11.13 Hammer arrive at today’s first venue, the Old Blue Last in London’s Shoreditch. All members of Palm Reader are present and correct. We ask guitarist Andy Gillan if he’s nervous. “Nah,” he shrugs. “I’ve just got to play a bit of guitar today.” Yeah, Andy. Simple.
11.20 Baby Godzilla, the secret headliners of the first gig and notorious venue destroyers, soundcheck. Bassist Paul Shelley walks around the venue a bit, but apart from that there’s no throwing things around or breaking instruments. Gutting.
11.45 Palm Reader begin their first soundcheck. Bassist Josh Redrup breaks his bass almost instantly. This is probably not a very good omen./o:p
12.00 The doors open and Palm Reader’s day of five gigs is about to commence… two people walk into the venue. Damn.
12.17 There’s now what you would definitely refer to as a ‘healthy crowd’ inside the Old Blue Last. Which is good news, obviously.
12.25 Five minutes before their first show, Palm Reader are in the upstairs greenroom. “This one will be alright,” says guitarist Sam Rondeau-Smith. “It’s the others I’m worried about.” The band depart the room one by one, and vocalist Josh McKeown is the last to leave. “I’m really scared,” he says as he wanders off. Chin up, mate!/o:p
12.30 Palm Reader begin show number one. Almost immediately, the whole band start to throw themselves around the stage with wild abandon. Have they never heard of pacing themselves?
12.38 “Two songs into the first set,” says Josh M. “Everything sounding alright? Come to the last show and we’ll see if you say the same…”
12.59 A particularly vicious version of Smack Hound closes the first set. With barely time to breathe, gear is loaded into the van and we’re hurried in to drive to The Black Heart in Camden. One down, four to go…/o:p
13.14 We’re all loaded, and leaving 16 minutes ahead of schedule. Most of the band look more impressed by this than by the gig they’ve just played. “It was alright,” shrugs Andy, who gets universal nods of agreement from his bandmates.
13.29 “Oh look, a Prius,” says Josh M. OK, so the rock’n’roll debauchery hasn’t exactly started in earnest yet.
13.38 We arrive at The Black Heart 50 minutes before stage time. “This isn’t even that much of a challenge,” says Josh R as we take five. “We originally wanted to travel between venues only using the Tube or trains.” We don’t have time to explain the many reasons why that’s an absurd idea, as the band now have to load their gear into the venue. But… that would have been a bad idea.
13.50 With the gear loaded in, we get a chance to watch OHHMS, and their post-rock stylings, open the show.
14.29 Palm Reader are ready for round two. It’s a fairly small crowd inside the venue, but they seem to be up for it as Josh M beckons them down to the lip of the stage.
14.39 If anything, Palm Reader seem to have more energy than before. The intensity levels are certainly cranked up another notch… maybe they were pacing themselves after all.
14.46 As the band smash through Stacks, a man wanders to the front of the stage, puts his hands in his pockets and gawps at what’s occurring in front of him. Does he like it? Hate it? We don’t know. But he stays there, motionless, until the end of the set. So… that’s got to be a good thing, right?
15.00 As Black Hand brings the set to a close, it’s pure carnage onstage. The idea that Palm Reader would go lightly or hold back looks absurd. They look happier than at the Old Blue Last and, unsurprisingly, far more exhausted. “Get to Brixton in an hour and a half,” pants Andy by way of farewell. “There’s a dog on the roof.” Eh?
15.06 “If I’d have gone any more crazy, then I’d definitely have shit myself.” We’ve just asked drummer Dan Olds how he’s feeling as he packs up. And now we’re kinda wishing we hadn’t./o:p
15.21 We’re in the van on our way to The Windmill in Brixton. The band continue to shrug off the idea that this is a difficult task. “I think we should have done five shows in five cities,” says Andy. “Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham, London and Guildford. We could have done that!” Sounds about as much fun as your train idea, guys. “Def Leppard style!” Dan chimes in, helpfully.
15.52 We arrive at The Windmill in Brixton. There are, in fact, two dogs on the roof. We’re sorry we ever doubted you, Andy.
15.56 As the band load in, we catch a bit of main support We Never Learned To Live, and are glad we did. Their heavy post-hardcore is reminiscent of Devil Sold His Soul, and very enjoyable to boot.
16.11 Josh R eats a banana and Dan smokes a fag as the band wait to go on. Feeling good so far then, Dan? “Oh yeah,” he replies. “Easy! I’m Dan Olds!” Dan is not a man who suffers from a lack of self-confidence.
16.23 It’s the busiest show of the day so far, and a few familiar faces from previous gigs are popping up again. Got anything new planned for these people, Josh? “I’m going to complain about being tired more,” the singer replies. What a coup for the good people of Brixton.
16.30 “Number three!” is all Josh M says as Palm Reader go at it again.
16.33 Josh R’s bass curse has come back again, cutting in and out over the first couple of numbers. He responds by battering the hell out of it. Which probably won’t help, but it looks very impressive.
16.42 Palm Reader are really flying now. Spineless, from their debut album Bad Weather, puts in its first appearance of the day. Which is a good thing, seeing as it’s a total banger.
