Despite knowing about and liking this band for a relative while, I never caught them on any of their previous dates in the UK. Most likely because I was still on my Fueled By Ramen kick which we will never discuss in detail. However, as soon as I discovered that The Lawrence Arms would be winging their way back to dear old Blighty, I snapped up a couple of tickets and braved a horrendous two hour train journey in order to catch them.
Starting out were Birmingham regulars Kyoto Drive. Pop-punk to the max, with the Alex Gaskarth-esque singer to boot. All in all, not really my thing. Trying to engage the crowd just did not work for these guys, and this is a classic case of what happens when you book the wrong support band. It says a lot when the headline act can’t even remember their names, despite borrowing a guitar head off them. Their songs were far too saccharine for my liking, and although their set improved towards the end, I just couldn’t be doing with the singer’s false American accent. This is one of my main complaints in music these days – British singers who put on an American accent, even when they do it well, and Kyoto Drive’s singer was no exception. Grating as hell. I’ll admit they did put the effort in, even going around the crowd trying to flog their CDs. However, not personally recommended.
That said, Under Stars And Gutters, an Irish gruff punk band, were bloody fantastic. The thing with gruff punk as a genre is that you know you’ve pretty much heard it all before, but these guys did it so well. To be honest, it’s been a while since I was quite so taken with a support band, especially one I’ve never heard of before. The performance was fantastic, and lead singer Adam was utterly charming. Their songs, had I known them, would be awesome to sing along to, and I can see this band doing well. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s got a bit of an edge to it. Also, drummer Mark has a fucking amazing beard, and we all know what that means here at TBO. Good beard = good band. In fact, I’ve been listening to their songs on Myspace pretty much non stop since Saturday, so if you’re reading this, boys… any chance of telling me where I can purchase a CD?
And then The Lawrence Arms came on and just totally stormed the place. There’s one thing I absolutely adore about punk shows and that’s the amount of completely dedicated fans. Not that you don’t get that in other genres, but the sheer amount of people in one room that are singing along with every breath they have is a little less common. Perhaps it was more obvious in a room with less than two hundred people in it, but everyone was there for The Lawrence Arms and everyone was determined to have a good time. Which wasn’t hard, because The Lawrence Arms are just great live. Playing a ton of crowd favourites (in other words, every song – even stuff off Buttsweat And Tears was screamed back at them), they had us in the palm of their hands. Although, perhaps too much Oh! Calcutta, an album I’ve only picked up recently, and that’s more a personal complaint because I didn’t know the songs too well. However, there was a good mix across all their releases and everything sounded great. The simplicity of their songs works well live, sounding just as effective as on record. Brendan Kelly, perhaps one of my all time heroes, was as enigmatic as I’d expect, and the dick jokes came in plenty. Name me one other man that can mention blow jobs and Winston Churchill in the same breath and not get punched in the face. And that’s exactly the kind of atmosphere that was there – everyone was there to have fun. And they played On With The Show, so I walked away happy.