Review: Tuff Love, Roll for the Soul, Bristol

Roll for the Soul – a charming community bike café – is the setting for tonight’s Glaswegian trio of bands: Tuff Love, Pinact and Algernon Doll. In the lead up to the gig, the set times had been shifting around, re-ordering, until it transpires Pinact and Algernon Doll were stranded on the motorway and would no longer be playing. Although disheartened to be missing out on those two, the buzz of excitement filling the small, cozily lit venue remains intact for Tuff Love.

Tonight’s show is part of a micro-tour celebrating the release of their second EP, Dross, but they also pay heed to the earlier songs from Junk. The lack of glaring lighting on the stage area allows for wave after wave of surf-pop melodies to evoke images of dappled light emanating around us – it’s a signature haziness that has a distinct Glaswegian hometown flourish.

Each and every short, fuzzy pop song is met with great enthusiasm and delighted anticipation. One such song is ‘Sweet Discontent’ – saturated with sunny haziness, piercing drums, soothing vocal harmony and jaunty-dance-inducing guitar, driven by insistent bass.

The second single taken from Dross, ‘That’s Right’, pummels us with its catchiness, its scuzziness, its undeniable upbeat instrumentation. An unadulterated affection fills us all because Tuff Love are quickly proving to have mastered the perfect balance of impressive lo-fi with imaginative flair.

Finishing with ‘Slammer’ – a song that they wrote in a day last June – Tuff Love show off their ponderous yet energetic riffs and sharp lyrics. With a confident ease, they command our excitement – for, after a 45 minute set, our stamina is not yet worn down. If anything the friendly, encapsulating atmosphere is ever hankering for more. Something will happen, hopefully, we are told.

The organisers do not disappoint. After an interlude, two local musicians turn up to play an acoustic set, alternating songs between the two of them. Lou (of both Personal Best and Caves) and Warren (of something I’m sure; I regret I do not know) embark on a spontaneous performance with songs about binaries and fluidity; close friends leaving; and finish with Warren singing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. Hastily put together through necessity though it may be, this only adds to the sincerity of their compassion.

With the small group of us circled around the space in which they perform, there is something of a campfire to nature of it all: not just in the way that Warren, when playing, leaps around the space like a flame, but in the sense of togetherness, lightheartedness, and community. It’s all you could hope for and imagine in such a charismatic venue as Roll for the Soul.

You can see Tuff Love at Wales Goes Pop!, April 4th at The Gate