VersaEmerge @ The Joiners, 17/5/11

Mere minutes after the doors have opened and already a large crowd has gathered around the front of the stage at The Joiners on a bright Spring evening. Although the fact that not one of them is old enough to remember Thundercats being on TV and the PA is pumping out new age pop-rock-rap should be cause for concern. But tonight is no ordinary night – it is the first night of Floridian rockers VersaEmerge’s first ever headlining UK tour.

Kids Can't Fly start off the evening.

But first, opening up the night is the schoolboy ska-punk stylings of local boys Kids Can’t Fly. After the younger audience members at the front are done going crazy for them coming on stage, Kids Can’t Fly jump straight in with their fresh and funky mixture of punk-rock and duelling vocals with added Sax appeal, showcased by their songs Open Wide and Vicious Circle which both rock and bounce in equal measures. Kids Can’t Fly round off their set with the bouncy summer anthem The Summer and their big, catchier-than-H1N1 single She Called Shotgun which is currently making the rounds on rock music TV channels. By the end of their set, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Kids Can’t Fly are higher up the bill after the crowd reaction they get, so hopefully we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.

Southampton's Finest - Not Advised

After the room is plunged into darkness and In The Hall Of The Mountain King chimes through the PA, it can only mean that Southampton’s Pop-Punk prodigal sons are being heralded to the stage. The second their intro music ends, Not Advised plunge headfirst into I’ll Call You a Winner, straight away showing they are a force to be reckoned with. The A.R.K and Jane Says Left work wonders in getting the crowd to sing and chant along in time with the band before Not Advised decide to bust out brand new songs All I Need and the slower, brooding Good News for the first night of the tour. To close off their set, Not Advised go from zero to hardcore in no time with their anthemic single Right Now before finishing on crowd sing-along favourite The World’s Not Ready. If Not Advised are the future of home-grown pop-punk-rock, then the future is definitely bright!

The atmospheric, ethereal sounds of VersaEmerge coming to the stage, softly blending into Stranger, are broken only by rock-vixen Sierra Kusterbeck’s siren-like vocals building into the kind of punk-rock scream that could shatter the glass in your hand, to which the crowd go equally as mad as they take no breaks before playing Fire (Aim Your Arrows High).

Sierra and Blake kicking things off.

While it might be easy to compare VersaEmerge to other similar female-fronted rock outfits signed to the Fuelled By Ramen label (yes, we’re looking at you, Paramore…), Kusterbeck and Co. do a fantastic job of setting themselves firmly in a league of their own with their dark-tinged alt-rock style and the pure energy of a band hungry to make a name for themselves. While guitarist Blake Harnage bounces with energy during their set, Sierra stalks about the stage like a cat preying on a small furry creature its spotted and you can tell that there is something darker at work in VersaEmerge’s music tonight.

The point at which Sierra’s haunting vocals shine the most is after their older material, including fan favourite and breakthrough single Past Praying For, when she announces “This song is about someone… but they’ll never know”  and they blend into You’ll Never Know and Your Own Love.

Latest single Figure It Out works well in getting the crowd jumping and moving before they go into Mind Reader, but it’s their big hit single Fixed At Zero that brings down the house as they close their set to deafening cheers and screams from the feverish fans.

Kusterbeck lulls the crowd to a close

After only the slightest encouragement from the crowd, VersaEmerge grace the stage again for an encore of their hauntingly melodic Clocks from their EP, Sierra’s hypnotic vocals bringing the evening to a chilling close.

If this evenings show is anything to go by, VersaEmerge are indeed out to make a name for themselves – and if they’re able to keep delivering shows this memorable, then it’s hardly going to be challenge for them!


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