24 September 2014
Emo is alive, kicking and crowd-surfing as Modern Baseball bring cathartic tears and laughter to Glasgow. Anna-Marie Marceline reviews.
Arriving not long after doors, I noticed that the sold out show’s audience was comprised largely of teenagers. The excitement was palpable in the air – mainly because teenagers these days are not shy about screaming that “like, oh my god, they’re just the best band, like, EVER.”
After a lengthy wait and much internal debate peering over the merch table, the first band – Losing Sleep from Kingston-Upon-Thames – climbed on stage and began. Their pop punk melodies were met by a room of intrigued eyes, a few bobbing heads here and there, but no major excitement and I almost groaned “not this for half an hour.”
Very quickly in to their set however, the front man encountered some technical trouble. With his guitar now little more than a prop he was a deer in the headlights and everyone could see.
But, if you know anything about a pop punk crowd, it’s that they will always root for the proverbial underdog. The frontman left the guitar work to the technicians and with a shrug, soldiered on with singing as loudly as possible. The song ended and in a bizarre twist of fate, the technical issues proved a blessing in disguise, as the disinterested patrons were now applauding raucously with a heavy dose of “you did it buddy, good for you” smiles through the crowd.
This was followed by a couple minutes of awkward back-and-forth between the members and the crowd – banter clearly is not their niche, but bless them they tried. After an impassioned speech from the bassist regarding females attending shows (good on us, essentially) that earned them several approving nods from members of the audience, the guitar they had borrowed came screaming to life and they were back in the swing of things. As their set continued, they began to seem more comfortable on the stage and around each other, moving more and and most importantly, looking like they were enjoying themselves.
The crowd applauded loudly after every song and by the end over half the room was at least bobbing their heads. For a band who, to begin with, appeared to be still finding their feet they played passionately, ended with almost all eyes in the room still on them and won over a handful of new fans. What more could you ask for as a band that only formed in 2012 on a line up as anxiously awaited as this?
Not long later, after everyone’s between-band cigarette and the crowd’s drinks had been refilled I noticed that towards the back some older attendees had gathered. It wasn’t until the lights went down and Spraynard, a well established band that had newly reformed (causing mild hysteria amongst die hard pop punk fans) stepped on to the stage that I realised how many older attendees there actually were.
It was hard to miss them, truth be told, as they surged forward at the opening notes, fists raised – it was clear that they had a devoted and passionate fan base in Glasgow. The band’s experience showed as they powered through hit after hit like well oiled cogs in an exceptionally melodic machine. The crowd were screaming every word back at them, and to the annoyance of some – and pain of others – some crowd surfing began.
If there is one thing frontman Patrick Graham has learned in his years on the stage, it’s how to hold a crowd in the palm of his hand. The back-and-forth came naturally – and often – through the set. After a moment of serious, heart felt preaching where he implored everyone in the room to start a band so they could understand how what they were doing was the “best fucking feeling in the world”, they flew back into their nostalgia trip while their fans flew head first from the stage back in to the crowd. They mentioned with hesitation a couple of times during their set to be mindful of the younger fans near the front, but still a sea of limbs continued to thrash above their heads for the remainder of Spraynard’s time on stage. Seemingly not even the band themselves could control their own fans’ excitement at their reunion.
As a group that disbanded for two years and is making its return in a time where every music scene is constantly over saturated, the passion they are met with speaks volumes for not only their credit as musicians but for the strength of their fans’ dedication. To disappear from a scene that is constantly growing and evolving and to return to such a ruckus means longevity. It means people believe in what they are doing. It means Spraynard have a bright future if they keep on at their particular blend of 90s-esque pop punk and DIY ethics.
Taking the chance between Spraynard and the headliners, we slid outside for a smoke. General consensus not only from us, but from everyone around us given the snippets of conversations I could overhear, was that Spraynard were right at home on that stage, and that one dude who wouldn’t stop walking on peoples’ heads was kind of a jerk. (No, really, even the band had to call him out a couple times during the night. If you’re reading this, mate, don’t do that. Save it for the hardcore shows when the people down the front are willing participants, not when it’s a pop punk show and the first three rows are girls under 18. They just want to sing along, not go home with a concussion. I’m all for having fun but let’s remember where we are and keep this a safe and welcoming place for kids and women, huh?)
Stumping out the cigarettes, we filed back in behind the excited-to-the-point-they-were-bouncing teens and positioned ourselves front left of the stage. Bar behind us, speakers beside us, stage ahead. Perfect.
When Modern Baseball sauntered on to the stage, the room – which is not much bigger than my flat and I am a jobless 20 year old to give you an idea of how small that is – simply blew up. The crowd surged forward once more, compressing the first half a dozen rows as everyone clamoured to get closer to the guys on stage as they screamed their throats raw to the very relatable ‘Fine, Great’.
That’s something this band have refined. They have taken everyday inevitable experiences and sculpted them into euphonic tales of adolescent struggles. Simple and effective goes a long way and these men have found their niche.
By the third song of their set, ‘Re-Do’, the crowd has already seen its fair share of stage invasions and flailing limbs. There’s something cathartic about looking out and seeing a pond of like-minded people pumping their fists enthusiastically and their voices bleeding into a choir along to the songs you’ve heard a hundred times over in your room while you pondered your own personal struggles. Something cathartic and something that feels a little bit like home.
The set went on without a hitch – apart from the repeated reprimanding of serial surfers – as they bantered between themselves and their tour mates, smiling big, genuine grins that said they were as happy to be here as the rowdy bunch yelling up at them.
Being an emo band, it goes without saying that the set had its share of tender moments but the juxtaposition of twinkling guitars over the self-serving lyrics kept the mood light enough for there not to be any tears shed. This is not the kind of band you cry over, it’s the kind of band you tip your beer at in an “I know the feeling, buddy” way, and it’s a welcome camaraderie. Frankly they were enjoying themselves too much to feel much other than appreciation at being part of the night.
Their latest album, You’re Gonna Miss It All was only released in February but to an outsider you wouldn’t be able to tell which songs were new as the crowd knew every line, word for word, to every song played. That in itself suggests a band who have already set roots in the scene and are going nowhere but up for a very long time – and rightly deserved.
As ‘Your Graduation’ drew to a close and the guys climbed off stage the fervent cheering gave way to the all too familiar chant of “Here we! Here we! Here we fuckin’ go!” It is Glasgow, after all. Moments later they were back on stage, except something was different. The tall bearded chap that usually sits behind the drums was front and centre, places swapped with his bespectacled bandmate. A few terrifying bars of Green Day’s American Idiot (which is a decade old now, how did that happen?!) later and a horrified crowd, the giggling lads swapped back – much to the crowd’s relief.
Smiles are contagious, and as I scanned the crowd during the band’s encore – Re-Done, a fan favourite – I couldn’t see a single face that wasn’t singing or smiling. There’s a sense of irony that writing songs about all the misery and angst of growing up can lead to a room of smiles and laughter with strangers on the other side of the world, but it’s a magical one that you should witness for yourself if the chance ever comes your way.
All images by www.jadeesson.com.
All words by Anne-Marie Marceline, find her Louder Than War archive here.