Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Summer Set - Thekla, Bristol, 10/05/16

It's been a few years since I last saw The Summer Set, but their show was one of the most fun I'd ever experienced. You can beat a good pop punk show, especially when the singalongs are so catchy and addictive. 
So when they announced their new album 'Stories For Monday', and the tour that was coinciding with it, I was ecstatic that I'd be able to make it to one of the dates. I was even happier when I found out they were doing VIP packages that included a two song acoustic set before the show!

The band only flew in the previous night, following a headline show that they performed in California, so they were quite understandably exhausted. The acoustic set only featured Brian Logan Dales and guitarist John Gomez, with the other members of the band coming out to hang out with everyone after the two songs had been played.
Everything was running behind schedule (the entire evening ended up half an hour behind the planned stage times!) but they still took the time to explain the meanings behind the two songs that the crowd chose: 'When the Party Ends' and 'All My Friends'. Brian hailed 'When the Party Ends' as a sad song, but noted that a lot of their fans call it the most romantic song that they've ever written, while he joked that 'All My Friends' was about "every girl I thought it was a good idea to date", sharing that he wrote it with his friend Sean Foreman from 3OH!3. The last line in the song is "Promise that this is the last time that I listen to my friends", but Brian jokingly changed it to "the last time that I play this song on a boat" - Thekla is one of the only floating music venues in the world, so it's certainly a different venue to play.
Both songs were performed beautifully - the band have been together for nine years, so that's hardly surprising, but an acoustic environment means that you're completely exposed. For them to be as good as they were the day after flying all the way from America? That's the sign of an extremely talented band, and I'm glad that I was there to experience it.

When the Party Ends
All My Friends

I hadn't heard of SYKES before they were announced as support, but I really enjoyed their indie-pop sound. They lent a very chilled out vibe to the evening and were the perfect way to start off the night - particularly as their set started off relaxed and became much more energetic towards the end, naturally getting the crowd moving.
Sometimes with opening acts they try too hard too quickly, putting the most frantic songs at the start to hook people, but I think the way that SYKES crafted their set was ingenious. The first two songs ('Chances' and 'Gold Dust') were very laid back, perfect for driving late at night or playing in the background on a long summer evening. As a lot of the audience were still getting let into the building (doors opened half an hour late, despite the fact that it was pouring down with rain) they didn't miss the exciting aspects of the set, and instead it drew the audience in before hooking them later on with songs like 'Lifeline'. The most captivating moment of the evening was definitely the song after 'Lifeline', of whose title I'm not certain - vocalist
I haven't been able to find a few of the songs they played in their set online - I'm not sure if they're brand new, or if I'm looking in the wrong place, but if you attended the show and can give me any more of the titles please leave them down in the comments. The songs that I can't identify were actually the ones that I enjoyed the most, which is why I'm wondering if they're new - it shows a development in the style and sound that will get them more attention.
I was surprised at the fact that SYKES were from London, because they definitely seem like an American band - they have that confident, cool attitude that you often don't find in UK indie acts. They're already gaining quite a lot of attention in the states, which is probably how they secured this support slot (as well as their position on Warped US for the entire summer!) but I think this tour could do wonders for raising their profile in their home country. 
I've popped the lyrical segments that I managed to catch during the show into the setlist gaps - hopefully I'll be able to fill it in sooner rather than later.

