Tenacious D – REVIEWED!

2024 seems be the year of the giant arena tours, with the likes of Foo Fighters, Bring Me The Horizon and Taylor Swift busting out the big guns all around the UK, you’d be forgiven for thinking a mock-rock band of humble origins wouldn’t be a huge scene this year. JB would tell us to never underestimate the power of rock, and with over fifteen thousand piling into the Birmingham Resorts World Arena tonight – a completely sellout show – it’s clearly going to be a wild one.

We take a quick gander at the merchandise offerings, but are unsettled to find t-shirts peaking at £50 (ouch) and the cheapest being £35 – half of what a standing ticket cost tonight, which is diabolically expensive when you consider two non-purchases of a tee could get you another ticket to a huge tour show. I do rate their alternative merch choices like tabi/sandal socks, bags of branded plectrums, and crocs charms – they’re much more in the realm of affordability and are something different than yet another black band tee. Here’s my heartfelt plea to bands to push smaller merch offerings that are at the £5-£20 mark, we all wanna participate but… cozzie livs innit.

VIP Nation patrons however, were also able to pick up a Jack Black curated fan gift with their priority seating tickets, comprising of a very fun Tenacious D pizza box, red apron, tea-towel and lanyard – all branded with the Spicy Meatball artwork.

Dave Hill

As the arena begins to fill, we are treated to the very weird but funny musical/comedy stylings of support act Dave Hill. Dressed in a Slipknot-esque boilersuit which is covered in whimsical floral and animal patches, he races onto the stage pretending to… well, fuck shit up, I suppose. He proceeds to play three or four chords on his axe between mumbling, kicking and moshing. I am bemused, but also amused. At one point he even grabs a pair of nunchucks and cavorts wildly about the stage.

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Finally he settles down slightly, and jokes “Great to be back here in Birmingham… The Paris of the Midlands. I’ve not been back here in ten years! For legal reasons…” before taking requests, for what turns out to be the first 5 seconds of any song yelled out. Yes, it was Freebird.

What follows is a very strange rant about Poundland – “Poundland, we sell everything but dignity” and then some pick-up lines that “will only work in Birmingham”. Dave smiles slightly, betraying his persona “Are you the west midland metro making stops between Birmingham and Wolverhampton? If you are I’d like to ride you all the way free of charge”. I don’t really know what I make of it all to be honest, he’s definitely not a traditional opener, but he gets the laughs and is actually a more than decent guitartist. Oh and I will always appreciate someone who exits the stage on a BMX for no discernable reason whatsoever.

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Tenacious D

The stage lights dim to the mightiest roar from the packed arena, as the choral opening music from Tenacious D’s ‘The Pick of Destiny’ movie, sets the scene.

Strutting calmly on stage the duo, Kyle Gass and Jack Black revel in the full force thunder of the crowd. Taking their places in front of two red devil-hand mic stands they steal a quick nod to each other before launching into story-setting memoir song Kickapoo. Despite knowing the words myself, I don’t think I was really prepared for how much of tonight would feel like a Rocky Horror singalong – EVERYONE and their rockin’ mother was giving it a ruddy good go.

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With his signature wry smile, Jack laughs “So Birmingham… Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. There must be something in the water here, Rock. Rock is in the water. This might be the rock capital of the world” before sweeping his sweaty hair out of his face and catching a helpful fan’s scrunchie from the crowd, to tie it up.

Low Hangin’ Fruit and Rize of the Fenix come with a side of “Any of you seen our film ‘Pick of Destiny’? NOT AT THE CINEMA YOU DIDN’T” referencing the flop that almost scuppered the band, and requesting pyrotechnics which never materialised. “When we planned this tour, we had to rock a bit harder, be a bit spicier, we had to have pyro!” they yell as a very underwhelming single flame spurts from the stage.

Wonderboy rolls on to arguably the most anticipated song of the night, whose opening chords draw a huge cheer from the fans. A huge inflatable Satan at the back of the stage heralds the iconic

Tribute, and at one point the band are almost drowned out by everyone singing. Coming up from their bows, both adopt a slight stagger, joking “We’re getting too old for this shit.” before Jack snaps a quick high kick and a toe touch jump and shouts “Nope, still got it” to tremendous applause.

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Next up is Video Games, followed by The Metal – in which a very Iron-Maiden-esque stage walker robot (that looks a bit like one of the goblin suits from Labyrinth with David Bowie) stomps his way across the stage to dance, rock, and at one point pretend to slam Jack doggy style. Then, as a treat “I need a palette cleanser… Sax-a-Boom please!” Jack shouts, and the now infamous children’s toy is ferried to the stage.

