Tonight was a night that had been on my calendar for a few weeks, I’d heard from internal sources that they were planning on getting Joe Talbot, frontman of 5 piece punk band IDLES to come down to Exeter’s Phoenix to play a DJ set just after Christmas, I didn’t know how serious they were until I saw the details on the website, I then got excited, very excited!
Having seen Heavy Lungs play support IDLES at their homecoming show that took place at SWX in the heart of Bristol’s city centre back in October, I sort of knew what to expect but I was still buzzing at the thought of seeing them on home soil.
I had arranged some interview time with Heavy Lungs before the show, 6:30pm was in my calendar, imagine my surprise (and a general feeling of terror) when I received a text from Olly (Guitar) saying that they were ready to chat to me now…..it was 6:10pm and I had just left my brothers house and was making my way in to Exeter city centre. I texted back (after pulling over to a safe place) and explained my predicament, they came straight back to me saying that they were going to get some food and to catch up in the bar when I had arrived.
I picked up my good friend Rhodri Cooper (possibly THE best live music photographer in the entire world) and we found a suitable parking space near the venue. We burst through the doors to see Olly and James (Bass) sat at a table, perusing the menu and having a cheeky pre show beer. We left them to eat and mingled with some local clientele before leading them through to the green room where we setup for the interview (more to come on this on a separate post). Midway through, the door burst open and in walked Davey Growls from local punk heavyweights Spitting Blood, he saw us, made his apologies and promptly left. We carried on chatting some more and then the door went again, this time, it was none other than Mr Joseph Talbot, just stopping by to drop off a bag prior to heading to the Angel (one of his old drinking joints) to catch up with friends. We chatted some more and as things started to come to a close, the guitarist from Spitting Blood decided to crank his amp up to 11 and start playing some heavy riffs, just what we needed when we were recording an interview to go out on the website! The struggles a music journo has to go through, honestly, you punters don’t know how easy you have it!
We finally closed the interview and left Olly and James wondering where Danny and George had got to (they had apparently left Bristol shortly before we started our interview) so as the time rolled on, their nerves were starting to fray!
We shuffled into the main auditorium at 8:15pm sharp to see Davey Growls on stage, mocking some fans on the front row prior to plowing into some class hardcore punk numbers that had the room bouncing along in no time at all. Tracks like “Road Rage” and “Gamble” were particular crowd faves and as the energy levels increased, Davey climbed over the barrier to bring the show into the crowd where a few rather refreshed threw him around for a few seconds before he took to the stage again.
It was surprising to see that Davey didn’t have to ‘fire’ any of the band, I heard that he has done this on a few occasions in the past and I was eager to see some on stage fireworks but sadly, apart from a kick ass set from this Exeter based band, nothing exploded!
After a 30 minute break and a stage re-shuffle, it was time to take our seats for the second act of the evening, Bristol’s very own Heavy Lungs. George, James and Olly took to the stage to kick things off with Half Full / Half Empty with Danny joining them shortly afterwards.
Danny looked like he had just drank a bottle of whiskey backstage as he was stumbling about the stage from left to right, looking like a hopeless drunk who was doing his best to prove to an officer of the law that he was okay and didn’t need to be arrested for being drunk and disorderly, this thankfully is the way he behaves on stage and he managed to deliver his lyrics with ease.
Their set was tight, more polished than the first time I saw them in Bristol last October and when I was chatting to Olly and James before the show, they explained that the biggest gig they had played before the SWX one was to about 20 people so naturally, they were nervous. Despite there being a near capacity crowd in Exeter that had come to watch them play, they managed to keep their cool and run through their setlist with ease.
Midway through, a couple of fans were ejected from the room, I’m not sure why as from where I was standing, they were just having a bit of a dance, granted, they were pretty refreshed so maybe that was why? Highlights of the set for me included “Stutter”, “Blood Brother” and their closing number “Unfaithful One” which left the room wanting more, a lot more…
Heavy Lungs head out on their 10 date UK headline tour from Jan 23rd and will be appearing at Southampton, Margate, Brighton, Royal Tunbridge Wells, London, Nottingham, Newcastle, Manchester, Cardiff before ending up in Bristol where they’ll play a sold out show at The Louisiana to their home crowd. These guys are worth watching….closely, as it won’t be long until they too are filling venues all over the world!
Another break to rid the stage of musical instruments and replace them with a pair of decks, I lie, they weren’t decks, I think they call them CD-J’s these days (how ‘street’ am I?), whatever they were, it would be this electronic mechanism that Joe Talbot would use to deliver his eclectic playlist to the room full of adoring fans.
We headed backstage to congratulate the Heavy Lungs boys on a tremendous set and stumbled over Joe who was sat in the green room, just ‘having a minute’ prior to taking to the stage for his set. I pulled up a stool and before long, we were headlong into a conversation about Bristol, recent time spent in the studio, his forthcoming marriage, IDLES’ eagerly anticipated 3rd album and his time at Exeter College (where he spent most of his time in The Angel, drinking away the hours when he should have been in class!) After a few silly photos, we left him to relax prior to taking to the decks for his set.
A few minutes later, he wandered up to the decks and launched into his set which consisted of a heady blend of genres including electro, pop, grime, jungle and indie. I’ve been to a few ‘DJ’ nights in the past and they either come across as a bit cheesy, where the DJ wanders the stage, hands in the air, getting the room fired up and flinging the odd T-Shirt into the crowd (David Brent style) or they just stand behind the decks, playing tracks that they have curated over the past goodness knows how long. Joe opted for the latter route and I was so glad he did, the room were really enjoying the eclectic mix that he had created for them and the 90 minutes drifted by in what seemed half the time.
All in all, an immense night of raw, gutsy punk rock followed by a colourful and interesting journey through the musical grey matter of Mr Joseph Talbot, the frontman of IDLES, a band that you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future after they pick up the ‘Best British Breakthrough Act’ award at this year’s BRIT AWARDS, if you are yet to vote, please do so by clicking HERE (shameful plug, I know, I don’t care!)
ALL IS LOVE!
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Rhodri Cooper