Live Review: Real Friends w/ Grayscale & Belmont | Thekla, Bristol | 17/10/19

As Belmont (5) kick off their first show in the UK ever with their full length debut’s first single 'Hollowed Out” it is rocky to say the least. Vocalist Tax Johnson looks less than thrilled with his performance, perhaps it’s the jet lag but by the time the band have found themselves at home on stage with 'Albert' the set is recovered as an honest effort, the audience more than happy to welcome the band on the first step of their UK journey. The tone for the night is set with 'By My Side' as a fine example of the pop-punk Belmont are best at, rough around the edges vocals that build to a swell in gang vocals and climaxes.

Production value rises as Grayscale (7) take to the stage, opening with 'In Violet' from their newly released sophomore record Nella Vita. Despite being a little over a month since the albums release the crowd join in with the chorus with an incredible amount of enthusiasm. Doubling down on the new sound the band jump directly into 'Baby Blue' really flexing their pop muscles and putting the tracks to good use.

It’s clear the bands earlier material is more familiar to tonights patrons, with tracks like 'Palette' from 2016’s What We’re Missing EP causing a bigger stir than anything played previously. Despite Nella Vita’s ranged offering tonights setlist consists mainly of the bands more floor filling anthems with the crowd continuing to embrace the new material and its increasingly pop infused merit. Collin sounds strong on vocals throughout and the band do an honestly impressive performance of so many different genres.

Opting for just one of their more sombre tracks from the new record singer Collin introduces 'Old Friends' a notion that the crowd respond to with arms raised throughout, and before the energy can drop for too long the band revisit 2017’s Adornment, 'Fever Dream' plays with 'Atlantic' to follow and close Grayscale’s set out as an all around tight performance with prominence in new material. It’s clear that whatever direction they choose to head in sonically from here, they know there’s a time and a place for where they’ve come from and manage to cater to what must be a broad fan base by now.

Real Friends (9) are introduced by a faux-announcer branded 'Emmanuel Transmission', a gag that does a solid job in showing the bands lighter side. With their last full length release Composure released a year ago there’s no hesitance in running through some of the material from it including 'Get By' & 'Smiling on the Surface'. When Composure released in 2018 the band were clear they wanted to head in a more positive reaction, this is echoed time and again through their set with vocalist Dan Lambton regularly addressing the crowd with this intention specifically.

Here to please the band are providing energy in buckets with Brian Blake showing his teeth on drums as mosh pits explode into the kind of harmless fun that is a pop-punk show incarnate. The band even go as far to play what is supposedly a popular request online 'Old Book' with the crowd doing the request justice. Dan then opens the bands back catalogue up a bit explaining they’re about to do a deep dive, starting with an incredibly energetic 'Maybe This Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing'.

Throughout the set Dan & co continue to share their good will and positivity, with bassist Kyle taking to the mic to thank all the fans and remind them, they are why Real Friends are even still here. This combined with a story from Dan’s childhood about gratitude and and whether we want to feel good as people. Almost priest like giving a sermon to a loyal congregation he notes it is easier said than done, but every member of the audience has the power to do just that, it makes for a wonderful segue way into the bands last song of the night and second single from 2018’s Composure 'From the Outside'. It’s a song and a feeling that ricochets through the audience with crowd vocals of the chorus hook carrying Dan through his own well earned crowd surf.

As far as pop-punk bands and their appeal go, Real Friends definitely understand theirs, it stands as the under dog, the chip on the shoulder who tries in spite of the odds, and the best way for their fans to enjoy this is for the band to share it with them, every note, line and beat of feeling. It’s not so bad being on the outside when you have Real Friends with you. Every stage dive and crowd surf the audience take upon themselves is a shining example of just that.

Want more content? Check out our interview with Grayscale before their set and our photo gallery of the show at London's Electric Ballroom!


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