All photos by Rachel Hasnip.
Hot on the release of their latest EP Wax, Youth Man come home to Birmingham for their final night of this headline tour. A tour that included a headline spot at London’s Punk Weekender, celebrating 40 years of punk rock.
I first stumbled across this band around this time, last year at Birmingham’s One Beat Festival where I had gone to see the mighty God Damn and to say I was blown away was an understatement. The energy and sound from this punk trio resonated so deeply, I immediately set out to purchase as much of their back catalogue as possible which did not disappoint. Wax landed in its vinyl format two weeks ago and has been played non-stop since. Recorded in a live format, I knew I’d be in for something pretty special tonight.
The Birmingham rock and punk scene has quite a tight-knit community, you will always see bands watching and supporting other bands, even if they are not on the bill themselves. I love going to gigs in this city for that very reason and The Sunflower Lounge is one of my favourite venues. It came as no surprise then that I’d seen all three support bands previously, and tonight’s line-up was incredible. With support from The Kontours, History of Sex and False Grails, I knew I was in for a top night showcasing some of the Midlands’ finest up and coming bands.
First up, The Kontours. Self proclaimed “Motherfuckin’ bluesy hard hitting’ rock n roll” they do exactly what it says on the tin. Powering through their set, Ollie’s gravelly vocals were impressive as he attacked each song. New tune “Hurricane” went down well with the crowd, who had starting milling downstairs once these guys took to the stage. Continuing with tunes “Get out” and “Hit me”, this was a passionate performance with frenetic drumming and meaty riffs; this band packs a punch. Chatting to guitarist and frontman Ollie outside he explained they were down their bassist tonight. Did this have an impact on their performance? I think not.
Next up, History of Sex. I was extremely excited to see this band again after witnessing their debut show a couple of months back. This band have only been together for a year although you’d never guess that. Exploding onto to the stage with their distinct sound, History of Sex take no prisoners. Screaming and rapping through a heavy grunge-filled set, these guys are already crowd-pleasers. The room is filling nicely and people are really getting into them. There is no pause between songs, the riffs are relentless and loud, the drummer insane. The sweat-filled shirts are coming off one by one; there’s little air in this cellar but the sound is incredible. Fans of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes will love this band, as I do. Would I go so far as to say I even prefer them? Maybe so. A band that doesn’t come up for air, just an occasional swig of Red Stripe.
Its been a while since I last saw False Grails play, at the time supporting Blacklisters and they left me in awe back then. Playing to a now packed out venue, everyone was getting into the show. Brutal and intense, this post punk set was delivered with conviction and honesty. Midway through their ferocious set, Kaila from Youth Man is called forward to rapturous applause and the band launch into Nirvana’s “School” which has us nailed to the wall from Kaila’s mesmerising performance, followed by the whole venue singing “Happy Birthday” to her. As False Grails continue, it’s easy to forget I’m crammed into a small cellar, the sound produced from this three piece could fill a stadium. Filthy riffs, disgusting bass tones and a drummer literally slaying his kit, these guys are the real fuckin’ deal.
“It’s good to be home, it’s good to be home, Birmingham” Kaila Whyte (vocals, guitar) addressess the audience as she, Miles Cocker (bass, backing vocals) and Marcus Perks (drummer) hit the stage to thunderous applause. They waste no time launching into “Insipid” from their Bad Weather EP which provides a perfect warm up for this blood thirsty crowd. Screaming through new track “Fat Dead Elvis”, the pit opens up, and no one gets out alive. And when I say a pit, you’ve seen Sharknado right? This punk trio have an unpredictable energy that is second to none. Bouncing around as intensely as the crowd, throwing around their guitars, it’s astounding how Kaila and Miles continue to play such a tight set and come away injury free.
Storming through “Patterns” then “Pigs”, Kaila slumps from the hips, guitar slung low to the ground swaying left to right, locking her eyes on the crowd like a lion stalking prey. The intro to “Heavy Rain” begins, Marcus slaughters the drums and the what can only be described as a riot ensues. A slight breather then as Kaila’s versatile and haunting vocals envelop the venue during “Wide Awake”. This blistering set powers on, Miles throwing out dirty bass tones that vibrate right through your chest, and these combined with Marcus’ frantic, intense drumming, results in a filthy, rampant noise. The crowd become more feral (if that’s possible) and crowd surfing and stage diving ensues; everything you want and expect from a punk gig this band delivers.
The songs come thick and fast “Joy”, “Look Wait” and “Skin”. They go on to play another new track from Wax “Sweet Apples”. Before they launch into “Painted Blue”, Kaila explains it’s the band’s love letter to Jeremy Corbyn and hate mail to those in power deceiving us. The whole venue goes on to play a game of ‘Wankers’ where the band shout out random politicians and the crowd duly respond, chucking in a few ‘rock stars’ too and everyone’s loving this game! “Stop now!” shouts Kaila “I’m trying to do a serious song here,” which is met with more laughter and applause from the crowd. This band have an amazing connection with their hometown fans, the atmosphere is electric.
“Painted Blue” does not disappoint and is probably my favourite track off the new EP. A pause to thank everyone for the support, and an invite to Kaila’s birthday celebrations who has now, as she says “Been twenty three for twenty two hours now”. As they strike up to play their final track “Dead Weight”, Miles shouts out “This is the one you all lose your fuckin’ minds too” and I find myself taking a tactful step back; not too far, mind. The vigorous riot that ensues is feral and sweaty. It sees Kaila and Miles surfing non stop, barely dropping a note. Intense, passionate, exhilarating punk rock, everything I expected and so much more! A totally captivating performance.
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