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Following a couple of years hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, Amplified festival returned last week end, running over three days with two shows in London and one in Manchester, featuring some of the best UK alternative independent acts to date. If you’ve missed this opportunity, Amplified promises to come back again next year, so make sure to check the event website and social pages for more.

I was sent by FrameMusic to cover the Camden Underworld, London show – for those who are not familiar with the venue, this is one of the best in London’s for alternative grassroots music.

After the quiet past couple of years, I went there with the expectation of seeing bands eager to take up the stage and leading the audience. Well, my wish was granted!

The first band I got to see was Lightwave.

Lightwave, a newly formed female led band, delivered songs from their first EP ‘Dark Cycles’, kicking off with the heavy opener ‘Fake’, followed by ‘Dopamine’, ‘Damage’, ‘Grudge’, ‘Serenity’ and closing with ‘Reviver’, which was the quieter piece from their EP, a nice ending to the show. While you may be deceived by the looks of Samantha, as at first I was (a bit of an early 2000s Avril Lavigne lookalike), their style was definitely not on the light side (excuse the pun). Their music was the perfect mix of metal with just a hint of pop (the right amount), reminding me of nowadays Japanese rock-metal bands such as BAND-MAID. The band was great on stage, despite being still new to the scene, you could definitely see chemistry among the members, which ended the session with, what I found to be, ‘a cute moment’ of Samantha and guitar player Johnny giving each other a fist bump, to signify the achievement of a very good session.

Following Lightwave, there was the constantly outrageous Tokyo Taboo, another female led band, who didn’t disappoint. The feisty band, who are used to being on, off or laying on the stage, presented their 80’s style punk rock mixed with something you rarely (if ever) see at a gig, a dance pole! Front-woman Dolly Daggers was fully charged, delivering not only some cool pole moves while singing, who left the audience in awe, but also mixing up with new and old fans and ‘screaming’ to their faces to the sound of their classic tunes ‘Pussy Power’ and ’N.A.R.C.I.S.I.M’ (nevertheless the guys were very happy to have Dolly so close up to their noses).

Of course, for those who watched TT before, a quiet recovery moment was needed, with the band delivering the combo ballad ‘Drowning/Walls’, in which Dolly asked the audience to sit down and sing along. While playing Whiskey, Dolly cheekily reminded the audience of her winning her battle with alcohol which made her a ‘real pain’ in past gigs, the band ended the session with another one of their best hits, ‘No Pleasure, Only Pain’. The band delivered another spot on show and while the audience asked for an encore, the band couldn’t grant it due to a busy schedule ahead.  

Going forward with the 80s reminiscences of Tokyo Taboo, Daxx & Roxane played next. If you love classic rock and roll tunes of the likes of Guns n’ Roses and Van Halen, then you will fall in love with Daxx & Roxane, the same way as I did. As you would expect from real rockers, the band members didn’t miss to have fun on stage, playing each others guitars, laying on the stage for most of the performance and literally having a good time partying around (as it should always be). The band played some of the tunes from their previous album ‘Ticket to Rock’, with the homonymous first song of the album opening the set, as well as some tunes from the latest ‘Daxx & Roxane’ album such as the lovely ballad ‘Heal’ – you can’t call yourself a rock and roll band if there’s no ballads.

The evening moved from rock and roll to what was a combination of nu-power-melodic metal and rock (with a little bit of hard core), from a band of heavily bearded and tattooed men (maybe a requirement to join the band), RXPTRS – pronounced ‘Raptors’ – with powerful & engaging high pitched vocals and stage presence of Simon Roach. The band really drew in the shyer metal-heads who were hiding in the room and who didn’t miss the chance to head bang to the music of ‘Rock Bottom’. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take a shot to the band’s set list but most of the tunes they played were taken from their latest album ‘Living Without Death’s Permission’, including my new favourite ‘Burning Pages’.

The evening continued with another female led band, Tigress, who also seemed to have good fun while on stage, delivering a mixture of songs from their latest album ‘Pura Vida’ and some older tunes like the opener ‘Power Lines’, which nicely warmed the room with some early jumping, ’Bring me Down’ and ‘Alive’. As with Tokyo Taboo, they also decided to bring in some of their calmer songs like ‘A Letter to Death’ and ‘Feel it’. Other tunes included ‘Choke’, ‘Headaches’ and ‘Disconnect’.  

The evening closed with headliners Esprit D’Air, bringing Visual Kei/Japanese Rock to what had been, to that point, an interesting and enjoyable day, full of new discoveries. Ahead of the band’s appearance, a line of hard core fans crammed to the front, ready to rock and support Kai’s project (Esprit D’Air). The opener of the evening was from their latest album Oceans with the intro “Into the Oceans” followed by ‘Tsunami’. It was great to see the the way Kai interacted with his audience – even going off stage – and vice versa, with fans singing back to the lyrics of their hits ‘Calling you’ and ‘Guiding Light’.

As expected, there was also great chemistry on stage, with the interactions between Kai and the band members, particularly Yusuke (guitar player) singing along together with Kai’s hands on his shoulders. While I wished for the likes of ‘Serafine’ and ‘Shizuku’ to be played (and that didn’t happen) the rest of their very energetic session focused on the last album with the likes of ‘Dead Zone’ (originally sang with Ben Christo of Sisters of Mercy), ‘Nebulae’ and ‘Versus’. Nevertheless, the band still delivered an amazing show that reflected the pure passion of independent artists like Kai, making sure that both the audience and the band were having a memorable time. That memorable time was redefined by the encore that was asked and delivered with ‘Ignition’.

At that point the crowd was still eager and chanting for more, unfortunately ‘time’, as it is for these gigs, was the enemy and the evening ended with everyone heading to the merch stand for one last chance to interact with Esprit D’Air. 

Words & Images: Anna Marchesani (Nocturna Photography)