Thursday, 2 March 2017

With Confidence - The Exchange, Bristol, 26/02/17

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In the year since I discovered Milestones, they've come a long way. After being signed to Fearless Records they released their debut EP, 'Equal Measures', and over the next few months they're heading out on tours across the world with legendary bands including Mayday Parade and Simple Plan.
The performance they gave was a more passionate one than I remembered from their Waterparks support slot. Vocalist Matt Clarke was sauntering around the stage displaying utter confidence in his abilities, his unique vocal tone elevating songs that would otherwise struggle to stand out from the rest of the upcoming pop punk crowd. He's a secret weapon, and I think his talent is to thank for their snowballing success.
Playing two new songs, 'Royal Flush' and a song that seems to be called 'Wankless', I was again impressed with the leaps and bounds that Milestones are making. When I saw them last year I touched upon the fact that the new material was more mature and developed, and the same can be said about these as yet unofficially released songs.
Introducing 'Royal Flush', Matt shared that it was "about giving yourself the best possible life" after the group decided to focus on the band and make it their "entire lives" last year. That focus has certainly helped, gaining them attention in a rapid fashion rarely experienced by UK bands taking on the States. Matt shared that they've played Bristol three times before, and that "every single time it's been this room, and this was the most full it's ever been", a growth they definitely deserve. It was the perfect birthday present for guitarist Drew, who also had the whole room singing 'Happy Birthday' to him while Matt showed off the cake they'd been gifted by a fan.
I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this band, because it looks like it's going to be a very bright one: perhaps brighter than the fairy lights that Matt had twined around his microphone for 'Shot in the Dark'...

Nothing Left
Royal Flush (*)
Shot in the Dark
Call Me Disaster
Wankless (*)

(*) song titles credit to @_faithonfire on Twitter!

Safe To Say acknowledged that there was a disparity between their sound and the rest of the bands, and they weren't an exaggerating. Whereas Milestones, Broadside and With Confidence are all solidly pop punk, Safe To Say lean towards grunge, making the start of their set seem a little abrasive after the syrupy smoothness of the opening band.
They didn't only sound vastly different from the other acts: their songs all differed from each other. The first two were heavier, with an introspective element that made it hard for the crowd to get involved, while third song 'Tangerine' was emotionally heavy, draining the energy and depressing the previously enthusiastic crowd.
However, everything changed when they played 'Summer Sickness'. Vocalist Brad Garcia told the crowd "If you wanna bang your head and jump around, whatever you do in the UK, you can do that!", but I didn't expect it to get so bouncy so fast.
The songs on 'Down in the Dark' - the full-length album they released in 2016 - seem to be a drastic departure from the songs featured on EP 'Hiding Games', and I'm looking forward to listening to both releases in full to be able to appreciate the development between the two more.
I found the first half of their set a little disconcerting - when you have preconceived notions of a band and they get smashed to the ground, that happens - but after I'd adjusted I thought their set was the best of the evening. They suffered from sound issues, both backing vocalists inaudible for the majority of their set, but they tried their hardest and succeeded despite that.
It wasn't the most fun performance - that award goes to Broadside - but musically they're superior to the other bands. All of their songs are intricate and well-developed, and they deserve more attention: this shouldn't be the first time I was hearing about this band.
Brad thanked the crowd at multiple points during their set (joking "I know I've been saying thank you a lot, maybe that's because we're Canadian!") but took the time to enthuse that "Music is music, and if you connect with it, that's what matters", encouraging people to give new bands a chance whenever possible and personally recommending Milk Teeth. Heralding them as "one of our favourite bands ever", it explained why vocalist Becky Blomfield was Safe To Say's merch girl. Band members need day jobs too!
The end of their closing song was anthemic, sprawling in an impressive manner that would make it perfect for arena performances. It made their set very difficult to beat, and had me hooked - I just wished the moment could have come earlier in their set, because it dissolved any niggling doubts that remained in the back of my mind.

Only Rain
Summer Sickness

Despite the fact that Broadside played the same amount of songs as the first two supports, their set felt shorter. This is partly because their songs are faster, a brand of frenetically-paced pop punk that has every song timing in at below three minutes.
But the real reason their set passed so quickly was because of the response from the crowd. Those who had been disinterested during Milestones and apathetic towards Safe To Say suddenly kicked into high gear, throwing their arms in the air and shouting every lyric back to frontman Ollie Baxxter, who looked blown away by the reaction.
This was a With Confidence headline show, but the night belonged to Broadside.
If you're looking for a band who are utterly at ease up on stage, Broadside are the ones for you. They joked around with the crowd a lot, interacting in a way that the previous bands hadn't. Ollie quipped, "It's nice to see all you guys... Well, hardly, with all these lights", before mentioning how it was "nice to be away from our shitty ass president", a comment which had cheers erupting around the room, making it feel as though we were watching friends up on stage.
As this was their third trip to the UK, Broadside weren't plagued with nerves. They know how to work the crowd and they know they've already got fans over here, which meant that they were just having fun. It made their set all the more enjoyable, watching the members putting everything they had into their performance and loving every moment.
Closer 'Coffee Talks' was explosive, the crowd throwing themselves into the song and taking the opportunity to make a mini moshpit - the first of an evening which had been otherwise restrained. I was disappointed that it was already the end of their set, as I would have happily listened to another half an hour of Broadside, but it's made me determined to see them again next time they visit our shores.
Ollie asked the crowd to check Broadside out online, "leave a comment and say this band is shit, or this band is not shit. The best thing you can do is talk about something, because records don't sell for bands like us." Well, I'm definitely going to be talking about Broadside a lot in the weeks to come.

