If you mention The 100 Club in Soho to anyone with even the most casual interest in rock music, chances are they’ll have heard of it. Having been an iconic basement punk venue since the 60s, associated with the likes of Siouxise, The Banshees, Sex Pistols and The Clash, it’s no wonder up-and-coming rock outfit Dead! look to be excited to headline tonight. Fresh off the back of releasing their long-awaited debut album, The Golden Age of Not Even Trying, the air in here tonight is thick with anticipation. Can the four-piece live up to their hype and conquer such a historic venue? Are they to follow in the footsteps of the iconic artists to grace this stage before them, or are they to just be another flash in the pan on the surface of the rock scene?
Such questions must wait for their answer. The first band to take the stage tonight is four-piece Middle Distance [7/10], whose Basement-esque grungy melodies are as dance-able as they are familiar - their sluggish indie isn’t anything we haven’t heard before, but that’s not to say they aren’t damn good at it. A particular set highlight would be ‘Same Time Next Week’, a disarming emo track complete with a promisingly catchy hook.
The Kenneths [8/10], an exhilaratingly hyper London trio are next, and this is really where you start to see the magic of this venue unfurl. Pumping old-school punk with a short fuse into this already sweaty space, the crowd begins to come alive, responding to the band’s impassioned calls-to-arms and crowd-surfing antics with equal levels of energy. You can’t help but feel like this chaotic, rebellious gang are exactly the kind that this venue was made to house.
By the time Dead! [9/10] take to centre stage, the excitement in the room is palpable, animated chatter turning into roars of glee as the quartet storm onto stage to play newest single ‘The Boys † The Boys’. If the cult following these boys had gathered in their six years of touring wasn’t apparent before, then it sure as hell is now – the crowd positively erupts, people clambering onto each other’s shoulders and over the top of a sea of moshing bodies.
The impact that Dead!’s debut has had on the attendees is very hard to miss, and you can hear the crowd’s voices singing the lyrics back as clearly as you can hear vocalist Alex Mountford, despite the record not even having been out for a week. ‘Enough Enough Enough’ seethes with self-critical vehemence, while older single ‘Skin’ bounces like the jarring riff that stitches the song together, and each and every fan can’t seem to be getting enough of it.
Dead!, themselves, seem to be having a hell of a time too. From climbing on drumkits and amps, to the sheer joy on their faces when they stop to stare out at the crowd, there’s this infectious elation in every inch of this venue that their bass-laden melodies reach. It really does feel like everybody in attendance tonight is part of the beginning of something special.
And the band aren’t just a one-trick pony either. When the tempo slows down for bittersweet ‘Jessica’ and Tarantino-influenced ‘W9’, the thrill doesn’t die down in the slightest, instead inciting powerful sing-a-longs and hands waving in the air. It’s a testament to the band’s allure that they can have a setlist that isn’t always full of the fast-paced punk bangers they’re known for, but can still hold the audience just as captivated.
The set draws to a close with the alt-rock fan-favourite ‘You’re so Cheap’, and the band haven’t even had a chance to leave the stage yet before cries for an encore rise from the crowd. One can imagine it must be a pretty good feeling, to headline The 100 Club, and win over the audience so much that they’re desperate for you to play again. So it must be an even better feeling when you launch into a cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’, and that audience is so hyped on it that half of them invade the stage. It’s a fitting end to an evening that truly feels like a fire has been started, fuelled by people-power and good music alone.
At a time when it seems like every bitter journalist and their dog has churned out a ‘punk is dead’ thinkpiece, mournfully reminiscing about ‘the good old days’ and how we’ll never have them back, Dead! serve as a fuck you to anyone thinking the modern age has sapped all the excitement from music. As three hundred-odd people spill out onto the streets of Soho, soaked through with sweat and beer with ringing ears, it’s not hard to see that punk rock is very much alive. And if the likes of Dead! stick around to see it through, this may very well become a golden age.