Once I’d waded through the swathes of leather jackets, fishnets, tatted limbs and the pervasive scent of mixed high-end cologne towards the stage, I caught sight of the giant ‘Y’ hanging down from the ceiling. In a bold white font set in a red circle filled with repeats of the acronym ‘TMTF’, it mimicked the British Board of Film Classification certificate for an ‘18’ rated film. This set rather lofty expectations for the show to come. Would we be treated to strong language, nudity, sadistic violence and explicit scenes of a sexual nature (if justified by the context)?
Brighton based Yonaka are a growing force, yet to have released their debut album but already possessing a fanatical following; another nascent tale in the noteworthy, if modest, resurgence of heavy-ish alternative rock, as viable paths out of the quagmire of post-00’s landfill indie begin to emerge. Whilst the likes of Blossoms and The 1975 dwell in the drab melancholic marshes of synth pop-rock, Yonaka stoke the wildfires and scream from the mountain top, gloriously embracing the wildness and punch of their genre.
Opener ‘Teach Me To Fight’ sets the night alight with its feverish riffs, curt rap-like verses and a booming chorus, the formula they repeat unapologetically that imbues their set with tenacity and soul. Equally potent in their arsenal is the charisma of lead singer Theresa Jarvis, who not only struts and convulses to the bass drum like a seasoned pro, but also seems to possess genuine rage and rancor that she pours into her vocal delivery, gifting meaning to their searing sound. This is most pointedly felt in the exhilarating ‘Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya,’ a bullish tirade against her absentee father. Introduced as "a song about someone you fucking hate and never want to be," with the eviscerating one liners "thick lies leave rotten teeth" and "your greed took all our feed," it’s a refreshing reminder of the depth songs gain with barebones, heartfelt content, rather than another song about a rockstar texting his model ex.
Shades of electronica and warped vocal recordings add a further dimension to their live sound, such as on the devious ‘Bubblegum,’ again showcasing the openness of modern rock to electronic influence. This was rewarded with a Maya Jane Coles remix, which can’t have done any harm to a band who want to be ‘seriously big’ and headlining Glastonbury in ‘a couple of years.’
At this moment, however, what lies on their horizon is difficult to predict. Their pursuit of the anthemic choruses that can often lead to glitz and glory holds promise, yet they lack the lethal, killer single with a sumptuous melody that can catapult bands into the stratosphere. On the strength of this live performance, which did eventually feature mild violence (vigorous moshing), partial nudity (the guitarist and drummer tore off their shirts midway through) and bad language (see the lyrics to almost every song), they have many qualities required to be a stapled on headliner to come, and god does the circuit need one. For now though, Yonaka’s fate will be at the mercy of their future songcraft.