Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Yellowcard - Bristol O2 Academy, 11/12/16

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I'm still confused as to whether they're called The Kenneths or just KENNETHS, but one thing I can say for certain about the opening band is that they're pure punk. 
I caught a bit of their set at Warped UK last year and I can't remember them sounding so unapologetically raucous. In fact, I can't recall much about their set at all: in a day filled with brilliant bands, Kenneths struggled to make their mark. But with an extra year of experience under their belts and the September release of their 'Double N' EP - which features four of the strongest songs they played in their set - I won't let myself forget about this band again.
The trio, comprised of vocalist Josh Weller, drummer and backing vocalist Aicha Djidjelli and bassist Lewis Maynard, were fighting a losing battle with an extremely unresponsive crowd, but that didn't stop them putting everything into their thirty minute set. Squeezing in a mind-blowing ten songs, it took three songs before Josh paused to ask the crowd "What day of the week is it?" and when the answering yell confirmed that it was Sunday he nodded gravely, saying "Oh shit, that explains it. Let's pretend it's Saturday!". 
I'm not sure the end of the week had much to do with their lack of reception, though: it being Yellowcard's final show ever in Bristol, the affair was sombre and rather restrained throughout both support bands. Everyone was saving their energy to give the headliners a worthy send off, a mere handful of people jumping during 'What Happened To My Sex', when Josh was screaming at them to "Jump, jump, jump" and get involved. 
You can't say that he didn't do everything that he could to improve the response. He forced the crowd to hold him up while he played his guitar, clambering on top of them during 'Fucked In Love' after asking "Who wants to play a game of catch?", then encouraged them to make some noise when he announced they were playing their last song by shouting "You can cheer if you want, I don't like us much either!". 
Of course, being a punk band they needed to have some social commentary sprinkled through their set, and they definitely made the most of that obligation. Introducing 'What Happened To The Radio', Josh shared that it was a "song about how shit the radio is in this country", dedicating it to Chris Moyles and Zane Lowe, then after Aicha performed lead vocals on a song he shouted "More women in music, please! This place is a dickfest! Girls, pick up an instrument. You're smarter than us".  
It wasn't too surprising when Josh mentioned that he suffered from ADHD, because he was practically bouncing off the walls during their performance, playing at a breakneck speed with such quick vocals that it was difficult to understand them at points (particularly during the song about his ADHD, 'I Can't Focus', an unstoppable force that times in at just over a minute). When you consider how fast some of their songs were it becomes less surprising that they managed to perform ten in half an hour, but for the songs to be so short and yet so accomplished is more of a shock. It was definitely a funny moment when Josh asked if any of the members of the crowd had ADHD too, then admitting "I asked that in Germany... They don't have that word there yet!". 
I purchased the 'K', 'E' and 'Double N' EPs after their set, and I've already been listening to them on repeat. The tracks are just as catchy recorded as they are in a live environment: perhaps even more so on the aforementioned 'What Happened To My Sex', an overly repetitive yet constantly thrashy closer to their set, featuring Josh Weller stood in the middle of the crowd forcing a fan to hold his microphone so he could continue to play his guitar.
The second song they played and the song that features Aicha on lead vocals aren't on any of their EPs, and with Josh sharing that they'd "just made a record with Bill Stevenson" (of The Descendents fame) hopefully it won't be too long until that's released.

Cool As You
- (I Hate You and You Hate Me)
All Cried Out
What Happened To The Radio
- (My Favourite Ex)
I Can't Focus
New Bad Habit
Fucked In Love
What Happened To My Sex

I hadn't heard of Swedish rockers Normandie until they were announced as main support for this tour. Not too surprising when you consider the fact that this was the first night of their second ever UK tour (the first being a small tour of clubs and pubs back in July) but more of a shock when you realise that the band have been together for three years, their debut album 'Inguz' having been released via InVogue Records back in March.
Despite the fact that they had the same amount of time on stage as Kenneths - both support bands having merely half an hour each, to allow Yellowcard to play a monstrous two hour set - the crowd seemed livelier during Normandie than they were during the openers set.
Well, I say 'livelier' but I don't mean by much.
A large chunk of the crowd must have been familiar with the band, based off of the amount of people with their hands in the air, waving and singing along at vocalist Phillip Strand's command without a second thought. But the majority of people in the room still seemed unmoved and disinterested by everything that was happening up on the stage. Phillip asked the crowd to split in half during 'Calling', and after much persuasion and gesturing they did... But when the breakdown that should have signified the start of the movement hit, the gap in the floor stayed embarrassingly empty. A couple of people danced into it, and there was some half-hearted moshing, but it didn't take long before Phillip relented, telling the crowd to fill the hard-earned gap in.
I did find my attention slipping throughout their set, and that might have been because the focus was so solidly on the music. Phillip only stopped the set to talk to the crowd at a couple of points (one of those being an exclamation of "Thank god for Nando's!", a sentiment often expressed by bands coming from overseas) and one of the things I like most about shows is the interaction with the crowd, particularly when it's a band that I don't know too well. The funky echoing effect layered on Phillip's vocals was interesting to start with, but after it appeared in a few songs the novelty soon wore off, and I found myself yearning to hear something different.
That'll come with time. All of the songs that were played are from their debut album, and when they have a few albums worth of material to choose from it'll shake up the sound of their set remarkably. I'm going to keep an eye on this band, because they have a lot of promise, but it'll take something special from their second album to really get me on board.

