This Blank Realm article was written by Stephen Butchard, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Josh Hummerston
Daniel Spencer’s dual role as vocalist and drummer is only passingly noteworthy when discussing Blank Realm’s studio output, but it’s nearly unavoidable to mention in the live setting. He sits at the centre of the cramped Hug and Pint stage, florescent lights shining on his forehead as his bandmates bounce and shuffle around his kit. His droll vocal battles against a loose, endlessly driving drum style in a way that satisfies even more than on record. His bandmates – two siblings and a ‘spiritual brother’ – move in closer, eager to match his momentum no matter the consequences to their instruments. Opener, ‘No Views’s sees Lukey Walsh breaking a string thanks to the unrelenting energy. The band casually role into interlude music as he fixes it. “This happens all the time”, Daniel chuckles.
This giddy energy has lifted their tunes past glaring influences into a blend of garage rock, new age and shoegaze that feels invigorating in its approach. Live, this feeling is even more tangible. Sarah Spenser bounces gleefully whilst mashing at her keytar. A twisted carnival organ timbre collides violently with Walsh’s fluid guitar noodling. On ‘River of Longing’, I’m in awe that both players are able to keep up with the unrelenting drive of the drum kit, the slinky riff remaining almost blissful as the band blaze through the final minute of the track.
It’s an immaculate performance that at points suffers from the crowd’s lack of energy. One girl behind me stands texting throughout the majority of the show, and even though this is out of the band’s control (and urks the Abe Simpson in me more than it probably should), it also reveals a chink in an otherwise excellent performance; for a band that rely so heavily on simple, unadulterated energy, a lack of crowd support acts to only draw attention to the one note formula the band act with. Going all in until the track disintegrates is a visceral, exciting prospect, but feels slightly flaccid when the crowd isn’t combusting with you.
On two cuts, Daniel steps up from the drum kit and infront the crowd for woozy balladry. ‘Dream Date’ captures all of the drunken swagger as the recorded version and sees him treating us to some dance moves to rival any Future Islands show. The crowd yelp wildly at its finish, proving that the love is wholly there for the band, but maybe Monday evening blues or the dis(concert)ing smell of Asian food from upstairs are stopping them from fully committing. Who knows.
By the time ‘Palace of Love’ and ‘Falling down the stairs’ – two perfect songs both on and off record – have rolled around, the energy has picked back up, and this time the crowd are along for the ride. The difference is slight, but potent. The band’s charm, technical skill and stickiness rings through as it did before, but now, there’s a fuzzy feeling radiating from around as we dance ourselves into a childish catharsis. This is the full Blank Realm experience, and when it works, it really works.