On the first day of March I finally got to see Sundara Karma, in a clustered bar that sold out save for one ticket. It’s not unreasonable to say that Sundara Karma are the most exciting up-and-coming band at the minute, with a main stage slot at Reading + Leeds and quite the year ahead of them. Their infectious indie-pop tones overflowed in the tiny room, making for a memorable, intimate and enjoyable gig.
Blaenavon took to the stage first, literally moments after I entered the bar. Their chilled-out sound exploded, invoking some hybrid of indie-pop melodies, shoegaze undertones and folk-like vocals. During their short set I was blown away. If you like songs named after cities with passionate, two line choruses, listen to ‘Prague’ immediately.
The second support was Beach Baby: the loudest band I have ever heard live. The moment they started to play it became obvious that they’re a band America will definitely adore; their sound is laid-back post-punk with a grunge foundation and eternal summer vibes. ‘No Mind No Money’ was the highlight of their set.
After a short break, wherein the roadies attempted to organise the hectic stage, Sundara Karma began to play. Opening with their newest single ‘A Young Understanding’ and moving onto ‘Freshbloom’ from EP I, it was clear that the boys were not going to disappoint. They played enthusiastically, passionately. But it wasn’t until ‘Flame’, the fourth song in, that Sundara Karma seemed truly comfortable to play to the now-engaged crowd. From the introduction of that song the dynamic of the gig changed; ‘Run Away’ and ‘Diamond Cutter’ followed a similar feat of sheer energy and explosion.
The band played three unreleased songs from their upcoming debut, expected to be released next year. ‘Olympia’ came early in the set; over vibrant guitar riffs and seductive bass lines, lead singer Oscar sang “Olympia loves me”. ‘Lose the Feeling’ and ‘She Said’ were less memorable than ‘Olympia’, but they did emit the indie-pop fervour the band is praised for.
Almost bluntly the band left the stage, to return a few moments later for the encore. The nature of the venue was that there were bystanders at the bar, nodding along and probably wishing they’d learned the lyrics; closer to the stage were those who were genuinely excited to see the band, dancing freely and annoying the photographers. By the end, it seemed that the band had the room captivated: it takes a lot to transform a tough crowd to nothing short of a dance party. They did this, mostly, with ‘The Night’ and ‘Loveblood’: the two songs in the encore. ‘The Night’ is much calmer, gradually compelling; due to this, it posed as a warm-up to ‘Loveblood’, which erupted in the tiny crowd. It was quite the ending.
The set was a bit on the short side, but it was a fun little gig. It was quite a shock that ‘Vivienne’ didn’t make the setlist; its release as a single last year proved quite successful for the band. Overall, it’s obvious that Sundara Karma are ready to play on bigger stages; they just need to play a few more songs.
Words by Caitlin O’Connor