Starting New
Loop Hole

After twenty years and ten full-length studio albums, 2017 spells the end for Yellowcard. It's been a rocky road, including a two year hiatus, the departure of at least eight members and a three year spell without a full-time drummer, but after getting through all of that the band - vocalist Ryan Key, violinist Sean Mackin, guitarist Ryan Mendez and bassist Josh Portman - have finally decided to call it a day.
Starting off the set with a tape playing through the venue PA system, it announced "We're here this evening to say farewell, before rocking your faces into the night". It wasn't all doom and gloom, the band taking the opportunity to make fun of concert goers ("every song that you have the desire to film is already available online. The concert experience is greatly enhanced when the band can see your faces, and not your mobile devices" and "if you'd rather watch this show through an LED rectangle than the miracle of the human eyeball, you're fucking blowing it" being two particularly memorable quotes) and this tongue-in-cheek way of starting their set put a smile on everyone's face, despite the sad reason for the show.
It contrasted directly with their intro music, which featured an extremely slowed down, almost 'Welcome To The Black Parade'-esque piano version of 'Ocean Avenue' welcoming the band on to the stage. I had goosebumps instantly. Knowing that I wasn't able to stay for the entirety of the show and that 'Ocean Avenue' was their closing song, it was poignant that I got to hear it in some form - particularly because it was my first time seeing a headline show from a band that I've seen a few times at festivals over the years.
Opening with 'Believe' reassured those that were upset or distraught about the band ending, Ryan stepping back from the microphone to let the crowd perform the repeating "Everything is gonna be alright" chant, a huge smile on his face. With months of this final world tour remaining, it might be a while before the band have a chance to feel sad about their decision: receiving this kind of reaction on a nightly basis would put you on top of the world.
Even though the crowd were much more energetic for Yellowcard than they had been for Kenneths and Normandie combined, Ryan still wasn't happy with the response. After 'Always Summer' he shouted "it's our first show in your country, wake it up and then speed it up a little bit!", getting the crowd to bounce along in a constant sea of movement during 'Five Become Four'. The energy level had raised, but Ryan still took the opportunity to tease the crowd, joking "I just feel like they could be handing out sleeping pills in Bristol tonight," and after raising his voice above the boos and jeers from the crowd, he explained "but that could be because we just came from Germany, where they ripped so hard!". Building the crowd up into a competitive frenzy, I'm sure the rest of the set must have had an explosive reaction.
Sadly I had to leave right after they played two songs from their recently released eponymous album, both of which received a muted reaction in contrast to their older, well-loved material.
Ryan acknowledged that the newer songs were likely to be less well-known, admitting "there's a great many of you that we haven't seen in quite a while [...] we have put out like six records in the last five years! We might play a couple songs you don't know the words to tonight" before asking the crowd to "make up whatever fucking words you want and sing them to us as loud as you fucking can". The audience were polite through both 'Rest In Peace' and 'What Appears', but with the songs both focusing on the end of the band ('What Appears' beginning by referencing "slow, steady hands waving the last goodbye") they brought the mood down when compared to the older, classic pop-punk songs that they began the set with.
They took a moment to thank Like Torches, who have loaned their drummer - Jimmy Brunkvist - to the band for the entirety of their final tour, and he fits in so comfortably with the band that you can see they've had a long friendship. Yellowcard are scene stalwarts: they've been through it all, and they've inspired many of the bands who are currently on the rise. It's going to be a shame for them to finish, but they deserve a rest after all the hard work they've put in over the last two decades.
Thank you, Yellowcard. Rest in peace.

Lights and Sounds
Way Away
Always Summer
Five Become Four
Rest In Peace
What Appears
Rough Landing, Holly
Awakening (*)
Light Up The Sky (*)
Sing For Me (*) 
Transmission Home (*) 
A Place We Set Afire (*) 
Lift A Sail (*) 
Gifts and Curses (*) 
Cut Me, Mick (*) 
Breathing (*)
Empty Apartment (*)
Hang You Up (*) 
Be The Young (*) 
Holly Wood Died (*) 
Only One (*) 
Ocean Avenue (*)

(*) setlist according to

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