The Sax-a-Boom solo is summarily upstaged when KG brings out a ‘Max-a-Boom’, a giant version which plays funnily enough like a real sax, and the iconic Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty solo. Miffed, Jack calls for a Max-a-Boom removal, “Oh my fucking god, that’s Dana! She’s best roadie in the business right there” and a nice segue into Roadie, with the pronouns thoughtfully changed to ‘she’ throughout the song.

There’s a fun little skit of a silent argument “Hey Kyle can we talk by the drums, no mics please?” and KG pretending to quit, which lines up the lament Dude (I Totally Miss You) and the whole arena using their phone torch lights to join in. Kyle returns, there’s a joyful screened video of the pair leaping through the waves on a beach, and we get a rendition of Chris Issak’s Wicked Game before we come to another iconic D song. “KG… I think there’s something wrong with our electric guitar player… I think he’s possessed… BY SATAN”. Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown) is everything you want from Tenacious D, kinda camp, slightly ridiculous, and heaps of fun. We even get a double recorder solo from KG – which in the UK is everyone’s starter instrument at school, and every parent’s worst nightmare.

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A traditional band intro/solo section is absolutely gratuitous but in keeping with their classic metal pastiche, they thank the sound crew and the lighting crew (who also get to do a lighting solo, love that) before Jack Black takes his own solo starting with the opening of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. 10/10 very topical and locational, absolutely every voice in this place is joining in.

After a brief encore, Good Times Bad Times (a Led Zeppelin cover) is chased up by the excellent Master Exploder. “We don’t often perform this one because it’s too hard to perform live. This is The Spicy Meatball Tour though… are you ready KG?”“Hahahaha I’m not ready, it’s too hard!” they joke. There’s a moment where Jack finally produces the Pick of Destiny and holds it aloft “God that would have been a good time for pyro. I even cued it up! BIFFY PYRO TO THE STAGE NOW”. It is a very kitschy skit with a bumbling pyro guy and a big red button, but it’s part of the charm and comedy. The Spicy Meatball Song (to the tune of Indiana Jones) is very funny, but we close with Fuck Her Gently and the entire crowd singing along again. Finally, we get the big stage fireworks and flame cannons, and the band triumphantly leave the stage with their arms in the air. Biffy Pyro is left alone, grinning smugly.

It’s hard to categorise Tenacious D, because ultimately they are a comedy show – and all the skits drive the narrative of the night, but I think it’s really important to note that underneath all of that, they’re just damn good songwriters and musicians. Tonight was a blast, a well deserved sell-out tour.

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Cirque du Soleil OVO – REVIEWED!

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Scuttling into the Utilita Arena in Birmingham, we arrive into a deep softly illuminated world of chirping crickets and the trills of minibeasts, and take our seats facing… the giant egg. The circus has finally come back to town, in the form of Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Ovo’.

Before the show starts I got the lowdown on some of the incredible things that have to go on behind the scenes to make it work. The mammoth effort involved in the costume department cannot go un-written – their touring vehicles house six washing machines and three dryers, to cope with the sixty loads of washing that were required for tonight’s performances, and they have an entire in-house tailoring team on hand for quick fixes as well.

The cast and crew comprise of a whopping 100 people of 25 different nationalities, 52 artists, and 23 huge semi-trucks to cart everything around in. The stage is fantastic, and the herculean effort it must take to organise and do this type of show is absolutely phenomenal.

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The show opens with our host/ringmaster the Scarab Beetle ‘Master Flipo’, dressed in a very comic book Joker-esque ensemble, and his friend The Ladybird witnessing the arrival of ‘The Foreigner’ (who I can’t help but see more as a Covid-19 spike protein than a bluebottle fly – but that’s the trauma speaking) who is carrying a giant egg on his back. Immediately all of the characters are endearing and interesting, but the star is definitely Coccinella (Ladybird) – portrayed by the wonderful Neiva Nascimento. Clad in a cute latex outfit she totters around the stage chirruping and making complete sense, with almost no actual dialogue at all. In fact that is the part I find most charming about all of this, we get a complete theatrical story conveyed almost exclusively visually. It’s powerful stuff.

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The skit where the insects steal the egg and The Foreigner sadly calls out “Ovoooo” are very funny, but when the Red Ants take to the stage on the vertical parallel bars I am immediately overcome with wonder, exactly as I was, seeing circus skills for the first time as a child. Spinning and jumping between the poles, or sliding down them at death defying speeds and then freezing into impossible human-flag shapes is what circus is all about – the suspension of your innate belief in how gravity works.

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Next up, the Gracious Dragonfly gives an absolutely beautiful hand-balancing performance atop a vibrant green spiral that is reminiscent of plant-stamens, or coiled corkscrew rushes on the surface of a lake. The clever costuming of iridescent wings spanning the length of the artist’s legs, allows for some stunning shapes as he deftly moves from one delicate position to another.

