At Bullet, we’ve covered our fair share of drum n’ bass acts. Bullet Music alum Sam Lawrence always made it a point to keep Bullet’s readers up-to-date on the hottest drum n’ bass acts as they came through Atlanta, which is widely known for its prominent EDM scene. On Friday, June 8, however, a completely different kind of drum n’ bass act named Royal Blood invaded Variety Playhouse with their friends Turbowolf and turned the playhouse in Little Five Points into a rock-filled madhouse.
Royal Blood is a two-piece rock outfit from Brighton, UK, which features bassist/lead singer Mike Kerr and drummer/showman Ben Thatcher. Kerr’s lead guitar-styled bass lines simultaneously carry the rhythm and the melody while hammering home Royal Blood’s grungy, distorted sound with an assortment of pedals, and Thatcher’s timely fills and nasty grooves keep bodies moving wildly in all directions.
From the get-go, the crowd was jumping and excited for Turbowolf, who did an excellent job of getting people’s blood pumping. Their fast-paced set was exactly what you want from a rock opener. Frontman Chris Georgiadis commanded attention, and the entire crowd was under his spell as they jumped, sang, and yelled “Turbowolf” whenever he prompted them to. I imagine it won’t be long before we see Turbowolf headlining their own American adventure.
As for headliners Royal Blood, not enough can be said about the dedication and energy it takes for two people to cover as much ground and make as much sound as they do. Kerr and Thatcher have the stage presence of seasoned veterans despite only being a band for five years, and there is surely a bright future for this Brighton duo.
Despite admitting to feeling a bit under the weather, Kerr didn’t shy away from belting his lines and giving his all. At one point during the encore, Kerr pointed out that a fan in the front row had been begging them to play a song all night (I believe it was "Blood Hands"), and that he had told her “No, it will sound like shit,” to which she replied “It doesn’t fucking matter!” Kerr thanked her for “teaching him something about rock & roll” before launching into the song, highlighting the band’s focus on making their fans happy.
This moment acted as a snapshot of the band’s mentality the entire night. From the opening song, “How Did We Get So Dark?” from their newest album of the same name, the duo projected an electric energy that moved everybody in the building, even a few of the security staff. While Kerr’s tenacious, sickness-battling performance (rivaled only by Michael Jordan’s infamous “flu game,” which happened exactly 21 years ago), was the talk of the night, Thatcher’s drumming stole the show.
Thatcher’s power and precision behind the kit directed the duo through the many stops, solos, drum breaks, and jams that peppered Royal Blood’s set. His emphatic stage presence, fueled by the double-edged sword that is Patrón tequila, had him standing up, spinning around, and walking around the stage.
He made his way over to the mic near the middle of the set to share an anecdote from the last city they had visited. He recalled, “Everyone asking where we were going next, and when we said ‘Atlanta’ they would say, ‘You mean Hotlanta?’” which elicited a reflexive groan and several boos from the packed Variety Playhouse. He continued to say, “And you know what I said? ‘Fuck You!’” and the crowd erupted into cheers and Tomahawk Chops. Let this be a note to future bands: if you want the city to love you, never call it “Hotlanta.”
Between the masterful musicianship and the genuine interactions from both Royal Blood and their friends Turbowolf, you couldn’t ask for much more from a rock lineup. After crossing the Atlantic and traveling across America, it would be easy to take a night off, especially when you’re under the weather, but that’s not what Royal Blood did. They put their all into their set and gave everyone in attendance a Friday night that Katy Perry would be jealous of.
Photos by Donna Winchester for Bullet Music