Live Review - WSTR w/ Hey Charlie & Between You & Me | Deaf Institute, Manchester | 11/12/18

A year ago to the day, Liverpudlian pop punk collective WSTR last stepped foot on Deaf Institute’s stage. Despite supporting fellow Brits Roam, it was clear they’d brought their own crowd to the sold out show, as fans knew every line from their debut album Red, Green or Inbetween. Since then, they’ve signed to Hopeless Records and released a second album Identity Crisis (which was rated 7.5/10 by Noizze) and have sold out multiple dates of this tour single-handedly, or so it seemed.

Grunge-pop trio Hey Charlie [6/10] were at the mercy of a classic opener’s crowd. With less than 50 people in the 260-capacity venue at the start of their set, no one would have blamed them for appearing nervous - except, they weren’t in the slightest. Dressed in matching outfits, Lizz (guitar and vocals) and Sophie (bass and vocals) didn’t stand still for even a second, while drummer Lauren ensured she was also heard between sets.

Their high-energy performance made them appear experienced beyond their three years together and eventually made the growing audience feel at ease. Closing tracks ‘Love Machine’ and ‘Cheer Up Princess’ were exceptionally well rehearsed, with the synchronised movements in the former’s build-up matched up to perfection. However, while their performance style might have won over new fans, the trio’s harmonies definitely did not. The vocals heard on record might sound polished, yet the live versions took “raw” to the extreme. Maybe it’s all for the rock ‘n’ roll effect, but it left the idea that Hey Charlie may be intriguing to watch as long as you tune out.

Just like WSTR this time last year, Between You and Me [9/10] were the support act that stole the show. As the final Sum41 song of the set change faded out, the tension in the room immediately rose. From the first beat of opening track ‘Overthinking’, the flexible Deaf Institute floorboards began to shake, and it became clear how many had come for their sake. Crowd singalongs for the likes of ‘Move On’ and ‘Friends From ‘96’ created an exclusive atmosphere for those who knew the words; the rest of the audience aching to be able to join in on the odd line.

Vocalist Jake Wilson and bassist James Karagiozis’ antics had them fighting for room on the small stage to the point where Wilson opted for clinging onto the eight-feet-high balcony during closing track ‘Dakota’, all the while making guitarists Jai Gibson and Chris Bowerman look almost timid in comparison. Performances like these are a testament to always check out the supports.

Despite having to follow such a high-standard set, WSTR [8/10] still made it clear whose show it was. Bouncing onto the stage with bright pink hair, Sammy Clifford’s entrance caused an immediate crowd surge as they kicked straight into album opener ‘Tell Me More’. Three songs in, however, tension rose as security announced there’d be no crowd surfing. This could have easily ruined the atmosphere for the evening as even the band looked a little dismayed, but this rule just lead to each song being met with pits that spanned the whole floor instead.

Most of the songs taken from Identity Crisis were met with positive reactions, such as the Busted-like bop ‘Bad To The Bone’ which Clifford admitted they all hated upon release and ‘See You In Hell’, the acoustic “soppy song we said we’d never write”. However, as always with pop punk, there’s a very fine line between incredible and cringy, and Identity Crisis’ most marmite song ‘The Latest’ saw a direct divide in the audience. The room was torn as half waved their arms, embracing the Americanised “blah blah blahs” and “la la las”, whereas others just chose to politely nod their heads and wait it out.

WSTR returned Deaf Institute armed with a catalogue of new music that’s as strong as ever, but the presence of Between You & Me raised the debate whether any of it was really enough. If anything though, tonight proved that we should all try getting to gigs earlier than ten minutes before the headliner every once in a while.