In the early days of punk, poets like the great John Cooper Clarke would open for bands. Sadly that tradition has mostly died out, but tonight the custom is fleetingly brought back in the form of snatches of beautifully obtuse beat poetry precluding each of the four bands on tonight. While this pre-band ritual is initially slightly jarring by the time the poet in-question unleashes his last Johnny Foreigner-inspired salvo the crowd are fully on-board, with non-ironic cheers all round.
Tonight’s wildly disparate but quality support bands begins with Birmingham’s own REPEAT OF LAST WEEK. With smorgasbord of effect pedals at their disposable, one would expect a bunch of tech-obsessed shoegazers, but that’s not even close. With their poly-rhythmic jazz drumming, spindly, time-shifting instrumentation and improvised slow-core interludes ROLW alternately suggest Battles, The Mars Volta and Fugazi at most experimental. In the spiky-riffed ‘ProudNothingExistense’ they show themselves at their most coalesced and concise, while their closing cacophonous coda seems designed to destroy ear-drums.
Remember when Weezer were good, and not just “best-album-since-Maladriot’ but, like, Blue Album/Pinkerton good? THE SPILLS sure do as some of their best songs (in particular ‘A Film and a Frame’) hit that same crunchy power pop sweet-spot albeit coated with a West Yorkshire accent. Aside from a setlist that slacks slightly in the middle, The Spills’ selection of tunes quietly impresses those in attendance.
When confronted with the band name SUNSHINE FRISBEE LASERBEAM one would expect at least some 8-bit keyboards, but think again. Though lacking that presumed chiptune edge the band win fans and hearts with their tight, neon-grooved psychedelic indie rock. On the pounding ‘Paradise Telephone’ the obvious comparisons are either Melvins or Screaming Females but with Andy Falko-styled barks. Their finale is six minutes of room-shaking four-to-the-floor riffing and featured their guitarist venturing into the crowd for some face-to-face shredding.
Though they sure can pick a quality barrage of support, tonight is all about JOHNNY FOREIGNER. Here to launch their new album, Mono No Aware, released today, the band kick in with the album’s first proper track ‘Undevastator’ with its soon-to-be-iconic squealing duelling crunch. Its chorus of “What were you waiting for?” ricochets back by the crowd, despite the song being released mere hours ago. Appreciation for the new record continues through their concise twelve-song set; ‘I Can Show You The Way to Grand Central’, with its dynamically backwards soft “This is not a heartbreak song” chorus, and recent single ‘If You Can’t Be Honest, Be Awesome’ getting similarly frantic reactions as their old stuff. After a Mono No Aware-heavy first half Johnny Foreigner dive into their back-catalogue for a thrilling session of wall-to-wall favourites: First album touchstones ‘Sometimes, In The Bullring’ and ‘Salt, Pepa and Spindrella’ mingle with new-classic ‘Riff Glitchard’ and rarities like the schizophrenic Grace and the Bigger Picture track ‘More Heart, Less Tongue’.
Because of a looming 11.30 curfew, staples of Johnny Foreigner setlists like ‘Every Cloakroom Ever’, ‘Eyes Wide Terrified’ and ‘The Wind and Weathervanes’ are maligned in favour of the essentials. But whose to complain when every track they play is delivered with trademark energy and reckless abandon, inciting arrhythmic drunken dancing throughout the venue. The band finish up with a stunning ‘You vs Everything’/’Johnny Foreigner vs You’ sandwich, the alternating distorted-punk chords of the former giving way to the theatrically sparse vocals-and-keys arrangement of the latter, beatified all the more by being illuminated solely by twinkle of glow-sticks. Bursting back on stage for one more sweat-flecked chorus, Johnny Foreigner leave the faithful (the “ghosts”) desperate for more, but thoroughly satisfied none-the-less.