God Damn @ The Flapper

God Damn are one of the bands that have reignited my passion for live music. I first saw them opening for the Foo Fighters at Old Trafford back in 2015, a show where I also realised that stadium shows are just not my thing. As iconic as the Foos are, live music when you’re packed in with 70,000 other people just doesn’t work for me. I was already hooked on God Damn’s debut album ‘Vultures’ by that point, and their performance was the highlight for me that day.

Fast forward a few months and I got to watch them again, this time at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen. The dank underground venue a stark contrast to that first gig, and I reckon there were probably less than 50 people there – it was awesome, and one of my favourite gigs to date.

I saw them once more a few months later as part of an all-dayer in Leeds along side Dinosaur Pile-Up and Heck. That’s over 2 years ago now, during which time the band have released a second album (2016’s ‘Everything Ever’) and recruited a third band member. Since then I’ve managed to cruelly miss every opportunity to see them again, shows always being in the wrong place or at the wrong time.

So, having been quiet for a while, they announced that they would play their only show of the summer at The Flapper in Birmingham as part of the venue’s closing party. I didn’t want to miss out again, so a road trip was duly planned, keeping it classy with a four hour Megabus journey there, and then the night bus home again at 2am.

I’ve never been to a gig in Birmingham before, let alone The Flapper. The venue is located on the canal, split over 2 floors, but you enter on to the first floor via a bridge, with stairs taking you down to a canal side yard and the gig room. With the UK in the midst of a truly epic heatwave, the yard was absolutely rammed. The people of Birmingham are so friendly though, and myself and friend David were invited to sit with some of the locals, who kept us company most of the night.

Venturing inside, the gig room is tiny. The stage is more of a step and the roof is ridiculously low. So many great bands have played here in the last few years including Demob Happy, Tigercub, Dinosaur Pile-Up and Future of the Left. Kind of gutted that I’ve missed out on the chance to see so many of my favourite bands in such an intimate setting.

The land the building sits on is due to be developed in to flats, with the weekend I was there supposed to be being the last the venue sees in operation, but at the 11th hour they’ve been given a 12 month extension on their lease. Moves are still on going to try and secure a longer term future. So rather than a closing party, the weekend was rebranded as a celebration of being awarded the extension.

The line up for the event seemed to have chopped and changed a half dozen times, and unexpectedly first band on are You Dirty Blue. I was only able to catch a couple of their songs, but really enjoyed what I heard, the two-piece producing fuzzy blues rock with a modern twist.

Ghosts of Dead Airplanes are next up, delivering a punky but powerful set. Their frontman plays melodic but heavy guitar whilst he delivers clever lyrics that provide a commentary on modern life, his eyes fixed on the crowd with a slightly unhinged stare. The energetic bass player bounced around behind him in between backing vocal duties, and pounding drums completed the trio. Really loved this set, the band have a real edgy feel to them and I definitely hope to catch them again some time.

After a break for a show from a fire performer in the yard, it’s time for the main event: God Damn. The room was packed. Frontman Thom takes to the stage alone, and greets the crowd with the opening to ‘Skeletons’. Surely one of GD’s best tracks, I’m used to seeing this deployed as the finale to a set. However, rather than the punch in the face that normally greets you at the start of a God Damn show, this felt like a friendly welcome, and it’s evident how many fans are present as everyone sings along to the stripped back and mellow intro… already there seems like a special atmosphere in the room. Drummer Ash and keyboard player James take there place on stage just in time for the track to explode in to the main riff, the crowd also jumping in to life.

What an awesome start to the set, the room absolutely buzzing and the energy levels through the roof. The entire set stayed at this intense level. There was a really good mixture of tracks with a few new ones thrown in to the mix along with several tracks from the ‘Vultures’ album and a couple from ‘Everything Ever’. Personal highlights were ‘Dead To Me’, ‘Silver Spooned’ (which was introduced with the instagram sensation ‘I don’t remember how this song goes’) and oldie ‘Heavy Money’.

This really was the perfect storm of a gig. Band I love, playing in a tiny, dirty, sweaty venue, to a packed audience of proper fans. Thom spent a lot of time in (or in fact crowd surfing on) the crowd, whilst set closer ‘Vultures’ sees a large chunk of the audience invited up on to the stage to sing (and mosh) along. One gig reviewer put it far more eloquently than me (see her version of events  here) when she described it as “there is no us and them tonight, the band and crowd are one, fuelling off one another and having the time of their lives” – the night really did have a feel of community about it.

The world needs gigs like this, which means we need venues like The Flapper. Hopefully planners in Birmingham will see fit to allow the venue to remain. Pretty drunk, drenched in sweat, and with a giant grin on my face, this was definitely a night that’s going to stay long in memory.

 

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