The Simple Type
Come & Go
Damaged Kids
Human Machines
Coffee Talks

With Confidence should have returned to the UK back in December as openers for Real Friends, but after the tour was rescheduled they announced these headline dates, playing debut album 'Better Weather' in full. I was over the moon and bought tickets the day they went on sale: seeing them at a headline show was obviously preferable to a short support slot.
Their music leans towards the pop side of pop punk, which is how they've toured with mainstream boy band 5 Seconds of Summer throughout Australia, but it made for a very fun evening. The songs are upbeat, and when guitarist Luke Rockets repeatedly gestured to the crowd to start jumping it didn't take much persuasion. Everyone in the room was there to have a good time, singing along to every word and dancing their hearts out.
It became apparent to me during the show why the boys are often compared with All Time Low. I didn't see enough of their set at Slam Dunk to appreciate just how childish their on-stage banter is, but at multiple times throughout the evening I felt like slapping myself on the forehead from the sheer idiocy of their comments. The sexual jokes about relationships between the band members just made me cringe, especially considering the age of a lot of the people in the room, made even more obvious by the fact that there was a lot of squealing and giggling after every piece of innuendo. It was unnecessary, and detracted from what would have otherwise been a perfect set. When the music is as enjoyable as this, there's no need to say stupid things for attention.
Vocalist Jayden Seeley wasn't on top of his game, admitting "I'm a little bit sick and I'm losing my voice, but fuck you guys are raising my spirits" after the first three songs of their set. It wasn't obvious: if this is what Jayden sounds like on a bad day, I can't wait to see them live when he's feeling 100%. Luke took it as an opportunity to entice the crowd, confiding that "the courteous thing to do tonight would be to help him along with every single fucking word," and it certainly worked: at a few points throughout the evening the crowd were singing louder than the band, not something you often experience in a venue of this size.
There's something about this band that is rapidly getting attention. Their links to 5 Seconds of Summer and All Time Low and being on the Hopeless Records roster don't hurt, but it's more than that: they have a spark. I mean, their music definitely isn't the kind that incites moshing, but they managed to get a circle pit going towards the end of 'London Lights' that involved nearly every person in the room!
It also helps that all of the members bring something to the band. Jayden is a brilliant frontman, trying his hardest to talk to the crowd as much as he could, despite being put on vocal rest the second he left the stage. Luke is the joker, the Jack Barakat/Pete Wentz of the band, romantically cuddling his bottle of Jack Daniels before leaving the stage when Jayden was playing his solo, 'Long Night' (played on guitar instead of the normal piano, as it "[didn't] really fit up there"). Josh Brozzesi is a great drummer, even if he doesn't like being in the limelight: the only thing he said during the entire show was "Hi guys, how we doing?" before waiting an uncomfortably long length of time and mumbling, "Nice chat...".
But I was blown away by guitarist Inigo Del Carmen, and the lead vocal that he performed on 'Keys'. I hadn't heard the song before, and I have no idea how I missed it: it's a beautiful and heart-wrenching ode to his friend who committed suicide, the only song on the album that Inigo both wrote and performs lead vocal on. He acknowledged the meaning of the song before it started, sharing "I like to talk about things that are important. Like... It's a bit of a sad one. If you ever feel like you're down and out and worthless, that's bullshit. [...] Never feel like you're alone. This song is for my best friend". You could feel the raw emotion in his vocal, the passionate performance the highlight of my evening. I actually think I like Inigo's vocal more than Jayden's: whether that's because of the feeling he was pouring into the song or Jayden's illness, I'm unsure. I just hope that he gets a more prominent vocal role on their releases in the future, because his tone is impeccable.
The band themselves don't seem able to believe their success, asking the crowd "Who would have thought we'd be in the UK headlining our own tour?!", but based off of the amount of dates on this tour that sold out, it won't be long before they're returning and playing headline shows in bigger venues.
I have it on good authority that the band will be back in the UK towards the end of May (I'm sure you can guess why!) and I'm already looking forward to seeing them again. It's been a while since I've left a show with a smile that big on my face. With Confidence are fun.

Dinner Bell
Long Night
We'll Be Okay
London Lights

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