After a few minutes scoping Camdens Underworld searching for the back entrance to make my interview appointment with the Pontypridd boys, I bump into Straight Lines singer Tom Jenkins outside the backdoor. He is temporarily sidetracked, partaking in the frustrating signal seeking mobile arm dance. After quite a while of arm swaying with his new £10 phone, one purchased in an attempt to avoid the embarrassment of going back to shop to report yet another lost or broken phone, we escaped the glare of the sun and ventured into the dim venue. Whilst waiting for our chat I was lucky enough to steal a listen of the boys finishing up their sound check. Energetic, peppy and faultless….my excitement for the show was most definitely heightened. I had a quick natter with Tom, drummer Dane Campbell and guitarist James Pugh about their time at Download and their upcoming Summer plans; those heading to Sonisphere should endeavour to check these guys out!
It was humid day, that kind of close heat that manufactures beads of sweat on the top lip and hairline within a second of contact, and makes cramming on the underground decidedly unpleasant.
The boys had travelled down from their hometown in their van, one with which had played setting to an interview I filmed with the band when they supported The Automatic a few months back. To say the touring vans that young bands spend half their lives in are cosy is putting a very positive spin on things. Without any sort of functioning air con, cluttered with hot bodies and all sorts of musical and homemaking ‘gubbins’, the only method of keeping cool is increasing the MPHs and enjoying the increase wind speed coming through the window! My chat revealed that by arrival they were all fashioning sweat saturated T-shirts penetrated , even before what would turn out to be a belting performance. Sadly before being able to grab a cooling refreshment they still had to set up their Merch stand, a necessary part of the process for upcoming bands, and a much used tool to help fund tours and well … living.
This is the life of so many young and progressing bands, endless traveling in temperatures swinging from freezing point to the fires of hell, and a lot of grafting, whether it be playing to tiny audiences or channeling out as much promo and press as humanly possible. Whilst it is arguably still a far more appealing job then many alternative options out there but it is far from glamourous. With so many bands out there doing the circuit and building a fan base by doing show after show, stage after stage, it takes something special for a band to progress to the next level… but in my opinion Straight Lines have vital ingredient ingredient.
There was still a fair amount of room for drunken flailing arm movements when it came to Straight Lines stage time, mainly due to the fact that people were crammed at the bar , getting in generous amounts of beer and cider to ensure a state of merriness for The Get Up Kids arrival. Fortunately for the watching crowd there seemed to be a pleasant breeze wafting through, something which wasn’t mirrored onstage for the boys, who lit by the red lights , appeared to be melting in front of us on the sauna like stage . This did nothing to dampen their efforts or gusto however, and they put on the perfect show to get everyone in a jolly mood.
They rocked through much of their impressive debut ‘Persistance in this Game’, an album which has got the band noticed as a very promising new act. ‘Runaway Now’ always stands out during their lives shows with its particularly upbeat and infectious chorus. Due to the thin texture and generally quieter nature of the verses of ‘All my Friends Have Joined the Army’ the song is quite exposing, any bum notes would be clear for all to hear, luckily this never seems a hazard for this particular band. ‘Versus the Allegiance’ , which for me is one of their standout tracks with its driving drum beat and chorus backed up with layers of vocals, has a a great momentum. Latest single, ‘Loose Change’ moves along very nicely and leads to yet another catchy chorus showcasing not only Jenkin’s vocal range but the bands shared vocal abilities once again.
Although many journalists will be quick to mention their heritage and compare to fellow musical success stories from Wales, this young band have a sound that differs enough that they will stand strong on their own without the need to use this as a selling tool. Their songs rate high on the catch-ability scale too, without ever teetering on saccharine or cheese, or relying too heavily on the pop/punk/rock techniques often over-used to make songs catchy. While their songs may not have enough pelt to please all those into the heavier side of hardcore, although their live versions of their album tracks sounds seem to have a lot more pace and fire, it is undeniable they know how to pen a good melody and appear to be very accomplished live musicians.