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During stage setting and the continuing escapades of The Foreigner, Coccinelle, and Master Flipo – the back wall of the stage, covered in wall climbing rocks, is subtly used as an outlook for sly Spiders. The three of them take turns to scale and pose themselves as portraits across the background before The Black Spider takes to the stage for an aerial hoop performance, one of the most breathtaking parts of the show.

The sleek red and black suit, coupled with the stark ghostly face-paint of The Black Spider invites you to view him as something otherworldly, and he certainly lives up to the idea as he soars across the smoke-covered stage on his hoop-web. Unbelievable feats of strength and flexibility are bolstered by his powerfully emotive dance elements, all undeniably spider-like in feeling.

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The high-flying Beetles navigating the three Korean-frame stations set high in the rafters, bring the first half of the show to an end with a sizzle. There’s nothing like looking around a crowd while aerial performers are on, and seeing every mouth agape, young and old alike. The frames are stacked with muscular Beetles banging chalk between their hands, before swinging the lithe flying Beetles through the air to one another. The tricks are incredible, tucks and spins – even one that flew a complete circle around the centre post, look inches away from death, but this is a party of replete professionals and the set is perfect. Touching down onto the trampoline net to finish, they garner the biggest cheer of the night so far.

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After the Intermission, we see White Spider drop down to centre stage to show us some of her stunning contortion techniques, bending gracefully into inconceivable positions. The Red and Black spiders join her for some partner balancing, and then she takes to a very unique piece of equipment which allows her to spin and contort whilst balanced on… well… her mouth. There is a small part of me that was initially revulsed, but I think that’s because I know the damage I would inflict upon myself were I ever to drunkenly try this. The sheer strength of mouth and neck muscles it must require is frankly mindblowing.

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Following this, we are treated to another classic circus skill – Firefly, with his diablo. Now, I expect that most of you reading this, and the majority of the people in the audience, have probably had a go with a diablo once in your life. Maybe at a kids party, a summer event, or a school fair. So you know how bloody hard work it is to even keep one of those things balanced never mind actually spinning. Firefly wowed us with one, then two, then three, then four diablos bouncing off the same string. While he turned. While he shot them up in between the lighting rigs high above the stage. I think he may have been a lot of people’s unexpected favourite of the night, and that diablo sales on Amazon probably rose immediately following the show.

As in a proper circus environment, a little audience participation to fill a gap can be fun, and the two people brought on stage to play unwitting romantic interests for The Foreigner and Coccinelle, were very good sports about it. However, what came next was a true highlight of the night – a crackle textured bug, attached via her hair to a ceiling rope and pulled skyward like a marionette. This whole scene was gorgeous, from the music and the lighting, to her elegant and nimble body positions as she swept and spun across the stage.

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The final big act of the night was down to the bright green Crickets, displaying wall-climbing and trampoline skills across the backdrop of the stage. Two giant concealed trampolines provided the power for the artists to run up the wall and land on top, before pelting themselves back down for tucks and tricks, even jumping over one another in a waterfall presentation, but also taking the time to perform and show their cheeky side (literally, they shook their bums at the audience at one point). The air-track between the two trampolines also provided a runway of layouts, twists and double back tucks that came in waves towards the audience, a plethora of skills shown in quick succession.

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Sadly the time is over far too soon, but a happy ending with The Foreigner winning the hand of the Ladybird (and kissing quite a lot) and the return of his ‘Ovo’, to the stunning vocals of Bossa N’Ovo – The Cockroach. As she sang, the cast emerged to rapturous applause and made their farewells after an incredible night. As the stage darkened one last time, Ladybird is left alone to witness, the cracking of the Ovo…

Ending on a comedic cliffhanger really seals the tone of this brilliant show. It was funny and beautiful in equal measure, turning adults into awe-struck children seems to be the modus operandi of Cirque, and we loved every second of it.

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Drone Videography in Music – Interview!

Starting the year off with a few warm-up gigs to get into the festival spirit, SFG took a trip to Nottingham for the Enter Shikari tour last month. The show was incredible (read our review here) but today we’re focusing on something a little different.

It would be an understatement to say that social media has changed the way we interact with artists and their music; the immersive experience of multi-angled viewpoints, re-living events through the eyes (phones) of thousands of others and even from the band themselves. Enter Shikari for example frequently share backstage snippets of them walking onstage or hanging out in the city that they’re playing in.

