High Vis @ Islington Assembly Hall, London

Scurrying through the doors, straight to the merch stand, I couldn’t help but think what an odd venue Islington Assembly Hall is for a night of hardcore (the punk kind, not happy). With its Grade II listed status and coat of arms bearing the Latin “Dues per Omnia” staring at me from above the stage, it felt very different to previously seeing tonight’s headliners in the working men’s club chic of Berlin’s Lido or Camden’s classic Underworld.  

Opening act, The Rare Blood Group, provided a refreshingly easy-going start to the night with keys-led bluesy pop bangers. No strangers to the punk scene, their singer sang and played piano on the recent cover of Elton’s Saturday Night’s (Alright For Fighting) by The Chisel. Tracks like Scream For Mercy had a Northern Soul four-to-the-floor beat pulsing through it with a guitar line that could have been taken from the Stones’ recent Hackney Diamonds masterpiece.

Canadian new wave-punk band Home Front were next up and sadly lost the crowd before the vocalist uttered his first bar. This is London, mate. Having a dig at the crowd for not moving so early on just ain’t gonna fly, I’m afraid. It’s a shame, as their sound filled the Assembly Hall with sleek guitar lines syncing well with the drum pads, synths, and driving rhythm section. Mind you, all was forgiven by the time of their standout tracks, Overtime & Nation.

Leeds based Roadrunner Records residents, Higher Power, showed what it means to be a modern hardcore band. It’s not all straight-faced or straight-edge, you can have fun with what you do. This was perfectly evidenced by their bassist, who was not only having the time of his life but had the look of a ‘70s porn star to boot. 

Shedding Skin won the accolade of first pit of the night and they mixed slower, early Turnstile-esque riffs with both solid shouting and soaring singing from vocalist Jimmy Wizard. He effortlessly connected with the crowd and was super-appreciative for our response to their first rate show. “It’s High Vis’ night tonight,” he said. “That’s why we’re all here.” How right he was…

High Vis have caught the attention of audiences around the world since they released 2019’s debut album No Sense No Feeling but 2022’s Blending has seen them go stratospheric. Rarely off the road, this year has seen them own the UK, Europe, and the US. They’ve been around for longer than their recorded output gives them credit for, however, with singer Graham Sayle acknowledging this: “You just fucking do this thing cos what else are you gonna do, do you know what I mean? We’re a fucking punk band.”

While this is true and the very essence of the band, High Vis have many layers. There are jangly, northern guitar lines John Squire of The Stone Roses would’ve killed for. Indie kids in the crowd no doubt love their mastery of a solidly melodic chorus. 

On record, you’d be forgiven for missing the pure hardcore energy that Graham injects into each and every line when seen live. Punk’s social awareness can be attributed to why there’s such a resurgence of, and need for, the British scene that we’re blessed with today. Opening track 0151 covers British decline in “From Canning Town to Birkenhead, the working class is as good as dead”, to our national default stiff upper lip in the line “Our suffering disguised as pride.” 

Mental health also plays a part in Graham’s writing. The poignant anthem, Trauma Bonds, discusses how to communicate more effectively between friends following a suicide. “It might take just one reason inside to carry on”, he opens up to a crowd hanging on his every word. It can be easy to forget that the emotional weight of expressing social ills, tragedy, and mental health struggles night after night must carry a toll, especially to such receptive audiences. 

During their set in Munich’s Backstage venue a few days prior, this seemed to hit Sayle.

The recurring themes of an outside world seemingly in constant chaos and the need to somehow keep going within ourselves is eloquently summed up in Blending’s title track: “I’ve created my reality, and I’m sticking to it.” With a band on an authentic path that feels artistically limitless, we can only keep supporting Graham and co to carry on and to keep making such deep, thought-provoking music that packs a punch.



Tobi Stidolph

Press Manager & inSYNC Writer


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