Sundara Karma // O2 Guildhall, Southampton // 12.4.19
Filing in to the O2 Guildhall in Southampton on a Friday night to see Sundara Karma’s penultimate performance of their 2019 tour, I was first stuck by the expansive age range of those forming the queue around me. I was surprised to see such as inclusive fan base, ranging from those who looked to be barely meeting the 14+ age requirement, to those pushing in to the 50s/60s bracket. Yet once inside, age soon became unnoticeable as Doc. Martens, denim jackets, and an apparent fondness for Carlsberg united the crowd.
Support acts first came in the form of 15-year-old Alfie Templemen whose classic indie sound and soulful vocals were made even more impressive upon discovery that many of his tracks are recorded entirely in his bedroom. Following Templemen, were Whenyoung, a three-part Irish indie band often likened to those talents such as The Cranberries and The Pogues, won my heart over from the moment they walked on stage in two primary colour boiler suits and an all-white power suit for lead singer Aoife Power. This band offered a perfect warm up to the main performance, and I have had their tracks ‘given up’ and ‘future’ playing on repeat since hearing them perform. The band also introduced a little politics in to the room, something that the crowd responded extremely well to, preluding their song ‘The Others’ with a message about the 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire and the position of marginalised groups in society.
Eventually Sundara Karma came on to perform their hour and a half set, beginning with songs from their arguably more pop-influenced first studio album released in 2017, Youth Is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect. Fan favourites from the album, including ‘She Said’ and ‘Explore’, were played before moving on to tracks from their most recent album Ulfilas’ Alphabet released in March of this year.
Having never seen Sundara Karma perform live before, I would not have been surprised to find lead singer Oscar Pollock (stage name ‘Lulu’) to have had a far more flamboyant stage presence. Yet, despite the band’s outrageous costumes, including Lulu sporting a below the nipple, leather corset-esque bodysuit with no trousers and a cropped tartan blazer, this was not the case. In fact, the entire set involved very little chat between songs at all, apart from the odd comment from Lulu on how beautiful the Guildhall itself was and how thankful the band were for the crowd’s support.
A request was also made from the band for the audience to try to be “entirely present in the moment” throughout the performance, which although sounds a little airy-fairy now, oddly did feel more natural coming from Lulu (who by this point had added a feathered headdress to his ensemble). As clichéd as it sounds, Sundara Karma did “just let the music speak for itself”, cramming the entire set with a strong mix of tracks from both albums, which in turn generated an excellent atmosphere in the Guildhall. An appreciative and dedicated audience, perhaps subconsciously followed Lulu’s request, as they shed their denim and spilled their Danish beer to the sound of modern art rock, singing and dancing hard.