The hundred-degree view we’re able to access now as fans, is so normalised that it’s probably quite hard to do something unexpected and new. So you can imagine my delight when I spotted during this gig, that the fun was being captured by drone cameras, racing around above our heads. As I crept up into the bleachers to take some still photos, I noticed drone pilot JR in his VR headset, working hard to avoid crowd surfers and flying shoes with his speedy little drone zooming around the arena.

After the show I had the pleasure of catching up with the Dirty Dishes Productions crew, to get a little insight into what they do, and post-event – JR has kindly answered some questions for us, below.

© Anna Hyams for SFG – Dirty Dishes Productions Crew

Tell me about yourself and your company, what do you do?

I’m JR, an FPV Drone Pilot and founder of Dirty Dishes Productions. We’re an aerial production company that believes in defying boundaries, whether it’s capturing footage indoors over crowds, zipping through tight spaces, or even filming underwater – all within the commercial drone world’s rules, of course. From film and TV to sports, live events, and groundbreaking live concerts like Enter Shikari in Nottingham, we aim to put a drone anywhere it can capture the unseen.

How do the drones work/what is it like to pilot them?

Our specialty lies in racing drones equipped with a 4K camera for capturing footage and an FPV camera that feeds directly into my goggles. This setup, resembling a VR headset, immerses me into the drone’s perspective for piloting. It’s a thrilling experience, similar to being in the cockpit, requiring acute awareness and precision, especially since we always operate within sight and in compliance with a drone spotter for safety and legality.

We met while you were covering the Enter Shikari gig in Nottingham, what was your favourite filming moment there?

Nottingham was a landmark event for us, marking the first time drones flew inside the arena for a concert. My favorite moment was the sense of accomplishment post-show, having successfully captured every element of the production, from the lasers and lighting to the pyrotechnics and confetti, in ways never seen before.

Were there any difficult moments to film?

Navigating through confetti showers presented a unique challenge, risking blocked vision and potential collisions. We meticulously assess air quality before flights, especially when lasers are involved, to safeguard against damaging the drone’s cameras.

Do you have any plans for future live music events?

Our experiences with UK Afrobeats band NSG touring with them across venues across Europe, Mike Skinner at Ally Pally and Enter Shikari at Nottingham and Wembley have set a new benchmark for what’s possible in live event filming. The exhilaration of performing live, especially with the innovative step of broadcasting directly from my goggles to the big screens at Wembley, keeps us hungry for more. We’re eager to extend our pioneering FPV drone services to more music tours, continually seeking to elevate the live event experience.

Do you have a bucket-list/wish-list event you’d like to cover?

The dream is to cover the full spectrum of musical genres, adapting our flight style to the unique atmosphere of each concert, from high-energy rock and roll to the serene tones of a Celine Dion performance. Every artist and show offers a new canvas for our creativity.

Where can we see your work?

Our adventures and achievements are documented across all major social platforms, from Instagram and TikTok to LinkedIn, under @JR_DDP and @dirtydishes.tv. We’re passionate about sharing our journey and continuing to push the limits of FPV filming. My YouTube channel @JR DDP also has longer behind the scenes / vlogs showing how we do these operations.

I’m looking forward to potentially featuring in the Summer Festival Guide and sharing our story far and wide! I’ve also attached a video of the big screens at Wembley for you where people could watch the action live.

Rou Selfie shot!: https://www.instagram.com/p/C3qnwxbNvPN/

Having since seen some of the footage shared on Enter Shikari’s own social media, there is such an intimate and interesting quality to the type of footage that drone cameras can capture – something that seems to have been previously reserved for other types of events, for example sports.

Though there are clearly huge challenges with filming music events, as JR points out above, being able to delve into what I see as the personality of gigs – showing the crowd as individuals not just as an undulating swarm, is a move in the direction of the contemporary connection we experience in social media.

Yes we’ve always had flat-on filming of shows, dollies and on-stage cameras to get up close and personal with bands, but the un-intrusive drone footage brings a new element of ‘looking-behind-the-curtain’ that I am absolutely fascinated by. Not having an extra person running around the stage to get the shots also means that the stage show itself remains unblemished, something that seems really important in the type of cinematic show that Enter Shikari put on. I suppose though, the main thing I enjoy about Dirty Dishes’ work at this event is that watching it back – I am transported there immediately, to how it actually felt to be at that gig.

All of us photographers, videographers, writers, artists, musicians alike – we are all just trying to find new ways to capture moments in time, and I think the new horizon of drone videography in music is going to be really interesting to watch.

Bombay Bicycle Club @ Cambridge Junction 10/02/2024

Back in 2008 at The Roundhouse in Camden on a Saturday afternoon at Artrocker’s all ages club was the first time that I witnessed the amazing indie rock band Bombay Bicycle Club. I always remember it being a great show and have seen the band grow over the years with becoming more successful in the music industry. They were also the first band that I got to photograph for Artrocker Magazine so they have a special place in my life.

