At the risk of revealing my youth too blatantly: one of my earliest music-related memories sees me in front of a Windows 98-running hunk of junk, desperately cleaning my parents' copy of Zed's debut Silencer, in the hopes of playing the bonus disc's music videos one more time. There wasn't a concept of homegrown talent in my brain; they were simply up there, with the weird cartoon delights of Gorillaz and Daft Punk, or the regrettably guilty pleasures of a heavily censored Limp Bizkit. Almost two decades since those moments, and Zed’s celebratory 20 Years of Silencer gig at the Powerstation left me in the same kind of awe I felt then.
But before we discuss the past any further, we have to go back to the future - or to the days of future past, if Beachware’s appropriately sunny indie rock is anything to go by. With its bouncy rhythm and so-cheesy-it’s-good keyboard tones, Want Somebody was a retro gem helped even further by the band’s three-point harmonies. Some bands have a kind of boisterous stage presence that can keep songs from turning stale; you can’t help but be invested in a frontman like Rob Hartnell, who’s so happy to be here that he’s practically spitting the end of his melodies out of his mouth. A sincerely solid set from a sincere band.
And then to hard rock’s feminine future, She Loves You, delivering a powerhouse set of strong, sultry riffage. I’ve seen drummer Katie Baya perform with LEXXA before at the Tuning Fork, so her versatility and inventive fills were no surprise. The rest of the SLY experience was completely new to me, but it wasn’t hard to be charmed by Madeline Berry’s exuberance and the band’s overall aplomb, in the face of a somewhat still crowd and a mic cable that just didn’t want to stay put. Dirty (especially Dirty Orlean) without being demeaning, and damn good too.
It’s weird to see Zed saunter out on stage as comfortably scruffy old(ish) men, instead of the shaggy-haired youths I remember from music videos - but quick reverb-filled strums of Driver’s Side and the pounding snares of Adrian Palmer reveal that in spite of their extended break, they haven’t skipped a beat. Nathan King’s lead vocals - and the harmonies of bassist Ben Campbell and lead guitarist Andy Lynch - still reach the sharpest of peaks, with a tinge of restraint that only maturity brings.
The band jokingly expressed permission for the audience to “be 18 or 19 again - because that’s what we’re doing,” and you could feel a certain gratefulness resonate through everyone in the room. It may have been for different reasons - the band for having such a turnout, and me personally for getting to experience the sublime Come On Down in the flesh - but it was a unifying force all the same.
Everyone expects the hits on an anniversary gig, and Zed have plenty. From the pop-punk arrangement of the Beach Boys' Don’t Worry Baby, to the 6th-form music assignment turned smash single Oh! Daisy, or the Year 11 music teacher’s personal favourite Glorafilia - there are too many to list, and too much nostalgia associated with them.
The real setlist surprises come in the covers (in a beautiful tribute to Ray Columbus with She’s A Mod) and the friendly integration of songs from both King’s solo career and the short-lived Atlas. Life has gone on, subtly but surely, and their inclusion shows respect to that.
The encore felt like the summation of the night, a glorious exercise of remembering the past without getting mired in it. Crawl by Atlas, Creep by Radiohead, and Renegade Fighter. An acceptance of the “in-between”, a homage to an influence, and a raucous rendition of a signature song. In some weird way, it’s an emblem of a simpler era, lost in addled memories, where I saw my inspirations on the screen instead of on the street. It made a dorky kid’s aspirations feel attainable - and in spite of all the time that’s passed, it still does.