Live Review// Fort Hope, DEAD! & Sally Pepper @ The Rainbow, Birmingham

Photo Credit: Rebecca Need Menear

Before releasing their self-titled EP at the beginning of February, Fort Hope announced their first ever headline UK tour which was pretty exciting for both band and fans. As you could expect, it was a cold evening of the 23rd February in Birmingham but that was soon to be forgotten as it was to come to a proud/unforgettable ending with it being the last date of the tour. The show was held at one of the most intimate music venues in the city, The Rainbow, holding a capacity of 250 people.

5 o’clock was around the time in which the queue began to form, bearing in mind the show was due to start at 7. The British weather did not stop, even at its worst. To keep everything in check before the main event, fans of Fort Hope and Dead! took it upon themselves to number themselves from “1” onwards which kept everyone in their place in the queue. Of course with the trusted sharpie pen at hand!

Firstly to take the stage was Sally Pepper, armed with an acoustic guitar and powerful vocals which captured the attention of the not yet filled venue. Young Guns shirt? Check. Sort of like the calm before the storm- as following this was ‘White Knuckle Secret’ of which features singer Tom Kavanagh of I Divide. A mention of Fall out Boy somewhere in the set? Check. Being the first on stage isn’t always the easiest but Sally did a great job with her stage presence (relatable to the majority of the crowd) and a cover of FOB’s ‘My Songs know what you did in the dark’. “Fall out boy are always cool” was one response to an avid fan of the band, which the majority of the audience agreed on, including myself.

And that was the moment everyone was captured. It’s always fun when there is a section for audience participation- sort of makes you feel like you’re on stage or on the same level as the musician themselves. ‘Nothing’ rounded off her set, before a story of having recently graduated and a sudden realisation of life after university. A large portion of the crowd knew all too well of this situation or soon to be. One of those “life realisation” moments. Before bidding the crowd goodbye for now, Sally prompted the crowd to the 3 eps for £5, which in fairness was a pretty good deal.

Next up were Southampton based band Dead!, who took to the stage with a warm and exciting welcome to the Birmingham crowd- giving thanks to the headliners Fort Hope for bringing them on the road with them. Just a genuine vibe was emitted from both bands, giving the audience a sense of them personally and we all were definitely in for a treat with this lot. They put on a performance with exceptional ease. The energy and enthusiasm between the members just fed into the crowd. They performed tracks such as ‘We are dead’, beautiful broken bones and ‘Alaska’, taken from their album Tu Me Manques which was an overall crowd pleaser. With these guys, in terms of musical content, you’ve got a mixture between the feelings of ‘let’s dance guys, this is fun!’ to “let’s tear this place up”.

An addition to the set was a mini competition in which whoever danced the most/hardest won a t-shirt from the band’s first merch designs, 2 overall were thrown up for whoever was lucky enough to catch them. Bring it to an end with their track ‘Phantom’ the 250 capacity venue have filled up to half size more than previously. This left us wanting more, also wondering where lead singer Alex Mountford went after taking to the audience, alongside a disappearing act nearing the end of the track.

No show would be complete without the headliner of course. Fort Hope, who were welcomed with open arms by the fans that made it out to the last date of the tour. Not wanting to dwell on this, they kicked the set off with ‘Plans’, from their latest EP. Considering it had been out prior as a single, it was still pretty amazing to hear the crowd singing back every word. When you get a chance to witness a set/show from Fort Hope, take it! The vocals of singer Jon Gaskin resonates a giant sense of passion within the lyrics that I’m certain fills a few with emotion, and in this case it certainly is not a bad thing. The symbiotic relationship of Simon Rowlands (Bass) and Jamie Nicholls (Drums) makes Fort Hope what it is, and that is a band that are finally happy with where they are as a band. Feels like we can do what we really want to do for the first time. Feels comfortable!” agreed the band in their interview with Altsounds.

A mixture of tracks from their debut album and their EP. ‘Sick’ along with ‘New Life’ included audience participation in the choruses. Between a number of songs, the fans were made aware of how much the band were grateful for showing them support over the years, especially with the first ever headline UK tour. Really appreciative and that certain quality, amongst others will take them far in their music career. ‘I’m on fire’ was amidst the crowd pleasers of their set; arms swaying, cameras up and sheer concentration between the audience and the band is something that can be missing from shows, but with a balance of appreciation tracks, whether that’d be in yourself or in life is one thing that cannot be taken away from a band like Fort Hope.

‘Heritage’ was built up initially acoustically, grabbing the attention of the filled venue, with people situated on the 3 steps positioned at the back of the room. It’s a song that makes you think, which is what this band do best in my opinion, along with being able to put a smile on the face of everyone in the room.

Rounding off with what they described as being better than expected as a tour overall, ‘Control’ was a well-received anthem to close up the show. Continued support was given throughout and after their performance which no doubt shows you they are certainly the band to look out for over the next few months.

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