As part of their UK tour they stopped off at Cambridge Corn Exchange on a Saturday night for a sold out show. When attending the show it was great to find refuge from the rain and to see everyone eagerly awaiting for the music. Throughout the night was DJ Chux playing music to entertain the crowd between bands.

Supporting act was Lime Garden who are an indie rock band from Brighton, consisting of members Chloe Howard, Leila Deeley, Tippi Morgan and Annabel Whittle. The band were stood across the front of the stage and performed a selection of songs. Their debut album ‘One More Thing’ is out on the 24th February across all platforms. They are also doing a UK tour in February/March.

The stage was decorated with colourful streamers (like the old ones you hang in doors to stop the flies coming in), balloons and big 3D lights saying ‘MY BIG DAY’.

When Bombay Bicycle Club hit the stage the members entered the stage and frontman Jack came out holding two confetti cannons which he shot out over the audience. First up was ‘Just a Little More Time’ which really got the crowd going. The four members were joined with other musicians playing saxophone, trumpets etc. They were also joined by Olive Jones who was vocalist for songs such as ‘Tekken 2’ and a cover of Selena Gomez’s ‘Lose You To Love You’.

Throughout the evening the band played songs from the new album and back catalogue and also ‘Fantasneeze’ which is a song from their upcoming EP.

Later in the performance the band disappeared leaving Jack to do a solo acoustic version of ‘Dust On The Ground’. The band finish with ‘Shuffle’ which is a fan favourite. Then there is an encore which they come back on stage to finish with two more songs including their most loved song ‘Always Like This’.

Its clear to see that the band love playing music and have really nailed their live sets. It will be great to hopefully see the band again in the near future and look forward to hearing their new EP.

Review and Photos by Kane Howie

Review: ENTER SHIKARI – Nottingham 2024

2024 is emo resurrection year, you can’t convince me otherwise. With a sold out BMTH tour last month, the sneaky reappearance of the skinny jean, and the Download festival line-up stacked with pop-punk, you can sign me up for a summer of giant fringes and sideways stud belts thanks. Tonight we are in Nottingham at the Motorpoint arena to delve further into the early noughties nostalgia with the iconic Enter Shikari.

Up first on the bill is firecracker Noahfinnce, blasting some garage-band style punk rock into our earholes and yelling “Rishi Sunak can suck my sweaty balls” to the unanimous approval of the crowd… obviously. It’s an infectiously fun set, the hooks are catchy enough to sing along and I’m always going to love an anti-tory rhetoric to be honest.

Laughing, Noah claims “Ok now I’m gonna be the big sweary transgender the Conservatives think I am” before ripping into his ‘Impression of Green Day’. Closing with ‘Life’s A Bit’ is proper punk rock simplicity. The lack of over-production brings me back to teenage gig trips to the local dive, and by the end I’m singing along “moral of the story, I’m a bit of a dickhead”, so I hope to see Noah on some future festival stages.

Up next, Cali rock/politipunk band Fever 333 come no holds barred, with opener “Burn It” ringing in our ears from the off. Despite this being the newest iteration of the band after an all-change in members except for lead singer Jason Aalon Butler last year, they sound crispy clean and like they have come to war.

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Guitarist Brandon Davis and bassist April Kae are a force to be reckoned with, heavy riffs and oh so much bouncing around. Drummer Thomas Pridgen’s beats are hard hitting and provide Butler the perfect backdrop to his insatiable need to move, and jump. Lyrics depicting inequality, capitalism and anti-fascism are screamed across an arena of nodding heads, and there’s something really comforting about the fact that there are still bands out there doing this.

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Activism and music have always gone hand in hand, but Fever 333 are out there unabashedly pushing forward with a flavour reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine and Napalm Death. Above all else, they are undeniably entertaining – how can you not jump around when every member of the band is going absolutely beserk?

Under their Black Panther backdrop, yelling “Free Palestine”, they perform in white boiler-suits covered in black patches, which I now dub ‘Battle-Scrubs’ with the number 333 appearing repeatedly. 333 represents the band’s three core principles of Community, Charity and Change – immediately apparent in their commentary on misogyny in the music world, as Butler calls out “I want to make one thing clear, women should feel safe, respected and honoured in this venue tonight” before dedicating ‘One of Us’ to their “Queen” April.

