The Twang - Southampton Guildhall
On the verge of becoming the next big thing, Phil Etheridge and his mob transformed Southampton Guildhall into Chindie* heaven on a Saturday night, selling out its 1,750 capacity. Not a bad feat for a band that’ve been in the spotlight for just under a year. It’s not too surprising they’ve sold out so quickly though, with a highly successful debut album that launched straight into the number three spot in June, as well as a top ten hit and two top forty singles. With the way the music business is changing (music downloads and all that) its some pretty good going. And with it being the last date of the Twang’s tour, there were high expectations hanging in the air, as well as the occasional waft of beer.
First to support were Look See Proof, four lads from Hertfordshire who walked onstage almost undetected, until drummer Jonny Harry opened the show with a banging start. Literally. He sent a wave of vibrations through Southampton Guildhall, probably measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale. Declaring that yes people, they had indeed arrived. The quartet didn’t seem at all phased that the venue was only a quarter full when they came on, in fact, they gave the impression they were just pleased to be there. Their carefree attitude added to their indie pop appeal, with their in-between-songs banter making their set feel that little bit more personal. Their most recent single ‘Casualty’ set the crowd’s blood pumping, oozing electro pop beats and catchy riffs, it even made the Chavs dance. Their format and style was not too far reminiscent of The Pigeon Detectives, mixed with a hint of The Automatic (without the annoying screaming keyboard player.) The second most successful song of their set was their next single ‘Local Hero’. Following along the same lines as ‘Casualty’, it provided powerful beats that never failed to get your feet stamping, and guitar riffs not too far off being as catchy as the headliners own. With it being the last night of the tour, they definitely gave it their all, it’s not easy being shoved on as the first band of the night, but needless to say they definitely did a good job of pumping up the crowd.
The second support act of the night came in the form of Little Man Tate. With the likes of Oasis, Stone Roses and The Smiths being listed as some of their influences, it was no wonder the venue filled up as soon as guitarist Edward ‘Maz’ Marriot started playing. The four-piece indie rock lads from Sheffield reeled off previous singles, with ‘Sexy in Latin’ being the best received. It’s not surprising, with its sing-along style melody reminiscent of the Fratellis’, and a rhythm your body can’t resist moving to. It’s needless to say that this band has a lot of potential, and with the use of addictive anthemic la la’s in ‘House Party at Boothy’s’, Little Man Tate know how to get you hooked. From judging on the reception they got from a pretty tough crowd, they are quite possibly the one’s to watch. A sort of Twang in the making if you will.
So, over to The Twang - as expected, the lights came up to show Etheridge and Saunders strutting onto the stage, and after a few swear words of welcome they opened into ‘The Neighbour’, a thumping tale of drunken disarray with a bloke next door. It was an unusual choice for an opener, as I expected the set to kick-off with ‘Either Way’, being their biggest hit yet. Nevertheless, the seemingly middle-of-the-road song still got the crowd jumping and the blokes jeering. The interaction between the two vocalists was entertaining in itself, with lyrics being sang (or shouted) to each other, in an ‘I’m louder than you’ fashion. Their gallivanting more than made up for the disappointment of the visuals and special effects onstage, as, well…there weren’t any. Apart from a few light bulbs hanging in an ‘arty way.’
Two songs later and they fire their big guns; ‘Either Way’ got everyone’s preverbal juices flowing. Saunders was clearly enjoying his role, carrying his mic stand like a pimp stick and blurting out the lyrics with all he’s might. Unfortunately for the roadies, his continuous hitting of the stand caused a bit of rushing around and clearing debris, but at least they were earning their money.
Twenty minutes into the set and Etheridge was provoking people to ‘start taking your drugs,’ needless to say the bouncers weren’t too impressed by this but the crowd loved it, with an almighty cheer echoing round the Guildhall like a football stadium. This was followed by their soon-to-be-released single ‘Push The Ghosts’ got a better reception than anticipated, with its anthemic riffs motivating the crowd after the previous song ‘Reap What You Sow’ had the opposite effect, reducing jumps nods. ‘Got Me Sussed’ was a sure crowd pleaser, with the lyrics ‘I wanna be saved’ bouncing off the walls of the hall, inspiring the raising of arms and the praising of Etheridge. The most impressive song of the set however was their debut single ‘Wide Awake.’ Euphoric chanting filled the venue, climaxing as the mob leader launched himself into the crowd – with the bouncers holding onto him with dear life. After getting back onstage he shouted a few more profanities before rounding up Saunders and casually walking off.
After waiting in the wings for a few minutes listening to the chants that were filling the hall and begging for an encore, they naturally strutted back onto the stage and launched into their rendition of ‘Drinking in L.A.’ Despite it being a cover and a B side to their new single, it clearly got the best reception of the night. Think of that what you will.
The gig came to an almighty end when the closing verse of ‘Cloudy Room’ gave way to stage destruction, with Etheridge and his accomplice smashing the non-set up with a mic stand or two... obviously not thinking of how they’re going to pay for the damages.
Whilst it’s undeniable the tour ended (literally) with a bang, it was evident they were depending too much on stage presence to impress the audience and not on stage performance. Unfortunately for them, this wasn’t enough. Their attitude is predominantly anti-mainstream; they are who they are, and if you don’t like it you’d better leg it otherwise you’d probably get beaten up. Don’t get me wrong; they have potential to be huge in the future, as their lyrics are relevant to them and not necessarily to the masses, but for an encore to be a third of a gig, it shows they need to develop more as a band. Perhaps to think about spending less money on booze and more money on their show.