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Gig Review : Kontrol Freaks – Underbelly, Hoxton

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Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM

Live music has come back and whilst we’re not filling stadiums just yet, small shows have been happening all over the country, musicians and audiences reacquainting themselves.

Fast rising London combo Kontrol Freaks hit the stage in the basement of London’s Underbelly club and it was a gloriously visceral and ramshackle reminder of the power of amplification.

There’s an untamed edge to the four piece that speaks of a grasping of the punky rock ‘n’ roll ethos where anything goes and can happen, an air of danger and delight in putting up two fingers to authority. Whilst the persona of the band has this untamed edge, the material is a melting pot of bluesy 70’s rock, elements of rambunctious modern metal and more than a little mile deep and wide groove.

Freight train opener ‘Far Out and Loud’ is the perfect distillation of their attitude and influences, the band bounding onstage with all the suitable intensity and glee of four individuals kept from their natural habitat for way too long. The central riff flies like sparks out of Seb Kromp’s guitar as singer Monty Sewell prowls the stage, her strutting presence full of a confident sensuality that perfectly matches her richly honeyed, slightly dirty, tones.

Barely pausing for a delighted breath, ‘I Know You’ is full of raw energy, the bass pattern digging in as four stringer Micky Gough powers through, looking cool in shades, black leather jacket and shirtless chest.

The anthemic ‘Freaks’ is a rallying call to arms, a song cementing the bond between the quartet and those gathered there to see them in one big multifaceted family.

Such was the vigour that drummer Leo Mesada attacked his kit that two drumsticks were reduced to splinters as shards of wood were caught in the lights as they flew from the battered instruments.

Slowing down slightly, ‘Waste Of Time’ is a slinky but strident blues workout before ‘Hedonism’ turns up the heat again, it’s funky groove and some feral vocals sounding like a lovelorn vixen crying at midnight making the (socially distanced) audience grin in pure delight.

Sewell seems to be able to use every single inch of the stage and beyond as her territory, often coming down and near those gathered to witness the band, her focus on conveying the music and seemingly possessed by it. Gough is a blur, constantly throwing shapes and he moves with wild abandon, Kromp peeling out the riffs in his juxtaposed outfit of sharp hat and jacket with jogging bottoms and t shirt and all whilst the constantly smiling Mesada lays down the beat at the rear of the stage, the joy seemingly unbound.

Single ‘Here Comes The Storm’ comes in a spiky blur, all snotty attitude and grit, the vibrant ‘Rise’ barrelling after it but with time ticking there was only one song that could truly finish the set off, forthcoming single and fan favourite ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Fire’.

Met with a genuine roar of appreciation and a mass sing along, the already quite animated audience seemed to find some reserves of turbo charged energy, the tracks steamroller power relentless, its upbeat bounce irresistible.

Things should have ended on that high, the time closely restricted by the venues Covid regulations but the band, in true anarchic spirit, decided they were going to play one more song. With the security called to pull them off stage, it was truly a rock ‘n’ roll end to a short but joyful set that marks Kontrol Freaks as one of the Capital’s brightest hopes.

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