For my choice ‘$wing’ goes so hard the entire crowd was bouncing, and if you’re a Ferris Beuller fan the lyrics are incredibly accessible, it’s going straight on my playlists. ‘Ready Rock’ sees Butler leap into the crowd only to be lifted by the feet above the throng of grasping hands. The mic is fed by a line of techs across the sea of bodies so he can complete the song before spin-jumping into the fray. Miraculously he makes it back to the stage to apologise for stepping on someone’s bonce “I’m sorry, if you go to the merch stand and prove a nine and a half converse stepped on your head, you can get an item for free” he jokes, before thanking everyone for making them feel welcome and shouting out “POC Punks, WE SEE YOU!”. I think I’ve found my new binge listening band in Fever 333, this is action music.

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As the lights dim once more, there is a palpable electric energy of anticipation in the room. For many attending tonight, this is a long-lived relationship with a band that has spanned 2 decades of the UK rock scene, and I notice a fair number of kids along for the ride with their thirty-something parents as well. Taking to the stage, lit by a single spotlight, lead vocalist Rou Reynolds begins his spoken word soliloquy of ‘System’ like a professor at a lectern, before the lights come up and Enter Shikari absolutely rip into the electronic power of ‘Meltdown’ under screens of scrolling matrix-style code.

There’s something to be said about the sheer performance factor of this band, being able to smoothly direct the flow and energy of the crowd in this way is actually not too common a talent, but they are masters of it. Seamlessly blending techno, dub and trance into metal and punk rock is not the easiest task either, but it gives Shikari an undeniably unique sound that has a cross-genre appeal that I am absolutely enamoured by. With their politically charged lyrics and open defiance of the status quo, it isn’t hard to see why they chose their touring partners in Fever 333 and Noahfinnce – it’s one of the best curated line-ups I’ve seen in a while.

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Screaming “Shall we test out this sound system?” Rou bounces enthusiastically into ‘Anaesthetist’. After a little jazz trumpet interlude, Rou gushes “You know what, I am so fucking grateful to be alive on this stage… I wanna dance with you” before pillar beam lights from the front of the stage pierce the darkness to represent prison bars for ‘Jailbreak’. This time the entire crowd is undulating like the sea and hordes of crowd-surfers take the opportunity to glide over the barrier into the waiting arms of the twenty-strong security team.

Rou then scales a ladder alongside one of the two light towers flanking the stage, only to perch on the edge of it, in the beam of a soft spotlight. Like something out of a movie he reaches his hand into the tower and it is displayed on the screen as a dip into a body of water. Yeah, at this point we kinda know what’s coming as he turns his back towards the ‘water’ but it doesn’t make it any less fun, the circus of him tumbling backwards into the tower and showing up swimming on the screen ignites all those little fires of childhood magic awe.

After his stunt he reappears eating a banana, and the band take a mini break to discuss the useful nutritional properties of said banana, before the hard hitting dubstep intro ‘Sssnakepit’. Laughing “Fucking hell I love this venue! I love Rock City don’t get me wrong, but this is so good” Rou comments on the circle pits which have been swirling all night. As if to up the ante yet again, the band are joined by Jason from Fever 333 for ‘Losing My Grip’ and they both run riot along the gangway slopes to drummer Rob Rolfe.

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Returning atop the other stage tower, Rou sits for a couple of chilled solo songs with his guitar ‘The Pressure’s On’ and ‘Juggernauts’ before heading into the second part of the show, held on a mini platform in the middle of the arena. It’s the kind of production I expect of giant bands at festivals not arena tours, but I absolutely love that they’re as focused on the atmosphere and feel of the show as they are the music.

While the band run through ‘Gap In The Fence’ Rou takes to the crowd seating area for ‘The Sights’ where he makes his very best attempt to make it around the stands. “They told me I couldn’t get round the venue in one song and they were right” he laughs as he makes it to the three quarter mark, but still makes sure to fist bump everyone he can reach on his way back round to the stage.

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‘It Hurts’ into ‘The Dreamers Hotel’ is joyfully bright, another side of Shikari’s multi-faceted musical personality, along with a side of heavy confetti across the crowd, delaying the progress of the little video drones we’ve seen all around the arena tonight from Dirty Dishes Productions – I can’t wait to see that footage though.

For the real encore ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’ sees Rou being held back by the pants at the crowds edge, and bassist Chris Batten straight up launching himself into the crowd on his back, still playing. “Christ on a Caribbean cruise” Rou breathlessly says when they make it back out, but he obviously has more to give as he goes hardstyle dancing his way into ‘A Kiss For The Whole World’ to finish up.

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Leaving us with “Thank you so fucking much for having us, we’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time” and thanking the security in the pit for keeping everyone safe tonight, is another testament to the ethos and values of Enter Shikari that are alive and present in their music. The sheer number of crowd-surfers over the barrier tonight tells you the impact this band have on a visceral level, the production and the choreography were all almost cinematically brilliant too, but the discourse of the evening, the music – that’s what stays with you.

