Today I have the absolute pleasure of writing about one of the most phenomenal shows I've ever seen in Leeds; British four-piece Yonaka, and their fierce support acts, The Ninth Wave and Tillie, at The Wardrobe in June.
This show was turned up to full from the minute the first act walked on to the stage and it only got louder throughout the night. I was certain there was going to be a riot by the end of the show or that we'd break the venue, the sold out space of The Wardrobe hardly seeming to contain the energy in the room. If you weren't at this show, I'm not going to lie, you missed an unreal night of awesome new music, next level performances and an insane circle pit.
I discovered Yonaka back in November when I returned from Canada and was looking for some new music to reignite that side of me. Yonaka were an instant obsession for me; fierce female lead, infectiously good lyrics and solid anthems. They've just released their debut album, 'Don't Wait Till Tomorrow', which is every bit as fully charged as it promised to be. For a debut album, it sets a new bar for all upcoming artists to aspire to. It's got grit, guts and gravity; it clearly and decisively defines Yonaka's identity and places them in league beyond their scale and reputation. If you haven't heard it yet, I promise you it will be the best thing you've done this year so far. Do it for you.
As it serendipitously turned out, I had a connection to Yonaka's drummer, Rob, who kindly got me on the guest list for the Leeds show of their UK tour, to mark 'Don't Wait Till Tomorrow's' release. Their Leeds show had sold out, as had most of their others, so I was so grateful to get in. Of course I'm also a huge fan of The Ninth Wave, so when I heard they were supporting I was even more sure this gig was going to be epic.
Tillie was the only act of the night I hadn't previously heard of, but that didn't matter a single bit once she took to the stage and started playing. She had such a cool look, living in LA she had that alt-rock effortlessly cool and gutsy attitude about her; dipped blue hair, neon green shirt, big boots and fishnets.
She opened the night with some awesome tracks including her singles 'Faith' and 'Loud Mouth', playing, dancing and signing like she was having the time of her life. Tillie's sound was a balance of alt-pop and rock; it was authentic, original and awesome. Her energy and attitude won over the room in minutes and she made a great impression on the crowd. She was so pumped to be playing and commented on the spirit of Northern crowds at gigs, a reputation which all of us Leeds-based fans were happy to live up to, showing Tillie how much we enjoyed her set.
I loved the stories Tillie told us about her songs. She introduced her sarky single 'Mood Swings' with a story about someone telling you chill out when you're worked up and it's the last thing you want to hear. The more moving and rallying story for the women in the room, was for a self-admitted 'emo' track called 'Whole Wide World'. Tillie told us how an ex-boyfriend stole her intellectual property, some songs she was writing, and how as women we're told to rise above it and let it go, even when really shitty things happen to us. It's always up to us to be the bigger person, even against injustice. Her lyrics were an all to accurate reflection of how we're told to behave as women, even in situations when we're the victims; "You're too emotional, you just wanna cry, come on be tough just like one of the guys". Her performance was stripped back and raw, demonstrating a great range in her performance skills and her ability to captivate a crowd.
Tillie was truly an awesome opening act and I'm now a committed fan of her music. She told us she was about to start recording an album and I seriously hope she comes back to the UK when she's finished it. I caught her after the show to tell her how much I enjoyed her performance and she was so lovely and happy to chat to a long line of new fans wanting to meet her. If you're looking for a new girl crush with a great style, awesome tracks and a rebel attitude, Tillie's your girl.
THE NINTH WAVE
Next up was a band I have not stopped raving about since I first discovered them; the insanely-talented four-piece, The Ninth Wave. They too have been generating a huge wave of hype around their upcoming debut album, 'Infancy', the first half of which they have released, the second half set to come out later this year. With a sound so singular and exhilarating, and a spirit so visionary and dauntless, their talent and showmanship exceeds both their reputation and their level. This was the third time I'd seen them live and I swear they only take in that which makes them stronger.
They opened with their latest single, 'This Broken Design', yet another promise that their album will be unparalleled and immortal. Next they played some of their most-loved singles, my personal favourite, the anthem that is 'New Kind of Ego', and 'Sometimes The Silence Is Sweeter'. The 80s era was hugely influential in their early years of songwriting, but The Ninth Wave have perfectly captured the essence of their icon's whilst forming an identity of their own, creating something original and transcendent.