Gold Dust
- (Want You Tonight)
- (Let's Go)
- (Grave Mistakes)
Best Thing

I'd nearly forgotten The LaFontaines existed: I saw them opening for The Blackout nearly four years ago, and they only released their debut album, 'Class' last year. Forming in Glasgow back in 2010, The LaFontaines have been taking their time - but this year they followed the album with their first release for Record Store Day (the double A-side single 'Paper Chase/Class') and it's solidly marked them as ones to watch.
If you haven't heard of The LaFontaines, they're a unique and almost indescribable band. Having two vocalists isn't rare these days, but when one of them (namely Kerr Okan) adds a reggae-rap style that rivals The King Blues, and their co-vocalist (John Gerard, who is also the band's bassist) has a tone that's smooth as silk... It's a combination to be reckoned with.
I wasn't sure how the crowd was going to react. I mean, compared to The Summer Set and SYKES, The LaFontaines are definitely the odd ones out on this pop-heavy billing, both due to their rap sensibilities and their heavier sound. But John is taking more of a shared approach to the vocal than he used to, and that adds to the appeal of the band's sound. Kerr's full-on rap assault can be a bit daunting, but having the catchy choruses to break up the wall of sound is relieving - particularly on 'Under the Storm', in which John stole the show.
Even the older material received a really great reaction. I could remember 'Pon de Floor' from the last time I saw them, which surprised me - I didn't think my memory was all that great! - and the instantaneous jumping proved that while a lot of people might not have known who they were, they had easily converted them into fans. Compared to SYKES with their chilled style, and The Summer Set who are pros at the catchy singalong, The LaFontaines were the band who got people dancing and easily warmed everyone up.
Kerr also had the crowd laughing throughout their set, because he's a very funny frontman. As I mentioned earlier, Thekla is actually a boat - Kerr apologised in case he became sick during the set, claiming that he was "very fucking seasick" (despite the fact that you really can't feel the boat moving) but he insisted, shouting "it still feels like it's rocking to me, so clear the way!". He also promoted the fact that the band were selling merch (including the leftover stock of that RSD vinyl I mentioned earlier... Guess who caved and bought pretty vinyl?!) but the crowd at the back of the room were talking too loudly, so he shouted "the people at the back are talking and this is the most important speech!" getting a lot of laughs from the audience. Despite the fact that it was obvious a large chunk of the room weren't paying attention, Kerr didn't let it phase him - I've never seen anyone happier to be on a stage, based off of his beaming grins. Taking multiple pictures during closer 'Shark', it was obvious that Kerr wasn't taking it for granted - neither were the rest of the band, because they were trying hard and playing brilliantly, not wasting a moment.
They might have been taking things slowly for the past few years, but I wouldn't be surprised if big things started happening for the band following this tour. It's exposing them to a wide range of new listeners, and their style and sound went down a treat at this first show: if the rest of the tour dates go as brilliantly, I think this tour belongs to The LaFontaines.  

Slow Elvis
Under the Storm
Pon de Floor
Junior Dragon
Paper Chase

I will admit, I didn't listen to 'Stories For Monday' before I came to this show.
"But Alyce, you were only just saying how excited you were about it!"
I know, I know. But I thought it might be nice to hear the songs for the first time in a live environment, so I could really experience them. The band have been quite vocal about the fact that this album nearly didn't exist because they officially broke up for a couple of weeks last autumn, so I thought I'd wait to see the songs that saved them in action on a stage.
The acoustic set earlier in the evening was a wonderful treat, and hearing the new songs acoustically was brilliant, but they work best how they were originally intended: catchy riffs, insane drum beats and Brian Logan Dales using his voice to its full potential.
As soon as they opened with 'Figure Me Out' - the song that they used to launch the new album - I had chills. It's definitely a song that unites people and it's easy to relate to ("I believe there's more to life than all my problems, maybe there's still hope for me to start again") but hearing everyone screaming the words back was an intense moment.
The main thing you need to do at one of The Summer Set's shows is sing along. Okay, it's also nice if you dance and have fun, but their lyrics are crafted to be screamed to, particularly when you look at songs like 'Jukebox (Life Goes On)', 'Chelsea' ...and 'Boomerang', even though the band hate the song and Brian announced it with "Let's get this one out of the way!". Even the new songs were getting a brilliant reception, which is impressive when you consider the fact that the album was only released just over a month ago: the reaction didn't dampen during 'The Night Is Young' or 'All My Friends', and if I hadn't known better I would have believed it was older material. The Summer Set write instant classics.
There's no doubt in my mind that the real hero of this evening was drummer Jess Bowen. She was in a car accident two days ago after their show, didn't have time to see a doctor before the flight, and was playing the show last night before her appointment today. Being a drummer, she needs her arms and back to be in good condition, but she was in a lot of pain! I was surprised she managed to make it through as many songs as she did (I'd been expecting a lot more of their set to be cut), and Brian praised her for being "up here and kicking your ass" despite her injuries.
They took out a couple of their newer songs, but because they'd already fitted so much in (as well as the three mentioned earlier, they put in 'Change My Mind', 'Jean Jacket' and 'Missin' You') it was still a wide range of songs from the new album, and I know I'm going to love listening to 'Stories For Monday' in full. All of the songs appeal for different reasons: there are the emotional ones that you can really feel, the ones you can sing and dance to, and the ones that are so repetitive I'm experiencing earworm syndrome from one listen.
The Summer Set are definitely clever when it comes to putting a setlist together. They're touring the new album so that took the priority, but they managed to squeeze in songs from all of the other albums that they've released - none of their eras were neglected, and they definitely play songs that the fans want to hear as well as songs that they want to play. I don't think I've ever seen a band happier to be on stage (particularly guitarist Josh Montgomery, who was proud to announce that the UK was his favourite place in the world).
I had to miss the last song and a half of their set to get to my train, but I've got it on good authority that they finished with 'Lightning in a Bottle' without stopping to go off stage before their encore, so it was a different show - hopefully Jess will be feeling better and the rest of the UK tour will go without a hitch.  

Figure Me Out
Jukebox (Life Goes On)
The Night Is Young
The Boys You Do (Get Back At You)
Maybe Tonight
When We Were Young
All My Friends
Heart on the Floor
Change My Mind
Jean Jacket
Missin' You
Lightning in a Bottle

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