Roll on Download festival, because the bar is suddenly very high for everyone else.

© Anna Hyams for SFG. Do not use without permission.

Circa Waves @ Bedford Esquires 31/01/2024

After a reschedule of an October 2023 tour Circa Waves finally kicked off their Underplay UK tour where they played at intimate venues across the country. One of the nights was at legendary Bedford Esquires which is host to hundreds of bands each year showcasing some of the hottest upcoming bands. Circa Waves were supported by rock band Cusp. For each show on the tour the band included a foodbank in which you could donate items too. The show was sold out and was a great night.

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25TH-28TH JULY 2024


Wheatus: The Soundhouse Leicester – Reviewed!

Scuttling down the dark back streets of Leicester city on a Sunday night would normally mean you’re up to something dodgy, and as we sidle up to the queue of distinctly eclectic looking folk bathed under the faint green glow of a neon sign, it occurs to me that this is exactly the sort of reputation the ‘alternatives’ always had – dodgy. Luckily our band of choice tonight, made their mark singing about precisely this sort of thing, so we’re in good hands.

As we slip past the giant sage green tour bus, jammed like a conga eel down a tiny alleyway, and head into The Soundhouse venue, we are greeted by friendly faces and an absolutely tiny room. Now, I must note two things here. Firstly that I adore gigs in small venues. There is an intimate and special quality that definitely dies in larger places. Secondly, I have no idea how we’re all going to fit in here, nor the band on the miniscule stage.

As it turns out, I need not have worried – the tattooed skinheads, stoners and hipsters have all filed in just fine and there’s a decent amount of dancing room. I do slightly fear for the health of the two very on brand dirtbags at the front, who have come in full ‘Loser’ movie regalia of parkas and furry trapper hats. Exemplary dedication to the cause.

A small merch stand is selling the very last of their tour tshirts, signed posters and such. There are quite a few items that have sold out, presumably due to the fact that we have ended up being the very last date on this tour due to Brendan B Brown’s illness causing the cancellation of the previous show. I’d also like to highlight how brilliant it is that they and The Soundhouse worked together to get this night stuck on the end instead of just faintly promising “they’d be back at some point” – we are truly grateful, and it’s a sellout show for a second time.

Up first is the perfectly awkward purveyor of (as he puts it) Nerdcore Rap, MC Frontalot. Ascending (and by ascending I mean taking one slightly elevated step) the stage wearing a very convincing Dwight Schrute outfit, and a head-torch he yells “I’m a nerdcore rapper, from San Fransisco to Knife Crime Island” and laments that this is the 47th and final time he’ll have done this show on this tour.

Instantly taken with his self-deprecating rhymes, we giggle our way through the likes of ‘First World Problem’ and ‘Power User’“I’m in a sadomasochistic relationship with my desktop computer” he says, deadpan. The beats are distinctly 90’s in feel, and I guess the intersection of rap and rock was a lot lower in the UK than it was in the US, so the crowd is unfortunately kind of flat, which is a shame as Frontalot is actually really fun.

There’s a definite Flight of The Conchords style familiarity about him, which I obviously enjoy, and joking about being dressed like a sixth grade English teacher has us in stitches, mainly because my plus one for this gig tonight actually *is* a high school English teacher. Finally the ‘Tut Tut’ song requires a bit of crowd participation and at this point everyone seems to decide it’s ok to join in and have a bit of a boogie, which obviously serves to rocket the temperature of the room. Anyway, MC Frontalot – I salute you, that was a kickass set, and I shall join your Nerdcore rap movement by subscribing to you on Spotify later.

As Wheatus sneak onto the stage to start setting up, a commotion in the middle of the room is brewing. It seems that a lady has passed out and they’re trying to get her to the fire doors for some air. As Brendan B. Brown calls for security to come over and help before they start, I joke “Well, you’ve got them passing out before you’ve even played a note” and he replies “Ha, well… it’s not my first choice”.

© Anna Hyams for SFG. Do not use without permission.

Once the situation has been appropriately handled, the gap in the crowd closes and all eyes turn to the now very cramped stage. Brendan is sporting a rather excellent semi-acoustic guitar whose sound holes are shaped like the Wheatus stylized ‘W’, and yells out a quick hi to the crowd before asking what we want to hear. Now, I knew that for the rest of the tour they’d been taking requests, but I simply wasn’t ready for how far they would go – this night, we had an entirely crowd-curated set list. Mixing hits with B-sides, never before heard-live tracks and the band working their asses off to keep a 63 song repertoire live in their heads, is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen at a gig.