It’s the bands genuine nature that is sure to endear them also. Their self deprecating onstage banter, as well as their obvious appreciation of crowd participation, and mere attendance, is charming. The overriding Straight Lines sound is an uplifting one too, which can make for welcome lightness amongst a fair amount of morose or negative sounds around. It’s a shame they were not honoured with a Kerrang Newcomer Nomination this week, but I have no doubts that the future is very bright for this foursome.
Formed in 1995, The Get Up Kids, hailing from Kansas, have been lucky enough to support some big guns of the punk and rock genres in the shape of Green Day and Weezer. Their sound which although was described by many, particularly in the early days with that frustratingly vague ‘emo’ label – mainly due to the lyrical content of many of their songs- has always had a wide and even star studded following, particularly amongst the Punk troupe. When the band split up in 2005, after what proved to a tense time of miscommunication and arguments touring with Dashboard Confessional, fans were left devastated, and sought to find a replacement band to worship. Some found comfort in the likes of DC, but there was always a clear TGUK hole in the market, and in their hearts. While the band continued to make music or participate in the industry in some way, whenever a hint of a reconciliation was posted on forums or fan pages the old loyal fans would pounce on it. In late 2008, when more substantial chatter started to surface that the band would reunite to commemorate the ten year anniversary of their extremely popular second album ‘Something to write Home About’, fans hoped that this coming together could also lead to new material, luckily this wish turned to fact.It is unsurprising therefore that a room shaking roar greeted the band when they stepped on the compact stage.”Your Petty Pretty Little Things” from album ‘Simple Science’ opens the show, and you can tell that the audience are warming up to give quite the animated accompaniment to the nights music.
The band went on to make good use of their 2009 ‘Something to Write Home About’ album , particular highlight being ‘Red Letter’ which saw a lot of people chinking their plastic beer cups and cheering…in that laddy way. The statements ‘It’s over, I’m not giving in’ and ‘ We’re loyal, like brothers’ were sang back and in a fashion not dissimilar to a gang of inebriated pirates. ‘Holiday’ seemed to capture some of the summer spirit that had been instilled over us the last few sunny days and featured pleasing harmonies in the chorus that only add to the uplifting nature. It’s a song that has that warming nostalgic quality too that lends itself marvelously to personal reminiscing. ‘Valentine’ called for a more reflective and subdued moment, the vocals less strained, more measured and delicate……I even saw some eyes shut in that’ getting into the moment’ way, accompanied by sways and sing-alongs by many who I’m sure name this as one of ‘their songs’. ‘No Love’ from the ‘Four Minute Mile’ album, tracks from ‘On a Wire’ as well as the much anticipated new material went on to complete a crowd pleaser of a set.
Ardent fans of the band gave us much effort in their appreciation of the new songs, and all that I have spoken to, post gig, said they were chuffed with how they sounded. I always presume, particularly for a band that has left such a legacy and much loved catalogue of songs, that it must make for a tricky decision to return, and even more so opting to put out new material (which has the dangerous ability to tarnish). Whether or not that has been an anxiety for this band is unclear, but for a group which have been through tumultuous times and experienced a slight backlash from critics and certain fans when experimenting with a different sound (when actively trying to shed that aforementioned ill fitting ‘emo’ stronghold) the overwhelmingly positive reaction from tonight has got to bolster confidence.
There was a real sense of privilege that united revelers tonight. To witness, at such close range, a band that has influenced so many of our generations’ Punk and Rock heroes , or cited as a favourite band of, made us us mere mortals feel well and truly spoilt. Even our oh so British tendency to moan (about the sweltering furnace- like state of the venue) was quashed , or at the very least highly diminished, as the experience had elevated our spirits to such a level. I think a lot of the euphoria, aside from the fact that the guys presence has been missed on the live circuit, was due to the fact that many of their songs have the ability to transport us back, perhaps to happier times, or even angst ridden times, but most definitely younger times…….It’s been an event that has been discussed in abundance on the various social networking sites that we choose to waste endless hours on. I‘ve lost count of the amount of superlatives on status updates I’ve seen regarding this night, and I confident for many this night will be remembered and commented on from years to come.