kit waiting for the music to begin; however, his transformation to angry percussionist is instantaneous as his hard-hitting beat merges with 18 year old Isaiah’s running bassline in the intro to “Out Here in My Head”.

With next track “Little Man”, one can already spot the band’s penchant for looping four chord/two bar patterns and repeated sing-along choruses.  The audience, mainly of the fresh-faced variety but containing a few middle-aged folk who perhaps see Radkey’s brand of grungy metal to harken back to bands such as The Misfits and The Damned, are receptive to proceedings and it’s not long until a Louisiana mosh-pit ensues.

Bassist Isaiah takes responsibility for the short in-between song badinage and before “Pretty Things” he declares his appreciation of the band having their very first headlining tour in the UK. “You guys know your Rock n Roll, man – you’ve got some of the greatest bands like Led Zeppelin.” An ironic shout of “And One Direction!” then emanates from the crowd and this causes Isaiah to lament “Well, fuck you guys for them…..but we have Miley Cyrus so I guess we’re even.”

Radkey, with the relentless assaults on their instruments are not ones for a change of pace but “Feed My Brain” does feature the night’s first and only clean guitar effect at its intro and a slower, moodier verse before normal service is resumed with the weight of an apocalyptic, Black Sabbath influenced chorus.

“Start Freaking Out” very much sounds like an instruction to which the crowd is unquestionably complicit as its speedy punk rush induces the most violent moshing of the evening. All the fun is certainly not being had by the audience though; a charming aspect regarding the trio is how much they appear to enjoy themselves on stage. Front man Dee periodically plays guitar on his knees and has a taste for power stances while Isaiah constantly weaves his body, bobs his head and rolls his eyes as if under a strange, sonic trance inflicted upon him by some heavy metal witch doctor.

A cover of Faith No More’s “Digging a Grave” makes an appearance and features some of Dee’s most fiery yelps and death metal screams. While there is no doubt a formulaic aspect to many of Radkey’s songs (the previously mentioned 4 chords/2 bar patterns, adjoining “oh, oh oohhs” at the end of repeated choruses and guitar solos reliably arriving at seemingly the same point in every song), the band have idiosyncrasies that keep them interesting; with his doomy baritone voice, the 20 year old singer sometimes sounds like a Vegas crooner on amphetamines while Solomon somehow manages to hit hard despite unconventionally gripping his hands almost halfway up his drumsticks.

Talk of formulas is perhaps unfair considering the nature of what Radkey do. They put on a wonderfully raucous show and create the joyous reality of shared, communal chaos. After repeated chants of “Rad-key” from the crowd, the band play one last tune in the form of “Romance Dawn” and then the crowd-surfing begins. After three audience members ride the wave, Isaiah surfs the sea of hands and, his head just inches from the ceiling, he manages to continue playing his bass guitar. He is then returned to the stage and, with uncanny timing, he lands back on his feet at the perfect moment to launch into the song’s penultimate chorus. It is the most explosive moment of the evening and one that encapsulates the electrifying, discordant, ramshackle enjoyment that is the Radkey experience.

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