Live Music in Britain: Palaye Royale’s “The Bastards” Tour

 

The marquee outside the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on February 20, the night before the gig.

As much as I loved getting to explore London with my fellow world-travelling flatmates and getting used to life in another country, my favorite weekend of the entire experience was, by far, February 20-22 of 2020. On this weekend, I ventured into London alone, scared but also extremely excited, to see one of my favorite bands in concert. Palaye Royale, a US band who I had seen once before in 2018, were headlining a sold-out show at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on February 21 during the UK leg of their “Bastards World Tour”, with Counterfeit and Charming Liars as support, and I was extremely excited. I didn’t know at the time that this would end up being my last pre-covid concert, but I am glad that honor was able to go to such a phenomenal show.

 

My weekend started on a Thursday, as I only had classes on Monday-Wednesday (another perk of the University of Hertfordshire-each class, or “module” only met for two hours per day once a week). I woke up and was extremely anxious, as I had never gone into a big city like London alone before, but I was also incredibly excited because I am a huge fan of Palaye Royale, so much so that I even bought my ticket for this tour back in August of 2019 when it was first announced, before I had even finished applying for my study abroad program, just to make sure it didn’t sell out before I could.

 

Thursday, I took a train from Hatfield to King’s Cross Station, then took the underground to the Shepherd’s Bush neighborhood where the venue and my hotel were located, and what would essentially be “home base” for the weekend. After checking in to my room, I stopped by the Westfield Mall briefly that was nearby to pick up a couple of essentials from Superdrug (The UK equivalent of a CVS basically), then I travelled to the Old Brompton Gallery where Palaye was going to host a pop-up merch shop/gallery showcase of some art made by drummer Emerson Barrett. I hung out there for a bit, bought a little merch, and even got to meet Emerson and their guitarist Sebastian Danzig. (This even made a split-second appearance in a behind-the-scenes video from the tour, a screenshot of which is below). I then went back to my hotel for the night, except to grab dinner at a nearby Italian place.

 

Friday, the gig was center stage. I went back to the mall and browsed around, because it is a HUGE mall that I would definitely recommend visiting if one ever finds themself in the area, then I went back to my room to get ready for the show. And enjoy the show, I did. Charming Liars, half from the US and half from the UK, started things off, and while I had listened to a couple of their songs to get ready for the show, I wasn’t too familiar with them, but they were full of energy and they earned themselves a new fan that night. 

 

Next up was Counterfeit, a UK rock group fronted by actor Jamie Campbell Bower, who some may recognize from his roles in the Twilight Saga, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, or Sweeney Todd, and will also be in the next season of Stranger Things. Counterfeit put on a phenomenal show as well, although I wished they had played a few songs from their 2017 album Together We Are Stronger instead of solely new music, most of which was unreleased. That being said, since they ended up breaking up during lockdown, I am grateful to have been able to see what was one of their last shows together.

 

And finally, Palaye Royale took center stage, and absolutely brought the house down. I wish that I could describe the amount of energy that was in the room that night, but, honestly, you just had to be there. The venue was stunningly beautiful architecturally, the acoustics were amazing, and everyone just seemed to be having the time of their lives. I can honestly say that that show was one of the happiest nights of my life so far, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel and be there, especially since it has now been over a year without live music, and that is driving me a little crazy.

 

The weekend ended with another trip to the pop-up shop on Saturday, as the band played a free acoustic show at the nearby Redcliffe Gardens, and the first 100 people who showed up that day were able to listen to a new unreleased song from their album The Bastards that came out on May 29. I also had to exchange a skirt that I had bought the first day that did not fit right at all, and bought even more merch because I just love this band so so so much.

 

Overall, it was my favorite memory of the trip because it involved me having to overcome anxiety of travelling alone, and I actually got to just do whatever I wanted those three days instead of my itinerary depending on other people. There are definitely benefits to travelling in a group, both for safety and social reasons, but it can also be nice to just go where you want to go, especially when shopping. I sometimes like to take my time browsing, and tend to feel guilty if I know someone is waiting around for me. The shoe was on the other foot the next time we all went to London, as I found myself waiting around while everyone else was browsing through Abercrombie, although that weekend trip was otherwise fun as well, especially since it ended up being our last, unfortunately.

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