Starting out strong with ‘Pretty Girl’ and then my yelled suggestion ‘Leroy’, I am already absolutely delighted to be here tonight, Brendan’s voice sounds fantastic despite the recent illness, until he has to stop for a short cough-break after ‘Semolina’. “That’s the sound of pneumonia… it’s not Covid, I tested negative five times! This is just regular sick. See they love that!” he laughs as the crowd cheers.

Swigging from a paper coffee cup he quips “I’m actually completely drink and drug free, so when I get the chance to have medicine and 4 shots of espresso, I take it, woo! But yeah don’t do drugs, especially don’t do cocaine it fucks up your nose then you can’t sing the girl part to teenage dirtbag.”

Flowing into ‘Truffles’ with an extensive solo on the end, it’s more like we’re earwigging on a jam session than at a gig, I can’t rave enough about how collaborative and interesting it feels to not just be played *at*. “That was some lead singer gratuitous bullshit there… I decided I’m not a good guitarist halfway through.. was it OK? You don’t have to cheer you know” Brendan says, underestimating a UK crowd who immediately 180 to giggled booing instead. “Oh bollocks” he replies in a British accent.

‘F.B.S.M’ comes with a side story about how this forgotten song was rebuilt due to Neil (in the crowd)’s shitty flip phone recording at a previous gig, which of course galvanizes the record-everything crowd to hold their phones aloft for ‘Temporary Song’. It’s irritating in a small room, and they’ve memorised all 63 of these songs already my guy, put your phone down and enjoy the music.

Perhaps in karmic response, suddenly the stage goes dark as the lighting desk goes kaput and a very frantic fiddling begins to try and fix it. ‘Tipsy’ is played in a blueish twilight (totally useless for the iphone videographer crew, ha), but apparently Saviour tech ‘Archie’ manages to harrass a new board in place before ‘Hump’em n’Dump’Em’ which then morphs into some sort of disco rave situation. Following this, a full crowd karaoke ensues for their hit cover of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’, which is weirdly poignant on this Remembrance Sunday, amid the news of Gaza – “We can make love not war”.

When someone yells out ‘Punk Ass Bitch’ I expect to be singing my head off, but they instead play their alternate lyrics version written for Jackie Chan’s Adventures, called ‘Chan’s The Man’. It’s cute, and again something unique… but I am damn well singing the OG lyrics over the top.

‘Marigold Girl’ is a bit of an emo dirge, but you know – so am I, so I liked it. “This song is about a Zombie apocalypse. This is my dead people song. This is a tour first, we haven’t done this yet in the 46 other shows we’ve played, it’s the only one we haven’t played so we’re gonna complete it”. Up next, ‘Sunshine’ is the absolute antithesis of the previous song and it sounds every bit as excellent as teenage me thought it might, back in 2000, listening on a silver CD walkman.

‘Wannabe Gangstar’ has everyone singing along again, into ‘Whole Amoeba’ and when someone yells out “PLAY THE LEICESTER SONG” the band quickly whip up a few bars of funk and call it ours. ‘London Sun’ and ‘Lemonade’, are two of my favourites that aren’t from their debut album and for a final show set of a long tour, plagued by illness and extensions – I am surprised and awed that the band continue to sound this good.

Someone calls out ‘Mr. Brown’ – another great debut album track, and then it’s time for *the song*, ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. Rocking a safari style bucket hat, Bendan says “So, Dirtbag… back in the charts… I don’t know how you did that but it’s down to you, thank you so much. Anyway, we know it’s your song now, not ours. Here we go”, and then it is a deafening crescendo of crowd singing through to the ‘girl part’ which hits the kind of sound barrier that makes neighborhood cats scarper and brain fluid fizz. “You wanna hear me do it?” BBB asks to a chorus of agreement, and thankfully most people understand the brief and let him actually sing the section before ending on a full house high. Oh, but not before we get some inserted bars from the returning MC Frontalot. I love it.

At almost 11pm a few people prematurely head for the doors, but the chants of “one more song” ring out and we get to hear ‘People’. “Thanks for supporting my illness these last few shows, your love is felt. Oh, yes we’ll definitely be back don’t worry” Brendan enthuses. “This song is about how it’s better to have more diverse people, and less of the same people” brings about cheers and clapping, and sadly, the end of an epic set.

This version of the band, although almost entirely changed from the original line-up, have an energy and connectivity that flows so organically that it truly feels as if you’re being swept by the tide of them. I can’t rave enough about how special and interesting this one-of-a-kind show was. Yeah, I know we were number 47 on the roster but, if you weren’t at this one, you’ll never see it again – and that, is the power of live music and a band who are brave enough to let their fans run the show.

© Anna Hyams for SFG. Do not use without permission.