Live Review: Pattern Pusher at Exeter Pheonix
Written by Owen Midha on 13 February 2020
Pattern Pusher invites you to join the Smile High Club
I may not be a regular around the Exeter music scene, but before arriving at this one, I thought I knew what to expect. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Last Friday saw local band Pattern Pusher, compile their now annual event Pattern Pusher Presents to showcase a variety of up-and-coming Devonshire musical acts across a range of genres. It sounded like a performance well worth attending, down on Exeter’s eclectic Gandy Street.
The gig at the Exeter Phoenix coincided with Pattern Pusher’s release of new single Crazy Enough – a vibrant sing-a-long anthem that will induct you into the bands so-called ‘Smile High Club’. With the catchy chorus engrained in my head after just a couple of plays, I was excited to see how the rest of the evening would transpire.
The variety show had brought a variety audience, with young and old spotted in the Phoenix bar ahead of the show, which was opened by female-fronted Shake The Geek. The 4-piece, who hail from Braunton, provided an energetic amplification to the evening, with riffs and verve aplenty that I may have mistaken for the stylistically similar Yonaka – had I not been in a small venue in Devon.
With the audience sufficiently pumped, it was time for the entrance of Foniee. Fronted by a alto and tenor saxophone, this one was really something alternative. A mixture of pop covers and seemingly lyrical originals (despite being wholly instrumental), left the crowd at the mercy of the music. Again, the gig provided a showcase for the band to promote their latest single New Idea their first official release and well worth a listen when your spirits need raising.
Final warm-up Cousin Kula provided a disco-style intro to the main act. Like a Bristolian version of Tame Impala, their psychedelic tones filled the Phoenix before Pattern Pusher took the stage.
Somewhat captivated by the mixture of styles preceding the 3-piece outfit, I was anticipating a surprise from the Exeter hometown heroes, which was gladly fulfilled.
Pattern Pusher describe themselves as “Indie Disco”, which was something I had struggled to grasp listening to their tracks produced to date. However, in person, this was different gravy. From the beginning wholesome, bright sounding keyboard filled the venue, no sign of being drowned-out by an over-exuberant rhythm section – the downfall of many live performances. The blend was perfect.
The synth tones produced by frontman Alex Johnstone harked back to the 80s heydays of pop and were complimented by story-telling lyrics which transcended the music, delivered with his vibrant tenor voice in Take Your Own Way Home.
Bassist-cum-guitarist-cum-keyboardist Ben Green (very difficult to be good at all three, this guy was a master) cavorted across the stage in a manner that took me back to watching the great Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was incredible to see such crowd-engaging energy while producing such musicality with a plethora of tools. Lose Myself provided the crowd with the opportunity to bop along and really feel a part of the music during an extended breakdown. Meanwhile, Peace of Mind set the scene for what was to come with stadium-style anthemic chants lead by drummer Ben Conibear. The crowd-engagement would not stop as “Na Na Na”s were echoed throughout the venue for new release Crazy Enough. Again, the story told was poetic and produced a vibe as if read on a late summer’s eve.
And then we came to the climax. All evening there had been rumours of a showpiece finish to the evening, certainly no one was heading for the exits prematurely. You just knew these three lads had a twist up their sleeve, as funk-fusion quintet Foniee were recalled to the stage for a mega collaboration on the bright and vibrant Shakey. With Oscar Jinks taking the lead on the iconically rhythmic bass, and Foniee percussionist Chris Coveney taking up the bongos, the energy was taken up a notch – or five.
Before the exit bells were sounded there was just time to experience perhaps Pattern Pusher’s most outstanding track, Tonight, in ultra-funk style. Again, the collaboration with Foniee stole the show. Melodic sax solos from Aled Midha and John Michael Pang seamlessly meshed with Johnstone’s keyboard riffs, while Robin Wright provided the syncopated rhythm that takes any listener back to good memories.
Undoubtedly Pattern Pusher have left their stamp on the Exeter scene, as they look to make roads into the wider UK indie pop market. Having earned accolades from BBC 6 Music, and a string of festival appearances, I expect there’s more to come. Make sure to catch them next time they come to Bath or Bristol, it’s certainly not one to be missed.
Owen Midha hosts ‘The Weekend Warm Up’ every Friday on University Radio Bath. Tune in from 3pm for the latest new music and all-time classic tracks to kick-off your weekend.
Image credits: Pattern Pusher on Facebook (1), George Clist (2) and Rhodri Cooper (3&4).