Sometimes I wonder whether I ought to hang up my moshing boots. At pushing 40 years old, 6 feet tall and 18 stone, is it really appropriate for me to be throwing myself around at the front with all the kids? Surely at my advanced age it’s time to retire to the back of the room, serenely tapping a toe and nodding a head whilst I take in the music from a more mature standpoint?
If it is time for me to make that transition, then Demob Happy’s gig at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester would make a fantastic swan song. I haven’t had so much fun dancing at the front for a long time – it was gloriously raucous.
To be fair, this was probably the perfect storm for a gig; one of my favourite bands, playing one of my favourite intimate venues and the show was sold out.
Opening the night were dual fronted five piece Heirloom. Imagine if the Sneaker Pimps (…showing my age there) and Nick Cave teamed up to make an indie-tinged 60’s lounge music record. As ridiculous as that might seem, it’s the best way I can think of to describe Heirloom, with their moody atmospheric sound, but it works. Clad in a split thigh ballroom gown and fishnet stockings, bassist Jade (who I’m pretty sure I met at 2000 Trees last year) provided hypnotic rhythms to accompany her silky singing voice, whilst trading vocals with the deep, velvety tones of Jane, who seemed to be dressed as a school head mistress, on lead guitar. This was backed by organs, rhythm guitar and jazzy drumming. It was kind of a laid back start to the evening, and whilst I might normally opt for something a bit more up tempo, it was actually the perfect way to ease people in to the evening ahead.
Next up were Sick Joy. I was introduced to their bass player, Danny, last year (also at 2000 Trees), though tragically it was only after they’d played their set (which I missed). They’ve been on my radar ever since then though, and I’ve been really impressed with the singles they’ve put out over the last year or so. I was particularly blown away by how tight they were, as well as how effortlessly front man Mykl seemed to deliver his gruff and powerful voice. Definitely hit these guys up for clean sounding grungy vibes. Personal favourites were ‘Dissolve Me’, ‘Stumbler’ and newest single ‘Heaven’. Their set definitely felt like the night had been turned up a notch.
The room was packed by the time Demob Happy took to the stage, the band being greeted with big cheers. They’ve obviously amassed quite a following in Manchester, last years show at The Deaf Institute being one of my highlights of the year, and once again the crowd seemed really up for it. I think I have to give massive credit to the band for just how amazingly well this set was put together.
This was the seventh time I’ve seen Demob, with the previous six all focussing on tracks from 2018’s ‘Holy Doom’ LP. It was great to hear more material from debut album ‘Dream Soda’, the set kicking off with anthem ‘Succubus’ before moving on to ‘Haat De Stank’, which was the first time I’d seen them perform one of my early favourites when I first got into the band. It was great to see so much enthusiasm from the crowd for those older songs.
There were of course plenty of songs from ‘Holy Doom’ featured too. Without hesitation it was my album of the year for 2018, and I have to say its deliciously sleazy, hip shaking grooves are just so damn danceable, which is why a night spent at the front of the room was so enjoyable. ‘Loosen It’, ‘Fake Satan’ and the funky ‘Runnin’ Around’ (hot damn that bass riff…!) all had an outing amongst others (including one unreleased song).
Then the night saw a change in pace, as the band performed a couple of arrangements from the ‘Holy Doom Unplugged’ EP. Bassist Matt took to a piano whilst drummer Tom downed sticks to pick up guitar for a haunting rendition of title track ‘Holy Doom’, followed by the upbeat ‘Fresh Outta Luck’. It was an unexpected twist to the evening. Calling it the highlight feels wrong, as the whole performance was a high, but it was definitely one of the reasons this was such a special show. I think to play a show that includes the fantastically violent ‘Spinning Out’ and then 10 minutes later features a stripped back, piano led acoustic song highlights the great versatility the band have, not to mention their impressive musicianship (oh, and the chance to really show off their vocal harmonies too).
After the short acoustic interlude it was back to loud and dirty rock and roll as the show accelerated toward its finale. The last throws of the set featured ‘Liar In Your Head’, new single ‘Less Is More’ (already an obvious crowd favourite) before climaxing with the band’s biggest hit ‘Be Your Man’, this even including a mash up with The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’.
An absolutely epic (and marathon – I haven’t even name checked all the songs) set that only left me feeling slightly disappointed by the omission of my favourite song ‘Maker Of Mine’… not to worry, the Demob boys had my back, emerging back on to the stage to perform said song as the encore (…I may well have fully lost my sh*t at this point). Even the encore saw a reprise of the drop out part of the song, the crowd going crazy when the beat dropped a final time, guitarist Adam even going for a bit of a crowd surf and Matt jumping in to the crowd at the very end too.
Credit to the band too for sticking around for an age after the show to chat and sign merch.
I may have overdone it with the superlatives, but I absolutely buzzed off this gig. Great band, great tunes, a great crowd. It was awesome.
So yeah, sometimes I wonder whether I ought to hang up my moshing boots – then I go to gig like this one and I’m like “Nah, pit life forever!”