16.56 At the end of a truly brutal rendition of Seeing And Believing Are Two Different Things, Josh M takes a swig from his bottle of honey. Well-earned that man.
16.59 The supremely confident Dan is struggling to finish closing song Smack Hound. He does. But then appears to die, slumped behind his kit and not moving.
17.08 “I’ve got to fix my shitting, fucking bass again!” growls Josh R. He’s not happy, clearly.
17.14 Stop the press: Dan Olds is alive and drinking a beer. You looked fucked at the end of that, Dan. “Nah, mate,” he replies, swigging a Budweiser. “All for show. All for the kids!” Sure./o:p
18.14 After a van ride that encompasses bad smells, descriptions of various scars seen on strippers and a raucous rendition of the Emmerdale theme, we arrive at The Cricketers in Kingston for gig number four.
18.30 For pretty much the first time in the day, Palm Reader have some time to kill as headliners Hawk Eyes soundcheck. Time they spend listening to Botch and Code Orange and arguing about the next setlist, naturally.
18.56 Having loaded in their gear, the band are still arguing about the setlist. “Just get me somewhere quiet,” says Josh M. People are seriously lagging…
19.13 Palm Reader soundcheck Noble Host (Grace Pt.3). They all look like they’re in tremendous pain.
19.25 At present, Sam is the freshest-looking member of the band. What’s your secret? “I dunno,” he shrugs. “Basically the London shows went by so quickly that you could hardly notice them. But since we’ve stopped for a bit, I’m not feeling so good. This break is a slag.”
19.38 In the van, Dan is rapping the words written on the packet of a Pret sandwich. You get the feeling Palm Reader are starting to unravel…
19.58 The band’s pizza is delivered… but reaches them a mere two minutes before they’re due onstage. Andy, very impressively, manages to play the first half of opening song Sing Out, Survivor with a slice of meatball and pepperoni hanging out of his mouth. Round four starts absurdly.
20.07 That pizza certainly seems to have done the trick, because the pained, tired gentlemen of the soundcheck have been replaced by the most furiously volatile group you’ve ever seen. Guitars are thrown, mic stands are hurled and Dan pounds his kit with unrestrained ferocity. How the hell did this happen?
20.21 Dan is in a bad way. He’s peering into the distance like he’s having an out-of-body experience. After a quick pause he launches into Seeing And Believing Are Two Different Things… what a trooper.
20.25 “One more song,” says Josh M. “I don’t know why I’m saying that. It’s never just one more song.” Smack Hound closes what has been a real endurance test of a set.
20.30 The set is over, but Palm Reader are still onstage. None of them have moved. A couple of them have collapsed. This is not pretty.
20.42 Josh R has peeled himself up off the floor, packed his bass into the van and is snacking on garlic bread. How are you feeling? “I’ve felt better,” is all we get.
20.47 We’re back in the van and on our way to the final stop: The Star in Guildford. Sam is not looking so good. “You can’t move between songs now,” he tells us. “I finish the song and then just shut down. It’s mad.”
20.57 “PULL OVER!” Andy has spotted an off-licence. Palm Reader leap out and proceed to spend rather a lot of money on booze. Looks like the afterparty is starting early!
21.06 Hold that thought. Dan is writing his preferred setlist on an empty pizza box and looking for approval. The setlist debate has reared its head once again.
21.29 We’ve reached our final destination. Employed To Serve are currently warming up the packed house with their metallic hardcore.
22.08 Drenched in sweat and with a call for all those in attendance to come further forward, Palm Reader start their fifth and final gig of the day.
22.14 The excellent Stacks is the catalyst for Palm Reader to absolutely lose their shit once again. Quite remarkable.
22.23 “Fuck me sideways.” Josh M is clearly running out of stage patter.
22.31 Everyone in the band has their shirt off. Andy is on his knees and his eyes are rolling back up into his head, Dan looks like he’s about to have a seizure, and Josh R is lying on the floor. If this was a boxing match, it would be getting stopped right now.
22.33 Oh wait. I Watch The Fire Chase My Tongue kicks in, and everyone is a blur of constant motion. This band are the hardcore equivalent of Rocky Balboa!
22.43 “If anyone is around after the show, I’ll be drinking whisky,” Josh tells the crowd. “This one’s called Smack Hound.” And with that, and three more minutes of sweat-soaked, emotionally raw hardcore performed through gritted teeth by bruised and battered bodies, they’re gone./o:p
22.48 We thought that Palm Reader would be in pieces, but actually it’s Andy’s guitar, which he smashes at the climax of the song, that’s the day’s only real casualty. Someone has had enough.
22.50 Photos are taken and the band mingle with fans. It’s some achievement and, true to their word, they begin to drink in celebration of the completion of this task. Josh M feels “annihilated”. And Andy claims he’s “alright, actually. But I’m sure once the adrenaline wears off I’m going to be in a world of pain.”
Luckily for him and his bandmates, adrenaline is not something in short supply. Five shows. One Day. Zero fucks. And a whole lot of hangovers tomorrow…
PALM READER’S BESIDE THE ONES WE LOVE IS OUT NOW VIA IN AT THE DEEP END/o:p