Gig Review: By the Rivers @ Thekla

by Polly Hember

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By the Rivers combined feel-good reggae, ska and soul as they released their eponymous debut album back in 2013. The six Leicester lads established themselves solidly on the festival circuit with their upbeat, infectious rhythms and lyrics, building up a reputation for brilliant live performances. Returning to Thekla in Bristol at the end of their May tour they brought us insatiable energy, brilliant brass arrangements, a handful of new songs from their new EP and an evening of smiles and dancing.

Bristol welcomed By the Rivers with open arms; fostering such a vibrant ska-dub-reggae musical scene and having birthed bands like Babyhead, there was no question that this gig would be packed to burst with people ranging from teens with bright faces smeared in festival glitter to older ska-enthusiasts. The ecstatic energy on-stage flooded through Thekla, and everyone was moving from the first song of the night.

The upbeat rhythms of their music defies straightforward dichotomous genre differentiation. Their set drew from motown, afro-beat, dub, ska and feel-good pop, flowing with fantastic catchy beats and brass-led solos. Old favourites ‘Vultures’, ‘This Love’ and ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’ flowed effortlessly, with the crowd singing along energetically. Scattered throughout the tight set was exciting new material from their recent What You See EP. New songs like ‘One Step Two Step’ and the title song ‘What You See’ present a notable push towards ambient pop, whilst still saturated with their unique reggae twist. This made for unabashedly feel-good and catchy riffs carried forth with flawless vocal harmonies.

Moving onwards with unstoppable energy, By the Rivers are an insatiable reggae outfit that shows no sign of abating. With a brilliant EP which excitedly dips its toes into warm pop waters, they created a splash in Thekla that was met with a deluge of dancing from an enthusiastic and adoring audience. With a full set of festival gigs confirmed, this summery and sunny band is definitely one to look out for.

Image Credit: By the Rivers Facebook

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Check out their amazing new EP What You See, out now. 

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