The Headstart – The Plug, Birmingham, 25/09/11

A Sunday night in Birmingham couldn’t really get much better. It was a beautiful night, more reminiscent of summer than of autumn, there was some crazy Irish folk coming from the pub next to the venue and a lot of extremely happy looking teenage girls milling about outside The Plug. The Irish folk was tempting, and you can probably hear it on the interview video we did with the band before the show, but we weren’t there for that. We were there for a night of pure pop-punk pleasure with the fellows from The Headstart as they embarked on a headlining tour entitled “It’s Gonna Get Messy”. According to the naked Facebook pictures, it had been getting pretty messy all around the country, but was Birmingham going to shape up to that awesome reputation?

The first band on for Kitteh and I (we arrived slightly late due to camera drop-offs), who I must deduce as Every Inch A King – they mumbled their name – showed miles of promise. Obviously a very young band, they combined some interesting synth work and programming with their sound. Their sound was, however, all over the place. The boys need to sit down and do some serious genre figuring out – was it post-hardcore? Enter Shikari-style trancecore? Pop-punk? Who knew? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a lot of different styles and blending them together in your own way, but there has to be some consistency, which they were sadly lacking. For a relatively new band on the scene, they were pretty tight, although a few slips from the vocalist regarding timing were spotted here and there, but I attributed that mostly to nerves. Also, Chris Martin called and wants his hand movements back! But in all seriousness, give these guys a few years, a few tattoos and no doubt they’ll have completely got it together.

Follow You Home, to be quite honest, were a disgrace. Their music was okay and they were clearly quite well practised together, but the amount of ripped off riffs and vocal lines we heard in their songs was abysmal. In just one song, there was the exact same riff from A’s Nothing in their breakdown, a line from a Framing Hanley song and a very similar, in fact too similar, sequence to Sum 41’s Still Waiting. Having influences is one thing, but taking those influences and claiming them as your own is just wrong, especially when said influences are still in the public memory. A really weren’t that long ago! Their lead singer had absolutely no power behind her voice, leaving her as just another Hayley Williams wannabe in a very difficult scene to crack. They were confident, no doubt, but nothing stood out in their songs until it was a riff that wasn’t entirely their own. The band were getting a fair amount of media attention from Lava TV and got to the top five in Kerrang’s Slam Dunk competition, but it’s just like a majority of the bands in the British scene right now – rip offs of American favourites who will get by on image alone. Which is sad, really.

Chasing Skylines, local Birmingham lads, were a great improvement upon the band before them. Half pop-punk, half classic rock, they powered through a reasonably pleasing set. It wasn’t the most exciting of sets, but the band were pretty tight. One downside was that for all the singer’s theatrics and decent stage presence, his vocals sadly suffered, with his breathing all over the place and a pretty weak effort coming out of his mouth. There were also a lot of unnecessary moshpits invoked – it’s not the sort of music you want to punch someone in the face too, it’s far too light. But anyway, they were fun to watch though and are definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Don Broco.

The Headstart, the main event, were utterly fantastic. In fact, I felt so sorry that they weren’t getting the love they deserved. They have some really dedicated fans, but not a lot of those seem to be from Birmingham – the majority of the audience left with the support bands and the rest stood stock still, which is not what the boys deserved at all. Despite having only released a single EP so far, their songs are inspiring, extraordinarily well put together and contain a certain hint of nostalgia for the true days of pop-punk while being totally original at the same time, which is a quality that definitely shows through live. The band have so much energy and invest so much in their performance, as well as their interaction with the audience. I suspect on a different night, there might have been some more banter, but the crowd just weren’t responding. Truly, it’s the little things that make their performance – their cheeky banter, the sly ‘I <3 Kyle' on the back of Gaz's guitar, the wary little jumps on a very unstable stage (followed by a big 'ah fuck it' one) amongst other highlights. Their dedication to their fans is also really sweet - they stayed to chat and sign stuff and take photos for a fair while after the set. It's awesome to see such a positive attitude; despite the venue change to the relatively tiny Plug (in comparison to the shiny new HMV Institute), the band made the best of everything and gave it their all. It might not have been the NIA, but just give it some time and hopefully The Headstart will start getting the attention they so completely deserve. I can't wait for the debut album and resulting tour; maybe that one might end up a bit messier than that Sunday night in Birmingham.

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