First bit of advice: Listen to False Heads new EP ‘Less Is Better’. It’s an absolute banger. In fact you should take the time to listen to their entire back catalogue, because it’s crazy good. In a recent interview, FH’s frontman Luke Griffiths described his songwriting as “somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Noel Gallagher”. That seems like a pretty bold claim, but listen to False Heads and he does kind of have a point. There’s a raw punk rock energy that keeps grunge fans like me happy, whilst simultaneously there’s the melody and swagger of Brit Pop thrown in there to help keep their sound more accessible, with doses of The Libertines and Queens Of The Stone Age also in the mix for good measure. It makes for a great concoction that’s seen them start to gather a fair amount of attention from the British music press.
Second piece of advice: if False Heads play a show near to you, make sure you go along. Unfortunately the people of Preston didn’t heed this advice for the last Saturday in September. Myself and a handful of friends had purchased tickets for this show several weeks in advance, fully expecting that this was likely to get close to selling out (hey, it does happen at The Ferret!!! Manchester rockers The Blinders have sold out the venue for their show there next month). However, with a few days left before the gig the promoter put out a message to say the gig was now going to be free entry, seemingly in an attempt to try and get some bodies through the door. Even then, barely anyone turned up, and of the small crowd gathered I’d be surprised if there were even a dozen that were actually there because they wanted to watch the band.
Opening the night were local band All Hail Hyena. Given the effort these guys put in to putting on a show it was a great shame there weren’t more people there to witness it, taking the stage wearing matching pyjamas and adorning day-glo facepaint, highlighted by the black light they’d set up on stage. There was an assortment of oddities displayed across the front of the stage, and they even handed out songbooks to the crowd in case anyone wanted to singalong. Their song ‘Licky, Licky’ was preceded by lollipops being given out to everyone, so we all had something to lick along with.
The songs themselves were a mixture of catchy poppy rock songs and quirky plinky plonkers that reminded me quite a bit of Everything Everything, with some heavier guitar thrown in there every now and again too, and even a brief stint of death metal vocal. Many of the songs ended abruptly and unpredictably, until the point in the night where the abrupt end became really predictable, but I still enjoyed it and will definitely be along to watch them again some time.
Widnes wrestling loving alt rockers Salt The Snail were due to appear next, but unfortunately had to pull out of the show on the day. A real shame, as they’re another band who are a spectacle to watch, and were one of the reasons I opted to go to the Preston False Heads show and not the sold out gig in Manchester the night before. Again, if STS play a show near you, make sure you get along. You won’t regret it.
And so onto Londoners False Heads. I’ve said for a while now, one true test of whether a band are any good live is whether they can turn it on when the crowd aren’t all that interested. In truth, it’s a test that normally applies to opening acts, the support acts that people aren’t interested in because they want to see the main event. It’s a little strange to apply the same test to the headliners. This was my first time watching False Heads, but having followed coverage of their other gigs I knew what to expect – their incendiary live performances are a large part of how they are managing to grow their following.
I’m happy to report that they didn’t disappoint. Luke was really energetic on stage, writhing about and dropping to his knees, or climbing on the seating to the side of the stage or even up on top of his amp (…please, someone buy him a bigger amp! It will help make the amp climbing so much more dramatic!), whilst Barney Nash on drums provided really tight backing vocals as well as being spokesman in-between songs and keeping the set flowing. Jake Elliot completes the trio, coolly delivering the bass whilst Luke flings himself around the stage.
The set opened with ‘Yellow’ the lead single from ‘Less Is Better’ which with its fast paced punky riff is a great start to proceedings, and set the tempo for the night. They play my absolute favourite FH track ‘Slew’ with its taunting chorus of “You’ll never learn” and outro that showcases the band at their most brutal QOTSA-esque best.
‘Twentynothing’, also from their debut ‘Gutterpress’ EP also gets an outing, as does ‘Help Yourself’ from ‘Less Is Better’, which really reminds me of The Presidents Of The United States Of America, and is another personal highlight. There are also several new songs sprinkled through the set, and my impression is that these all leaned towards the grimier rocky end of their spectrum, which is right up my street.
The one-two punch of ‘Retina’ and then ‘Wrap Up’ were a great end to the show… well kind of… with it now being a free gig and an open door policy there were a handful of drunks who staggered in for the last 5 minutes of the set who then demanded an encore… having seemingly caught the band a bit off guard, there was a slightly awkward few minutes where they were originally going to do a reprise of ‘Yellow’, before deciding instead to close out with a bit of a jam session. It was a pretty awesome jam, and it will be interesting to see if it ends up being developed into a full song – whilst it felt kind of special to watch, the drunken antics of the late arriving punters left a slightly sour taste and I was kind of a bit embarrassed given it was a home town gig for me. The band packed up and left pretty sharply after that.
I really enjoyed their performance though, and it’s left me desperate for a chance to go see the band again, hopefully with a room full of people that will appreciate them a bit more. I really do think False Heads are on the verge of big things, and hopefully one day I can look back in fondness on the time I saw them play such a small venue.
I also hope the people of Preston can wake up to the fact that we’re lucky that a venue like The Ferret puts on so many good bands and if we’re not prepared to support shows like these, the music scene in Preston is going to end up being poorer for it.