It’s always refreshing to come across a band who can achieve the same excellent sound live- when so much can go wrong- as they can when they’ve spent days perfecting the mix in the studio. Sundara Karma is one of these such bands.
My initial thought was that it was a risky decision to have a support act like The Magic Gang, whose style is similar to Sundara Karma and who are already fairly well known among young indie fans around the country- exactly the kind of people you’d expect to see at a Sundara Karma gig. And The Magic Gang were excellent, with beautiful harmonies, cheeky confidence and a clear affinity with many of the audience who thoroughly enjoyed all of their tracks, new and old.
Then came (after a reasonable wait, I have to say) the band strolling onto the stage nonchalantly as no doubt they have for the past 11 shows they’ve already done on this very hefty tour. The excitement of the fans was evident by the fact that despite the set being launched by the chilling, deep vibrato of ‘Another Word for Beautiful’ (not exactly a foot-stomper) there were still surges to the front of the crowd and dissonant bawling along from the underage-drinking teenagers who made up the majority of the crowd. Having said this, however, there was a decent portion of older people (by which I mean mid twenties- early thirties), proving that Sundara Karma aren’t just another simple yet edgy band only heard in Sixth Form Common Rooms – they’re a promising up and coming group of talented musicians with lots of potential for the future.
The malleability of Oscar's voice was truly extraordinary.
The malleability of Oscar’s voice was truly extraordinary, as he appeared to drift effortlessly from the low Bowie-esque, almost operatic quality of ‘Another Word for Beautiful' straight into the much higher and more staccato ‘A Young Understanding’. And this liveliness emulating not only from the energy of the music but from the musicians themselves soon got the intense pushing and shoving started (no joke, I nearly died). Despite the near-death experience however, it’s always encouraging for the band to have an evident display of the effect of their music upon their fans, who can’t help themselves but dance/mosh/nearly kill each other in a friendly way.
Without much interjection or chat from the band other than the odd “How you doing?” or “Yes Newcastle!” from Oscar (as well as an appeal to the more excited crowd members to be considerate of those around them, showing a genuine concern for the wellbeing of the fans, something easily forgotten by some artists), the gig progressed smoothly. They took us through the well-known middle-floor-of-digi-esque tracks like ‘She Said’ and ‘Loveblood’, with gentle interludes of the truly beautiful and quite emotional moments of ‘Be Nobody’ and ‘Happy Family’ (although somehow, there was still moshing to these songs). When asked about the message of the album, Oscar replied that it was about nostalgia and loneliness.
However, the name of the album- Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect juxtaposed the atmosphere of the show- a congregation of teenagers and young adults listening to some great music, making memories with each other and in most cases, moshing their absolute tits off and generally having a sick time. But maybe that was Sundara Karma’s intention, they’re a mysterious and philosophical bunch.
It was a congregation of teenagers and young adults listening to some great music, making memories and generally having a sick time.
Ending on one of their newest and therefore less familiar songs, ‘Explore’ was another risky element of their gig, but this is, as I have quickly realised, indicative of Sundara Karma. They’ve taken on a genre which has been fairly saturated of late, with new bands desperately trying to be edgy, playing the same songs about the same girls who “done them wrong”, but they’ve added a completely new dimension to it.
Instead of writing about parties and sex and drugs, Sundara Karma delve into Plato’s Cave theory, death and family life, they wear nail varnish (‘cos why the fuck not), they have long hair and wear fluffy hats inside on relatively balmy days, but at the same time they’re humble, they’re very nice to slightly awkward uni students interviewing them and they’re not trying to impress anyone. Which is why they can take a risk and end on one of their newest and therefore less familiar songs and it will pay off- the mosh pits will form, the hoarse voices will sing along and the room will reluctantly empty of its more than satisfied occupants, counting the days until Sundara Karma venture to the Toon once again.