TVD Live Shots: My Vitriol at Scala, 4/12

Photographed by Jason Miller-2

The doors are opening at London’s famed Scala for one of the most anticipated shows of the year, but it’s a show that almost didn’t happen.

My Vitriol has launched into full backup mode due to an unforeseen issue that has left the band’s touring van in Wales from the previous show. Frontman Som Wardner is racing to program the lights for tonight’s sold out show and he’s finished just as the doors open. As if all of this wasn’t enough pressure, the band is one lady down as Tatia Starkey is still away on maternity leave. She’s disappointed to be missing out on all the shows, but family comes first and the band couldn’t postpone touring any longer. She gave them her blessing to carry on without her.

To say that I was excited is an understatement. Finelines is one of my favorite records of all time and to be honest, I never thought that I would have the chance to see the band again live, especially in their hometown. Having never been to Scala before this was a new adventure for me as both a photographer and a fan. The venue is sort of a choose your own adventure for watching a show. Several different levels accompany several different stairwells in which some lead to what seem to be secret bar locations.

This would be the first time seeing My Vitriol since SXSW in Austin Texas back in 2001. I was working for Sony Music at the time and I can tell you that I’ve never seen a record label more excited about a new band. Finelines was just released in the states and the buzz around My Vitriol could not have been bigger. The band would deliver with one of the most talked about performances during the annual music festival. Living in the states I just lost track of the band after they parted ways with Sony and the mythical second record never seemed to surface beyond a rumor or two on a fan site or discussion board.

While it’s not entirely clear what was going on with the band during that time one thing was for sure, new music was long overdue. Then a PledgeMusic campaign popped up in 2013 with a note from the band offering up a chance to be part of a special project called The Secret Sessions. I immediately signed up.

Three years later The Secret Sessions was finally released. It’s a worthy follow-up, an evolution if you will, and a masterpiece of sonic achievement and stellar songwriting. The story behind this record and the shows that followed is quite remarkable and the challenges that the band has overcome are inspiring to say the least.

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Photographed by Jason Miller-3

In order to finish the record and make the UK shows happen, Wardner taught himself every instrument.In addition, he had to learn how to mix the record himself due to scheduling difficulties with the original mixer. Unsurprisingly during the making of the record he ended up in the hospital due to stress related illness—he was doing the workload of several people and it just became too much. Despite the inevitable delay that resulted, the reaction to the record has been incredible.

The show was one of the best I’ve seen all year. Wardner’s voice sounds better than it did a decade ago and the swirling melodic soundscapes are absolutely mesmerizing live. The lights for said gig are incredibly challenging for a photographer, but it adds to the mystique of the band, which compliments the songs perfectly.

Highlights for me were, of course, the selections from Finelines including “Infantile,” “Grounded,” “Cemented Shoes,” and a stunning grand finale of “Always Your Way.” (The only song missing was my personal favorite, “Losing Touch.”) The newer songs from The Secret Sessions sounded fantastic as well. “It’s So Damn Easy”, “Rest Your Tired Head, and “London City Lights” were brilliant. While the band has certainly evolved, there was no evidence of a ten-year plus break between the albums. It all flowed together seamlessly.

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After years of touring, Wardner is diagnosed with tinnitus, and doctors have told him to not tour anymore or risk his condition worsening. The new stage system and setup keeps the stage sound down as much as possible. It’s actually benefitted the performance vocally due to Wardner being able to hear himself better onstage now. No other rock act has tried this method and the band knew they were taking a huge risk and they didn’t want to lose their uniqueness. This is where the skills Som and Rav learned making the record came in handy. They spent a lot of time crafting the guitar and drum sounds, and the results make for an incredibly unique show where the band’s heaviness and layered soundscapes are elevated without compromise.

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Later this year My Vitriol will play a special anniversary show at the end 2017. It will be a two-night extravaganza with over 30 songs from the “Finelines/Between the Lines” double album release performed along with some exclusive, never played before tracks and live interpretations. A must for any fans of the band as this may be the last time certain tracks from that release will ever be performed live, as they will be moving onto the next record that’s already underway. Specially discounted tickets—for the fanbase who have stuck with them for so long—will be sold via the mailing list in due course.

For the record, I saw one comment in particular where someone asked, “Has anyone ever heard of a serious rock band without a bass player?” Where do I start with this one? The Doors, The Dandy Warhols, Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones didn’t play bass on every song), The Black Keys, The White Stripes, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention that it’s only a temporary set up for the fanbase shows.

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Bottom line: My Vitriol is a very special band that continues to overcome challenge after challenge in order to deliver one of the most remarkable live shows on the planet. Get a copy of The Secret Sessions, lose yourself in the music, then go see the live show and have your fucking mind blown. If my schedule permitted I would go see every single one of them.

Were you at the London show? Join the conversation and share your thoughts in the comments section below. Check out hi-res photos from the show in the gallery here.

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