Judging by the already packed Upstairs part of the infamous Shoreditch pub/venue/hipster-hive and the line of people begrudgingly joining the snaking queue at the bottom of the stairs, the term ‘Eagerly Awaited’ would be the best description of tonight’s London show by Californian Emo-Punks Joyce Manor.
With their 2010 self-titled full length showing its face in many online end of year lists and this years ‘Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired’ threatening to do the same, the air of anticipation permeates the Old Blue last. From the smart forward thinkers who got there early and are stood in whichever small pocket of un-invaded personal space they can find to the guys and girls languishing at the bottom of the stairs, just waiting for someone to leave so they get the better end of the Old Blue Lasts ‘One out, One in’ rule, everyone here is adamant to stick it out and catch sight of the band.
Before Joyce Manor take to the stage the already sweaty crowd are treated to solid support slots from Cornish punks Gnarwolves and Bangers. With both bands gritty take on the kind of gruff, anthemic Punk Rock that Gainesville’s Hot water Music have built their foundations on, they incite mass shout-a-longs and , in Gnarwolves case, the first crowd surfer of the night.
For East London’s Apologies, I Have None tonight is a hometown show and there are as many people here to see their blend of soaring choruses and energetic stage moves as there are for the headliners. The band’s Latest album ‘London’ is a stunning record full of songs about love and staying defiant in the face of the worst of situations and its live where the vibrancy of these songs come to life. “Clapton Pond’ and ‘Sat in Vicky Park’ both use the backdrop of the capital as their emotional spine and the sea of raised fists and a large portion of the crowd singing every word back at the band show a loyal fanbase that is the result of relentless touring and a clutch of heartfelt songs.
By the time Joyce Manor takes the stage you could just about fit a sheet of A4 between each single member of the audience. The less fortunate people queuing have either called it quits and gone home or are sticking it out for that much rumoured second set that Joyce Manor will play later (no word if this ever happens). From the first note played the crowd go absolutely crazy with constant stage dives, circle pits that start off the back of a request from frontman Barry Johnson and a Malaysian passport that ends up onstage (which is soon reunited with its owner) being some of the more visual highlights of the bands set.
Of course this would all be bluster if Joyce Manor didn’t have the songs to back up the chaos of their live show. And they do, huge pop songs buried deep in thick, distorted guitars and rasping, sandpaper vocals. Taking the Proto-Emo of ‘Pinkerton’ and mixing it with the sandpaper melodies of 90’s punks Jawbreaker, songs like ‘Leather Jacket’ and ‘Derailed’ sound even more vital with the visual accompaniment of flailing bodies and the constant stage divers that launch from the stage like they are coming off the belt of a factory assembly line.
With songs that never run past two minutes Joyce Manor’s set rattles by so fast that a mid-set cover of Seattle garage punks The Murder City Devils “Midnight Service At The Mutter Museum” flies by almost unnoticed while ‘Beach Community’ and ‘Constant Headache’ are nearly drowned out by the overexcited, and sometimes, over-zealous crowd.
Joyce Manor’s set ends on a disappointingly abrupt halt with the band apologizing to the crowd that they are simply out of songs to play which seems weird for a band with an abundance of one and a half minute songs. For a moment its uncomfortable viewing as the band sheepishly set about dismantling their stage gear after calling it a night as the crowd angrily shouting for more songs soon disperse and blend into the mad push for the stairs that lead to the fresh night air outside which has become the new priority for the sweat-soaked throng.
For 30 minutes The band turn the Old Blue Last into a perfect snapshot of how to see a band play in a small venue. Equal parts chaotic, overwhelming and exuberant, Joyce Manor were a total pleasure to endure.