6th November 2023
Deaf Havana rounded off a 10-date tour with a final show at Cambridge Junction on 3rd April. It was an extremely intimate setting, with a capacity of only 850. However, it was apparent the small crowd played host to some of their biggest fans, as they were met with raucous applause. For a band with 3 UK Top 10 albums and almost 20 years of experience under their belts, they were wholly unpretentious. When they thanked people for coming out to see them, they had sincerity in their eyes that made you want to hug them and tell them they’d done a great job.
We had tickets to see Deaf Havana in Birmingham but I got Covid and couldn’t go. So, despite me then coming down with a chest infection, we went to Cambridge instead. No small feat when Easter train prices would be over £70 at the cheapest for a return – even with a third off from my railcard. Instead, my friend drove us over 100 miles to make it to Cambridge Junction. He immediately saw James chilling in the sun outside their tour bus, less than 2 minutes after exiting the car. As a hardcore fanboy, he was too overwhelmed to try and chat with him though. Once we had dumped our bags in the Travel Lodge opposite, we returned to the venue and were escorted through by friendly staff, who checked us through with ease and were happy to help.
The night was opened by the Brighton-based band Sick Joy. Lead singer Mykl Barton counts The Pixies, Nine Inch Nails and The Beatles as some of the band’s inspirations. While he’s described their sound as “heavy pop” in interviews I’ve seen, this translated to a Nirvana-esque mood and I felt some Gerard Way tones at times. Mykl’s voice is unique, his occasional Geordie lilt, wrapped in an Alternative 90s American feel made it pretty hard to judge where he was from when he spoke to the audience and he had an aura that screamed ‘no fucks given’. This was most apparent as he closed their set by hurling the mic stand to the floor and defiantly lying across it to finish the song on the floor, as the Technician attempted to wrangle it from him, clearly having little time for showmanship when the equipment was on the line.
The second support act of the night was The LaFontaines. I’m not sure what I expected of a band called The LaFontaines but it wasn’t a Glaswegian rapper and a clean vocalist who was also the drummer. The lead singer introduced himself, “Hello, I’m Kerr and I come in peace”, claiming it was the band’s first time in Cambridge because they hadn’t been invited before, on account of people being racist to Scots.
One of my best friends is from Glasgow, so I found this wholly predictable. I enjoy the level of banter a cocky Scotsman can get away with, purely based on their own nationalistic beliefs allowing them not to care what anyone else has to say. It’s safe to assume (and yes, I’ve been indoctrinated by said beliefs to think this) I have been born in the wrong country for the banter I myself put out on a daily basis. The set consisted of quips and jibes throughout, including when they skipped a song to let a random guy play the drums just to see what would happen and heckled him themselves when he didn’t get back off stage fast enough.
Their sound put me in mind of when I first heard Cage the Elephant as a teenager, with catchy guitar riffs played very energetically and lyrics which rival Bob Vylan in their angsty, socialist undertones. Kerr even came to say hello as I filmed, solidifying him as one of the most confident performers I’ve seen, he made every person in the crowd feel like he was there just for them.
I heard Deaf Havana when I was younger and listened to bands like You Me at Six, Kids in Glass Houses, The Blackout and We Are The Ocean. Nowadays, I’m still a huge fan of post-hardcore bands like Bad Omens, Dance Gavin Dance and Dayseeker, which is how Deaf Havana popped back on my radar – as my Spotify radio threw me On the Wire, which I added straight to my Liked Songs. Ironically, this latest album, The Present Is a Foreign Land, for which the band has stripped back to a duo, reminds me a lot of the range seen in another of my favourite bands with a familial bond, Biffy Clyro.
When I said before that my friend was a fanboy, I meant he had seen them play in Liverpool at Camp and Furnace, just 2 days before we were supposed to see them at The Mill in Birmingham. Seeing them in Cambridge was his fifth time seeing Deaf Havana in six months. Generally, I enjoy concerts in a pretty relaxed manner, with as much vigour as if I was listening to them in my bedroom. The passion and excitement stay relatively below the surface as I take everything in. His approach was much more what you’d imagine of a guy on the front row seeing one of his all-time favourite bands. So, I hand over to him for his thoughts.
Deaf Havana rose again to rock Cambridge as they ended their first tour as a twosome in style. Brothers James and Matty Veck-Gilodi embarked on their own and released The Present is a Foreign Land – the record they’re most proud of yet. What is so impressive about Deaf Havana is how varied their material is. Not many bands can attest to so many different styles.
Fans were able to sample their new work, with classy versions of On the Wire, Nevermind, Someone/Somewhere, The Present is a Foreign Land and Remember Me. There was also more than enough for older-school Deaf Havana fans, with Boston Square, Sing, Pensacola 2013, Caro Padre and Fever among the old-time bangers played. A stripped-back version of Holy was one of the highlights before the Norfolk rockers rounded off with Sinner and a rousing rendition of Kids – my favourite song off the new album.
James has overcome addiction and depression, and the band has gone from its lowest point to producing one of its finest records yet.Joe Robinson
I found the set enjoyable and was pleasantly surprised by how moved I was by many of the songs, despite only hearing them once or twice (at most) beforehand. The boys were honest and humble and made it feel like they genuinely couldn’t believe people still wanted to hear their music, despite it being clear that many people in the room would give their souls to spend more time there.
My personal favourite of the night was the predominantly acoustic Nevermind, reminiscent of my favourite songs at Biffy Clyro’s gig at the Guild, where Simon just stood up there with no top and an acoustic guitar and sang directly into my soul.
It was apparent that there were issues with the sound throughout the night, as each act did a lot of gesturing and in some cases, just verbally complained about the fact they couldn’t hear properly because all the levels were wrong. This didn’t hamper the performances much though and made me wonder what it must be like to see the guys at the top of their game because even with issues, they were pretty good and you can hear the potential on their new release Live From The Roundhouse.
I left at the encore because my brain was pounding into my skull, I needed about 2 litres of water and I was satisfied Joe would report back how it ended. While I wouldn’t encourage anyone to travel 3 hours across the country for a very loud gig when they should be going to the Doctor to get antibiotics and steroids (which I’m now full of), it was worth going and I’d definitely go again.