Gnarwolves have had a crazy 2013, having stormed stages alongside the likes of Funeral for a Friend and The Flatliners. Following an intense touring cycle, this is surprisingly the band’s first headline tour of the UK in support of their latest EP Funemployed, which encapsulates the raw intensity and fury of their live show and perfectly represents the band.
Opening up the night was Wolverhampton’s own Maycomb, incorporating upbeat power chord riffs reminiscent of early Drive Thru Records bands. Taking a lot of material from last year’s I Opened My Heart To Caustic Things, the energetic ‘Dynamiter’ counteracts chugging guitars with soft vocals.
Templeton Pek wasted no time commanding the audience with lead singer Neal Mitchell having the charisma of a true punk frontman. Within the first few bars of their song ‘Call To Disarm’, the band had blown away the crowd with the ferocity of Mitchell’s vocals, with guitarist Kev Green nonchalantly taking to the crowd to perform some blistering riffs. ‘Alive (Promise is Safety)’ feels like a blend of the galloping guitars of Rise Against and the power vocals of Underoath. However, the only thing holding this band back is the crowd, and in a year or two, it would be great to see Templeton Pek headline gigs twice as big as this with ten times as many circle pits.
Having only seen Nai Harvest a couple of weeks ago supporting Dads (link here), expectations were definitely a lot higher and somehow, the Sheffield two piece managed to deliver a lot more. Opening up with ‘Whatever’ from their album of the same name, the crowd barged their way to the front to scream back every emotionally intense lyric. With things cooling down for ‘Hold Open My Head’, the title track from their upcoming 7″ EP that came out only a few weeks ago, the song still got a huge singalong towards the chorus. Saying “I’ve always wanted to not play this song here” – it’s clear Ben Thompson is referring to one song and one song alone, ‘Distance, Etc’. With the lyric “long drives to Birmingham, we’ll miss you man”, it probably does seem a bit cheesy, but it is an essential staple in the band’s catalogue and the reaction they got, with people trying to crowd surf, says that it won’t be the last time we hear that song in Birmingham.
Gnarwolves exceeded all expectations on their first headline tour with the merch table cleared from the previous dates of the tour before doors even open. The crowd rushed towards the front of the stage whilst the band set up their equipment and from the ‘History Is Bunk’, the next 30 minutes were a slew of stage dives, singalongs and crowdsurfs. Seamlessly going through their first few songs without any pauses (‘History is Bunk’, ‘A Gram is Better Than A Damn’, ‘No Time For Old Bones’), the momentum of the band collided on ‘Limerence’ which built up into an intense moment of the night with upbeat singalongs and people ripping the Christmas decorations from the stage.
It’s not really a secret that this band is on the verge on breaking out of the underground and with the release of an album in March 2014, it’s going to be strange to see how this band translates to shows with barriers. With the hand on heart ‘Community, Stability, Identity’ giving fans a couple of minutes to catch their breath, it isn’t long until the highlight of tonight ‘Melody Has Big Plans’, where the band demanded a circle pit and the crowd is doing everything they can to trash The Flapper. The overwhelming demand for an encore is met and Gnarwolves give everything left for ‘We Want The Whip’, with such a successful UK tour which has left nothing but chaos in its path, it’s an indication of a good night where the last words from the stage are “did anyone pick up my microphone?”.