Jesuits, Telegram @ Start the Bus, Bristol, 27/02/16

TelegramHot on the heels of releasing their crowd-funded debut album, Operator, Telegram return to Bristol on their headline UK tour. There is a definite sense of celebration in the air, as the still-unsigned band have managed to overcome the pitfalls of the modern-day hype machine, after being tipped by outlets such as NME for a few years now. The hard work has clearly paid off, and with a great debut album to promote, Telegram look set to revel in the glory of tonight’s sold out gig.

Bristol band Jesuits, who have supported Telegram for the bulk of their tour, were added to the bill last minute, under the brilliant pseudonym The Mary-Kate and Ashley Chain. The band’s short set mixes scuzzy garage rock recalling Ty Segall and Wand, the improvised freak outs of Sonic Youth, and even dabbles in dreamier shoegaze territory. Jesuits seem to have become the house band at Start the Bus, but their presence never feels unwanted - a band who can be relied upon to deliver a great set, time after time.

Telegram take to the stage at the unusually late time of 11:45PM; the pros and cons of which are that both audience and band members are beginning to get quite drunk. Opening with the glam rock stomp of “Telegramme”, one of the most notable things about the band is their look. Channeling The Velvet Underground and The Stooges; their boots, leather jackets and haircuts fit the bill for a ‘proper’ rock star look, without adhering to too many cliches.

Front man Matt Saunders’ onstage banter is baffling, where understandable. The (likely intoxicated) singer speaks in a strong Caerphilly accent, murmuring things to himself in front of the microphone and mentioning to members of the front row something about Kung Fu. It doesn’t matter, though. Saunders’ voice sounds fantastic, and his serpentine hip-shaking limbers up the audience.

Throughout their set, elements of 70s rock, 80s punk, krautrock and glam all fuse seamlessly. Album opener “Rule Number One” turns up the intensity, but it isn’t until fan favourite “Follow” that excitement levels begin to peak (Jesuits’ guitarist James MacLucas takes to someone’s shoulders with a can of lager in his hand, belting the lyrics back at Saunders). Recent single “Taffy Come Home” is a highlight, with Saunders’ tearing up an improvised guitar solo that is heavy on feedback. Tonight the band also recall elements of Toy, T. Rex and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust phase, but without losing their own identity in the process.

In an age where so many bands are forced to fold under financial pressure, it’s refreshing to see how Telegram have kept to their DIY aesthetic and seen it through to a notable degree of success. It’s impossible to say what the future predicts, but Telegram have already surpassed the buzz surrounding them in their early days, and their dedication to their craft warrants them deserving greater things to come.

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