Fort Hope have yet to release a full-length album, so embarking on a 22 date tour is certainly huge. In fact, it’s testament to just how promising they are, and the dedication of their growing fanbase. The alternative rock scene, led by the likes of You Me At Six and Mallory Knox, is a tricky one to break into, with plenty of talented bands striving for attention. Yet, it feels like Fort Hope is on the verge of something great. They have all the makings of a successful band, and if the opening night of their tour at The Joiners in Southampton was anything to go by, their big breakthrough is in sight.
These Septic Stars, a local support, had the unenviable task of opening to a fairly difficult Southampton crowd. In spite of this, they blazed through their set with plenty of energy and confidence, bringing a blend of hip hop, metal and electronics to The Joiners. Their music shared more of a similar genepool to Enter Shikari and HACKTIVIST than the melodic rock of Fort Hope, but it was able to get even the most stubborn of crowds moving and was thoroughly enjoyable.
Lead singer Savage, whose onstage antics were the source of a lot of the band’s energy, even encouraged the crowd to join in with his ‘snake hips’ dance move. One of the key elements of a great live show is having fun, and These Septic Stars certainly got this right.
The second support, Monarks, were much more similar to Fort Hope in terms of genre. Admittedly they got off to a shaky start, as they lost some of the energy that had been racked up by the previous band, but they soon found their rhythm in the second song. They had a variety in their music which worked well, interchanging chilled out rock tracks with some heavier sounds, although sticking largely within the alternative rock genre.
Another thing which leant to their performance was their charisma and interaction with the crowd, making them ultimately very likeable. Clearly they have been working hard as well – when asked if anyone had heard of the band before, a few arms were raised and one member of the crowd piped up that they had seen them support at another show. Perhaps with some fine-tuning, Monarks could be a band that we’ll start to hear even more of.
As Fort Hope finally took to the stage, the anticipation among the crowd was clear. The band had never played Southampton before, but there was no lack of support here and a number of fans sported their merchandise. Many were singing back every lyric to the opening song, ‘That’s The Way The River Flows’, even though it had only been released a matter of weeks ago. It was a solid track to open on, being the single from their newly released EP ‘Manne of Lawe’, and the first of a number of tracks making their live debuts.
Although the new tracks, including the as-yet unreleased ‘Give Me That’ and ‘Kaiser’, received a warm reception, it was the band’s older songs which gained the best reactions. The ever-popular ‘Plans’, with its chunky guitars and vocal acrobatics, was one of the highlights of the night, and the band’s rendition of ‘Control’ felt almost euphoric. An excitable atmosphere almost hung in the air as the song ended – proof that Fort Hope can truly shine as a live band.
When the band first caught my attention on Kerrang! TV, I remember being particularly enticed by the excellent vocals of Jon Gaskin. Although many singers sound decidedly different live (and often not in a good way), Gaskin’s voice has the same incredible range and control live as it does in studio recordings. This is definitely one of the ways in which Fort Hope sets itself apart from other bands in the same genre.
However, one of my only criticisms of the set is that the band could have been much more interactive with the crowd. It seemed that frontman Gaskin was largely confined to one side of the stage and didn’t acknowledge the fans too much, perhaps because performing for the first time as a three-piece meant that he was restricted by also playing instruments. Drummer Jamie Nicholls and bassist Simon Rowlands seemed to be playing off the crowd a little more, but ultimately more acknowledgement of the fans would have surely created an even more exciting and lively show.
Other than this, Fort Hope delivered a self-assured and, at times, thrilling show. They have the confidence of a band that has been around for much longer than 3 years, and the raw talent to become a huge name. With any luck, 2016 will be Fort Hope’s year.
Fort Hope’s latest EP ‘Manne of Lawe’ is available now, featuring ‘That’s The Way The River Flows