Live Review: Boston Manor w/ Microwave, Drug Church & Wallflower | Thekla, Bristol | 21/09/18

Despite hailing from the southern regions of London, it’s always felt like Wallflower (8) have become honouree citizens of the south western emo scene, with the group gracing the Thekla stage numerous times over the past several years. Whilst the inner hull of the great ship Thekla has seen the emo gang hone their skills and evolve as an act, tonight’s performance may be the group’s most refined and tight set thus far in Bristol. Despite being commonly and clumsy lumped into the pop punk scene, Wallflower tread the line between emo and post-hardcore, with content from their latest offering Where It Fell Apart being despondently heavy sonically, atmospherically and lyrically.

With the group resonating the post coming of age pains and anxieties that have become synonymous with this scene with dexterity, articulation and finesse, such a tightly polished set is a direct response to those claiming emo is a juvenile genre. As the group display depth that mirrors the emotional heft of this band’s live output, it’s clearly only a matter of time before this group headline this venue for themselves.

Photo: Ollie Weaver

Compared to the composed and educated melodrama of tonight’s opener, Drug Church (8) present rowdy contemporary punk in a fashion most uncaged. Reveling in intoxicated but collected and modern punk mentality, material from 2015’s Hit Your Head overflows with octane and raw roguish aesthetics which stands as a wonderful contrast to the sonic clarity many emerging bands attempt to channel. Despite the vocals of frontman Patrick Kindlon being essentially incomprehensible, such demeanour only adds volumes to the ragged experience and crusty, sardonic and lived-in aesthetic this band perfects.

Despite such raw and course vocals, their grit and gravel edged melodics are presented with crystal clarity, with lessons in punk dynamism such as ‘Weed Pin’ and ‘Avoidarama’ igniting and awakening the inner neo-modern punk in every punter in attendance. Truly, the marriage of age-old punk mannerisms and borderline hardcore dexterity is undivorceable within this set, with Drug Church being clearly experienced on knowing how to bring the raw danger of punk’s past into a modern and tightly controlled sound. Sardonic, unapologetic yet simply primally enthralling, Drug Church present a brilliant lesson on how to animate punk infused dynamism in a sound that’s modern and universally approachable to those unfamiliar and alien to such a scene.

Photo: Ollie Weaver

Following on from their significant tour with the horror emo heartthrobs Creeper last winter, Microwave (6.5) have been slowly yet surely been building a reputation and following on our side of the pond. However, whilst sublime and delicate, there is something to be desired following the rampaging energy Drug Church provided just moments before. With a setlist primarily composed of material from their 2017 release Much Love, the melodic and reserved tenderness found within such content does certainly resonate within the seasoned fans in attendance, with ‘Work It Out’ and ‘Thinking Of You’ prompting a dancing wave of finger pointing. However, whilst such delicate and amiably agreeable offerings may delight those wishing to reflect, the distinctive lack of energy Microwave fail to emit does begin to waver and dilute the atmosphere conjured within the initial half of the line-up. Yes, to compare two respective artists would be unjust, but such a contrast in energy and revelry is simply unignorable.

However, Microwave have never been the ones to whip up drunken antics and to criticise them for not doing so would be criminal and cruel. With the delicate, soft and borderline whimpering vocals of frontman Nathan Hardy, there’s a level of petite intricacy within their emo tinged output that lifts them above their peers within their scene. However, despite their mild and reserved tone and demeaner, when the act emerge from their shell with the retching screams of ‘Vomit’ the contrast and force is staggering and radiates the hidden brilliance of this act.

Photo: Ollie Weaver

Times are certainly changing within the Boston Manor (9) camp. Whilst a metamorphosis from underground heroes to scene leaders and influencers has been predicated since their inception, to see them make the transition this year has simply been phenomenal to witness, with Welcome To The Neighbourhood laying the groundwork for the next era of their career. As the forewarning synths of their latest title track crash into the industrial pop hooks of ‘Flowers In Your Dustbin’ it swiftly becomes evident that the group have become accustomed to their new roles as genuine stars, with the sold out ensemble before them mirroring every word. It’s incredible to consider the fact that the last time Boston Manor performed a headline set in Bristol they performed to 140 punters; a certain contrast to the 400 fanatics present. Truly, it seems the devoted have approved of the tonal and profound shift present on their new record, with the crashing metallic intensity of ‘England’s Dreaming’, ‘Hate You’ and ‘If I Can’t Have It No One Can’ igniting jovial and collective aggression within the fray, with a constant torrent of stage divers never distracting each member from their respective role.

Despite Boston Manor’s debut Be Nothing and respective EP’s still undoubtedly occupying a space in each punter’s heart, what it is surprising is how content from each release is received. Whilst signature tracks from their back catalogue, such as the anthemic ‘Lead Feet’, ‘Laika’ and ‘Trapped Nerve’, are responsible for colossal singalongs that reverberate within the steel hull of the Thekla, content from their recently released sophomore record is received with almost feral excitement, with the intensity of each track amplified to staggering levels. In an age where may emerging bands lose momentum following the release of a debut, such a feat only adds evidence to the fact that Boston Manor have possessed the skill required to become national, if not global influencers since the early days of their act. Ending on the towering lead single ‘Halo’, whilst this show and respective tour may be their largest thus far, it’s clearly only a sign of things to come.

Photo: Ollie Weaver


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