International Pop Overthrow 2012 Live Review: Van Susans at Liverpool Cavern – 19th May 2012

By on Wednesday, 13th June 2012 at 2:00 pm

International Pop Overthrow is the name of a series of mostly free but well organised sets of gigs taking place in cities all over the world. The 2012 Liverpool one happened to coincide with my time in the Northern city, and rather conveniently and auspiciously timed, my final night in England on this trip was the same night Van Susans played a headlining festival slot at the Cavern.

Yes, that Cavern that you’re thinking of, but not the actual Cavern the Beatles played in the early ’60s. That health hazard is long gone now, but in its sentimental place is this ‘new’ Cavern, which is still a pretty cool place to visit and certainly the best place to see one of my bands to watch. However, the actual timing appeared to not be ideal, as it seems most everyone in the club was interested in the outcome of the Chelsea / Bayern Munich Champions League final, which included punters, other bands and Van Susans themselves. Still, it made for an evening that had a “it could only happen in England” stamp in my mind that I will always remember. (Actual conversation at work when I returned: “what did you do on your last night?” “I watched a gig at the Cavern, then watched the rest of the UEFA Champions League final on a big screen with the band I was watching. So surreal.”)

Unlike the far too short set I witnessed in Biggin Hill, Kent the previous Sunday the band played as part of a charity programme in a pub, this was a full set of songs. The band’s debut album ‘Paused in the Moment’ was released digitally and in a limited edition CD (1000 copies) run on Jubilee Monday, accompanied by a full-scale assault on the British capital with impromptu performances, bubble blowing and generalised hamming it up across London Town. I’m kind of glad I was treated to this reasonably intimate show at the Cavern, however. I promised myself I would keep the blubbering to a minimum in this post, so let’s see how well I do…

I probably have a strange way of writing reviews compared to my contemporaries out there on the Web. I spend a lot of time in traffic on my daily commute to and from work, and it’s often when I’m stuck somewhere that my mind will wander, trying to figure out the best way to convey what I want to say about a certain band. One of my philosophies about life is that we meet the people we’re supposed to meet when we are ready for them in our lives. For every band that I’ve tipped and written about, helping them along in my (small) way to their achieving success, there was some instigating factor that wasn’t just coincidence, someone or some things made sure I was to hear them, and within the right context so that I could appreciate the music.

With Van Susans, it was receiving in my inbox a demo for a song 3 days before Christmas 2010, during one of the darkest periods of my life. That song was ‘Bones’, which singer/songwriter Olly Andrews admitted during this Cavern show to be “the first song I ever wrote, and it means a lot to me”. As I heard the song for the first time live, I had to blink back the tears while filming the video clip below. The chorus soars with the words “sometimes it takes a long hard fall / to find out you’re not invincible after all / and these things you’ve been and all the victories you’ve won / you thought you were carved out of stone / turns out all it was / was bones”. From the first time I heard it on mp3 to every time since, I am amazed at how accurately that is my life, splayed out in lyric form. My writers have commented to me that they admire my dedication, that I must be made of steel to keep up with everything I do with this site. But like everyone else, I am human. Disappointments, heartache, pain whether physical or psychological: it happens to everyone, even people made of steel. Who aren’t really made of steel, as this song rightly points out. At those times in our lives, even if we think we’re beaten and bruised, we have to and will get back up, to learn from the mistakes and just be, and stronger. Ok. Sorry. I’ll take the psychiatrist spectacles off and we’re back to the ‘normal’ gig review…


As should be expected for a young, budding band with a debut album done and dusted, the set previewed new songs from ‘Paused in the Moment’ I was not familiar with. ‘The Road’ sends a similarly positive message as ‘Bones’, with an emphatic “I will carry on” that I suspect will be anthemic for years to come. The new songs sounded effortless and fit in perfectly with songs from their ‘We Could Be Scenery’ EP released last year (‘Bones’, ‘Plans’, ‘Glow’ and closing number ‘Cha Cha Bang’). Sadly, they could not play their current single ‘Fireworks’ (promo video here) because the Nord loaned to keyboardist Olly Groome didn’t have enough keys!


Piano and fiddle don’t normally make for such compelling music in my book, but Van Susans seem to have gotten the right balance of uplifting rock ‘n’ roll, stadium anthem and folk rock and with the right chemistry of six people – 3 of them are brothers , and other three have rhyming names (Olly, Olly and Holly). Coincidence? I don’t think so. Do yourself a favour and catch this band before they start playing in places where all you can make out on stage of them are little toothpick figures from miles away. Don’t believe me? I met the lovely editors of UnderSong blog at Sound City and convinced them to come along to the Cavern show. They went to see the band the following weekend at the Bull and Gate and editor Kelly remarked afterwards, “Next Big Thing – @vansusans. You can quote me on that.”

My job in breaking the best new bands is never done, but I consider this a job well done – so far – for Van Susans. Good luck my friends, now it is time to shoot for the stars.

After the cut: set list.

Van Susans Set List
Bricks Not Sticks or Straw
Stepping Stones
Rat Race
Don’t Get Me Wrong
Served Cold
The Road
Cha Cha Bang

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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