Friday night gigs have always had something special to them. The working week is over for most, the weekend has officially arrived and all that’s left to do is dust off your dancing shoes and fire up your drinking wrists, so it’s mildly annoying that two colossal dickturds have caused panic and confusion in central London just as the offices are chucking out by having a barney on a Tube station platform. It is only moments before Higher Power come on stage that the “incident” is downgraded from possible terror-attack to absolute non-event, so it’s hard to tell if the tiny crowd is a result of the travel disruption or the ridiculously early start time of 6:15, but regardless, the band are forced to play to just a handful of windmilling numptys. They put in a decent shift, bolting some hearty Turnstile vibes to their beefed-up nu-hardcore, but the singer has clearly watched one too many Fred Durst School of Frontmaning training videos, his whiny, nasal delivery failing to meld with the grooves the band are throwing out around him. On the plus side, the bassist has some seriously comedy dance moves, twitching like there is a genuine crab in his boxers, which is fun.
Next up are Knocked Loose, who stand out as the most overtly metal band on tonight’s bill and fare much better as a result, in no small part due to a gently filling dance floor. Musically the performance is a bit one-dimensional, the songs from last year’s Laugh Tracks largely blending into one long bass-heavy attempt to be heavier than anyone else, but the crowd laps it up nonetheless and the band give it everything they’ve got in a solid but unremarkable performance.
By the time Comeback Kid hit the stage, Koko is finally at a level that could be called full, and it’s clear that there are a considerable number of fans who have made the effort to be here in time for the Canadian stalwarts. For the next 45 minutes, both band and pit are a constant blur of activity, neither willing to pause for breath as the band bound back and forth across the stage, singer Andrew Neufield in particular looking like a punk rock El-P of Run The Jewels. Tracks from new album Outsider prove to be not only popular, but custom-made for the live environment, the breakdown on Surrender Control and the whole of Absolute sounding monolithic, while some nifty red and white lighting elevates the chugging positivity of Somewhere, Somehow to an emotional crescendo. However, it’s the handful of Symptoms + Cures songs that get the biggest reception, adding an almost Dropkick Murphys-esque party vibe to the night, and by the time they quit the stage, for many this has been a headline worthy show. But there are great support acts, and there’s Every Time I Die, and really it’s unfair to compare the two, because tonight, as always, ETID are simply phenomenal.
Comeback Kid may have got everyone moving and turned the evening into a party, but it’s a mild shuffle compared to what follows, and when ETID hit the stage, absolute bedlam ensues. Even with his foot in a cast after breaking it some 10 days ago, guitarist Jordan Buckley is determined to destroy everything in sight, from instruments to crowd to stage to band mates, spinning and whirling like a Tasmanian devil with a deathwish, while brother Keith seems genuinely humbled by the turnout and Andy Williams lives up to his title as the most imposing man in music, looking like some kind of life-sized action figure rather than a real human being. Launching with a simple “we’re gonna fuck you up”, the show is sensory overload from the off, an aural gang fight with more lights than Vegas and bodies flying everywhere, both on and off stage, meaning literally no one is safe. Though Comeback Kid enjoyed crystal clear sound, any intricacy in the opening battery of No Son Of Mine, Floater and I Didn’t Want to Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway is lost in the onslaught, including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Frank Turner, but as the show progresses, the vocal nuances in Keith’s delivery start to creep in and deafening volume blends with technical prowess to provide an evening of pure catharsis. For some reason, the band also look particularly good in purple light tonight, something about the colour bringing out the band’s innate coolness. Set highlights include a predictably raging We’rewolf, dedicated to London itself; a truly party-starting The New Black; and a deafeningly received Romeo A Go-Go, while the seven songs from new album Low Teens slot perfectly into the proceedings, Map Change and It Remembers adding some welcome respite from the evening’s intensity. Clichés like “their reputation is deserved” and “nothing is left on the stage” simply don’t do justice to a night like this, and while MonkHammer has always been more into what ETID do rather than how they do it, the sheer velocity and good nature of the evening is enough to win over even the most sceptical. Ultimately, the evening is summed up by two parting sights. Firstly, human tornado Jordan Buckley’s exit, when a mild limp finally reveals that his broken foot might have been causing him a little discomfort, and secondly, the dudes on the balcony who take it upon themselves to help their arse-out-drunk mate pump his fists to the “I want to be dead with my friends” refrain in Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space like a punk rock Weekend at Bernie’s. A night of overt brilliance that proves the spirit of good old fashioned rock n roll is alive and well, and hiding in plain sight under a wall of hardcore noise, with tonight’s crowd destined to grin, drink and dance long into the weekend.