Live Review: PUP w/ Sløtface & Fresh | SWX, Bristol | 22/11/19

Signed to the locally based Specialised Subject Records, the homegrown indie punks Fresh (9) have spent the vast majority of 2019 sprouting from the relative obscurity of the underground DIY scene. With the London band touring relentlessly in support of their debut long play Withdrawn, it’s not a surprise that the band have secured the coveted opening slot on this tour. Whilst the cavernous interior of the SWX may be an ever so slight contrast to their roots, Fresh take this jump up in capacity in their stride. Radiating the sunny disposition of Withdrawn playfully, not only are Fresh one of the most fun, wholesome and authentically lovely indie-rock bands available right now, they’re also one of the most vital.

Performing sun kissed material from Withdrawn and their self-titled EP, Fresh use their warm punk disposition to promote the inhabits of the SWX to use their voice compassionately in the upcoming election - with a space reserved at the merch table for registering to vote. Tracks such as the punchy melody of ‘Going To Brighton’ and the innocent pureness of ‘New Girl’ see Fresh shine with lovable glee, with ‘Punisher’ showcasing the aforementioned progressive ideology that lies at the centre of the band. It’s simply impossible not to infected by Fresh’s sun blessed craft, a fact that becomes evident with the vast majority of the venue beaming from ear to ear during the frank and relatable rawness of ‘Fuck My Life’. Fresh are not only jubilant, they’re one of the few bands utilising their platform to make a positive change.

In a similar fashion, Sweden’s Sløtface (8) are a band that hold social progression at their core. However, in comparison to their predecessors, the Scandi punks demonstrate their ethos with riotous and rebellious force. Opening with the recently released power pop of ‘S.U.C.C.E.S.S’ prior to forcing open the crowd with forward punk zeal of ‘Sponge State’, Sløtface present horned modern progressive punk without ever indulging into musical aggression.

Much like Fresh, Sløtface ensure tonight is an inclusive space for all. Encouraging women to partake in the innocent aggression of the mosh and promoting the fact that tonight is a safe space for all, in their short set Sløtface wondrously create a community like atmosphere that’s open to all those who wish to revel in the empowering power of punk energy.

Whilst new material from their forthcoming album Sorry For The Late Reply contains a more conventional pop sound than content from 2016’s Try Not To Freak Out, such content still resonates the danceable energy that lies at the heart of the group’s sound. There’s a distinctive different nature between such content, but still, the tracks ensure maximum carnage, with the inhabitants within the SWX throwing their sweat soaked bodies to the sound of Sløtface’s excellent craft. Ending on the patriarchy smashing punk anthem that is ‘Nancy Drew’, whilst their forthcoming album may see Sløtface in a new light, it’s still ultimately going to the be catalyst for energetic shows such as this.

Since their inception in 2010, PUP (10) have spent the vast majority of the decade enjoying/enduring a reputation that’s in similar vein of their namesake. Scrappy and hyperactive, the Toronto renegades have often been labelled as one of the most exciting bands of the underground global punk scene. However, a lot has changed over the past year. Following the release of their widely celebrated third release Morbid Stuff, PUP have truly exploded in popularity on a global scale, with tonight’s respective venue being a mighty contrast to The Fleece, the last Bristolian venue PUP headlined just over five months ago. Yet despite the band’s sudden eruption in stature, PUP are still easily one of the most fun, wild, unhinged and excitable bands on the planet.

Vaulting into the titular title track of their latest track prior to jumping into the highly-strung ‘Kids’, PUP are a dizzying whirlwind of uncaged energy, with the sold out crowd before them physically mirroring and intensifying such energy with zealous glee. It quickly becomes impossible to hear the highly relatable lyricism of Stefan Babcock over the barraging sound of the crowd screaming his own words back at him, with the crowd pulsating back and forth in perpetual motion. Truly, if there was a way to harness the energy being outputted within this venue the global energy crisis would be solved an instant.

In true PUP fashion, the group charge breathlessly through a setlist that’s composed of the majority of Morbid Stuff, classics from The Dream Is Dead and choice cuts from their 2013 debut. It’s a relentless sprint of youthful energy that highlights the growth and subtle maturity the band have experienced over the course of the decade, with tracks like the enthusiastic anxiety of ‘Free At Last’ and the hidden darkness of ‘Scorpion Hill’ complimentary juxtaposing with timeless classics such as ‘Dark Days’, and ‘Reservoir’. The only respite from the constant movement is when the group display their established self-deprecating humour or to draw attention to Sea-Watch, their chosen charity that helps with the safe passage of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Ending on the bedlam inciting double header of ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You I Will’ and ‘DVP’ the band have managed to retain their ethos and mission statement of causing as much chaos as possible during their growth. As the masses trail into Bristol city centre dripping with sweat and beaming from ear to ear, PUP are a band that truly needs to be experienced live in order to appreciated to the fullest extent.


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