They played two of their new tracks from 'Infancy: Part 1', 'Half Pure' and 'Used To Be Yours'. Their music alone is bewitching, their performances are intoxicating. Haydn and Millie are incredible frontmen, they play with such intensity and such spirit that they can hypnotise an audience. They love invading the crowd as well, encroaching on the crowd's space and being face to face with their audience to unnerve them and extend their presence in the room. Millie used the stage barrier as her platform for the second verse of 'Used To Be Yours', staring out every member of the crowd and singing right into the eyes of front row. The version they released as a single is quite subdued, (by The Ninth Wave's standards), but the arrangement they performed this time Millie filled with ferocity and fervour. Haydn was every bit as eccentric as usual, taking the lead in their closing tracks, 'Reformation', and their live favourite, 'Swallow Me', for a climatic finish.
It's been a long time since I've seen two support acts charge an audience to such a perfect level in anticipation for a headline act at a gig. By the time Yonaka were due on stage, the crowd was shaking in eagerness for the final act of the night. When Yonaka stepped out on to the stage, both band and crowd were ready to tear the roof to the ground.
Yonaka gave this show absolutely everything their combined bodies could possibly hold from the very first lyric. They opened with 'Bad Company', the echoing of 'Oh oh, Oh oh' teasing an already anxiously awaiting crowd, then when Theresa launched into the chorus with 'Mother, can you help me?' the room was electrified. Yonaka was dancing fiercely around the stage and the crowd were going crazy in response. 'Awake' and 'Creature' followed and so the pace only accelerated. Yonaka have an arsenal of high-powered and fiery tracks from their debut album and early EPs to fuel their setlist. This was a taster, they were only just warming up.
To give the crowd a very brief breather, Rob and Alex left the stage for moment, whilst Theresa and George performed a beautiful acoustic arrangement of 'Guilty'. Theresa's voice was in the spotlight in this stripped back setting, but effortlessly she killed it. The arrangement gave the track a whole new temperament and turned it into a pleading and heartfelt ballad, rather than the impassioned rock track from their album.
Turning the voltage up once again, Yonaka launched into their feisty and taunting track 'Teach Me To Fight' and the crowd went wild. In the same fiery spirit, the audience were slam-dancing around the floor and having the time of their lives. Yonaka, whilst playing their asses off, were throwing themselves around the stage; George and Alex were head-banging like they were possessed whilst Theresa put up her fists with a look in her eye as if she was ready to singlehandedly take over the world.
A genius choice of closing tracks, Yonaka finished their set with 'Rockstar' and 'Fired Up', at which point the full intensity of their energy was unleashed and they truly set the place ON FIRE. 'Fired Up' is one of my favourite Yonaka tracks; Rob's drum beat gets into your bones and the lyrics are intoxicating. It's the perfect track to let out all your frustration and dance like a maniac to. The crowd lost their shit and half the audience was top of each others shoulders, singing their hearts out while madness ensued beneath them. It was anarchy of the best and purest kind. During 'Fired Up', George invaded the crowd with his guitar and crashed around in the middle of the room, before surging back over the crowd to rejoin the band on stage. To sing the bridge, Theresa cam down to the barrier and was nearly met with a foot to the face as a crowd surfer got thrown towards her. She returned to the stage and crashed her arms around whilst the boys were vaulting about the stage. I caught it pretty well on my Instagram story so check out my 'Music' highlights to see the full extent of the madness. It was the highest moment you could possibly hope to end a show on; the entire night had been set to full throttle and I was in awe of how unreal and insane a gig it was. Yonaka were on fire and the whole night was seriously lit.
Thank you so much to Rob for getting me into the show, I knew I was in for a good night but I could not have anticipated it being that much of a riot. A huge congratulations to Tillie, The Ninth Wave and Yonaka for what was a legendary tour and for selling out nearly all their venues. You were each of you brilliant and I cannot wait to see you guys live again following the release of more of your amazing music. Good luck and THANK YOU.
Until next time everyone,
The Ninth Wave: