Ross From Friends @ 24 Kitchen Street, Liverpool
Ross From Friends is a well-known term not just for sitcom enthusiasts, but also for fans of lo-fi house music. Yet, Felix Weatherall, the brain of the project, thoroughly rejects the lo-fi labelling. Instead, he describes his approach as focusing on influences such as hip hop and experimental electronica, and tying them together with a strong DIY attitude. This is already palpable in ‘Talk To Me You’ll Understand‘, a hazy track with a punchy beat and catchy guitar lines, the latter famously covered by David Cameron following his 2016 resignation speech. However, Ross From Friends‘ debut album Family Portrait explores this approach to much more depth, experimenting with a vast range of samples, texture density, compression and layering to re-evoke the ‘old-school’ crunchy, worn-out sound.
Ross From Friends presented their first album to Liverpool’s 24 Kitchen Street, alongside with several previous EP also released by label Brainfeeder, which they share with artists such as George Clinton or Thundercat. The show has been anticipated by fans for a very long time, having sold out months in advance. It was preceded by a second night added due to popular demand, and since word spreads fast, expectations were high. Everyone in the crowd seemed to know someone who has experienced the gig the night before. Although the icy road conditions and wave of freezing cold weather were not in favour of the audience, this has not discouraged them. We were therefore not surprised to find the well-established club in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle packed by the time we arrived, around halfway through the opener’s set. Interestingly enough, the audience was not mainly composed of students, as one might have expected with this type of genre, but instead embraced people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds, everyone equally excited for the show to begin.
The members of Ross From Friends appeared slightly weary as they arrived on stage shortly after 9. They took their places behind a simple table containing most of their gear. Their rather simple setup consisted of abstract visuals and a pair of hazy purplish strobe lights, illuminating the stage just enough to keep the band members from tripping over each other. Nevertheless, their stage presence was captivating from the first tones of the opening track ‘Crimson’ until the final beats of ‘Bootman’, which concluded their set. The elaborate layering and juxtaposing of snappy beats, woozy sustained synths and a plethora of samples ranging from sung vocals to video game sounds are all elements Felix Weatherall is well known for. However, this was further enhanced by added live guitar, saxophone and synth solos and improvisations during their live set, producing a true symbiosis of sounds. The resulting musical blend generated a relaxed yet vivid atmosphere which filled the room up to the brim.
Mouthing jokes and sipping on their beers as they swayed to the rhythm of the music, the band appeared increasingly more relaxed as the show progressed. Although the audience soaked up every single sound coming from the sizeable amplifiers at the front of the room, ‘Talk To Me You’ll Understand’, having so far raked in over 4.5 million streams on Spotify, unsurprisingly proved to be an absolute crowd favourite. The whole of 24 Kitchen Street joined in on singing along to the hook, while smiling at the wholesome black and white footage of Weatherall’s parents dancing on the projection screen behind the band. Coming from a musical family, Weatherall’s addition of this personal touch lent the show and the Family Portrait album a whole other meaning. ‘Bootman’, the closing track, resulted in a similarly ecstatic response from the audience, but even from the band members themselves, as they joined in on the sing- and dance-along.
At the end of the song, with the final tones ringing out, Ross From Friends directed a shy smile in the general direction of the audience, gave us a quick wave and disappeared into the darkness surrounding the stage. This moment of genuine modesty has made me realise quite how rare it is for a performer to captivate an audience without saying as much as a word, and how naturally and effortlessly Ross From Friends managed to do it. The uniqueness of their approach not only to music production but also to performance was very fresh and exciting to watch and listen to, and I am thrilled to see how they continue to develop this concept in the future.