You Me At Six - Manchester Apollo
My mate takes his 14 year old to his first ever gig. Lucky lad. From the Apollo's cracked and crummy steps all the way to Stockport, a column of bouncing, chattering youth confirms the Brit penchant for queueing applies to all ages. The girl:boy split? 10:1. Easy. Summer shows its face early for a few days and Manchester's rock chicks adopt a dress code that cries out "you should have phoned each other!" Denim shorts: this year's emo crowd must-have. The lads do their best to look relaxed and moody as they sweat inside low-slung strides and hoodies. My mate's son (we'll call him Joe*) just gawps. What it is to be a lad these days.
Those of us who come at the new wave of post-punk/alt.rock with a 'seasoned' eye growl when we recall our own less thrilling father/son adventures (Kent Walton, anyone?) but give thanks when the young people fall for the bar chord over the sequencer. But we do wonder sometimes if the current vogue for tattooed shredders gives too much airtime to the merely energised and the forlornly generic. Even as genuine diamonds emerge from the scene - We Are The Ocean are vital, inspired and as much about craft as they are about volume - you wonder if the current generation has a Refused or an At The Drive In in them.
Buy hey, enough with the whining. You certainly can't fault the value. Up first, with barely enough time to finish their tea, are The Skints. A feature of the gig circuit for a few years now, and famously smart enough to employ fanbase contributions to fund recording, their influences, on a bill like this, are refreshingly non-white bread. Marcia Richards is a smart frontwoman and the cover of Katy B's 'On A Mission' is tremendous. The less said about the tired posturing of Mayday Parade the better. It take the entrance of Cardiff's Kids In Glass Houses to really spark the evening. Third album In Gold Blood, a notable advancement, wiped the floor with most of their peers last year. They've grafted elements of sixties soul onto their sound and it gives their live schtick an appealing looseness. The kids go mad for 'em and frontman Aled Phillips takes a look at the cavernous Apollo as he thanks the crowd - you sense him inwardly pledging to return. As headliners.
The actual headliners enter to screams like you ain't never heard. That's screams, not cheers. The stalls are a liquid mass of writhing limbs. The 'Sinners Never Sleep' tour, as demonstrated by two packed houses in Manchester, is evidence of the growing ascendence of You Me At Six. Josh Franceschi is of the "Make Some Fucking Noise (Insert Name of City)!" school of rock frontmanship, which is as unnecessary as it is irritating. Opening with 'Loverboy' and pummeling their crowd for a good 90 minutes, one struggles to fault the effort but the set length does start to expose their limitations.
While his lad looks on in awe, my mate offers derisory summation: "Busted." I'm guessing he's referencing the kiddy pop act rather than pronouncing of guilt. If so, that's a tad harsh. Even though they're all about the rush and the pace, rather than irresistible melodies, You Me At Six do little to offend. It's just a shame that with a good portion of the nation's youth at their feet, and no real sense of (re)invention or call-to-arms polemic, they offer neither revelation nor revolution.
(*He actually is called Joe. Sorry, Joe.)