AS IT IS / MODERN ERROR / THE PRETTY FRAGILE - Cavern, Exeter 27.02.19
Formed in 2012, Brighton based American-British five-piece AS IT IS have recently released their third album ‘The Great Depression’ and within it have discussed some of the most difficult questions and realities about depression and everything that can go with it. They’ve confronted the whole ‘it’s good to talk’ theory - do people really want to listen? The genre-defying outfit, described as pop/punk, emo and post-hardcore, is made up of Patty Walters (vocals), Benjamin Langford-Biss (vocals/guitar), Ronnie Ish (lead guitar), Patrick Foley (drums) and Alistair Testo (bass). AS IT IS are hitting the far corners of the UK & Ireland on what the band have entitled ‘The Intimate Depression Tour’, and Down The Front Media are in Exeter tonight to see the band on the second night of this UK & Ireland tour.
The long queue that has formed from the Cavern doors all the way down the cobbled alley is mostly made up of teenage girls. There are some lads and older people, including parents, dotted around, but it looks like the appeal is mainly with a certain demographic. According to Wikipedia, the band hold the unofficial record for the most amount of crowd surfers (300) during an hour-long set, so I guess we’ll see how many we get tonight!
Once inside, the area immediately in front of the stage is taken up with the most ardent fans that clearly have no intention of passing up that spot on the club’s rudimentary pole barrier. The floor is full to around half of the way back, and as the first support band, Exeter’s THE PRETTY FRAGILE, an industrial metal trio made up of Paul Abrey (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Mat ‘Simo’ Sims (bass) and Zeke Furness (guitar) are an arresting sight in their theatrical white face/red lipstick make-up and black outfits. With heavy riffs and elements of melodic electronic pop, their atmospheric set begins with ‘The Art of Keeping Control’, which soon has heads moving to the beat. As the set progresses with ‘Porno Morbid’ and ‘Leaves A Taste’, the driving rhythm and provocative lyrics get the crowd warmed up to the local band and there is something that feels almost familiar about them, they are fascinating to watch. Their set finishes with ‘Virus’ and they receive warm applause from the audience, a great result for a band that were somehow missed off the Facebook event page.
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Up next is the billed support band for this tour, Peterborough’s post-hardcore quartet MODERN ERROR, comprising Zak Pinchin (vocals), Kel Pinchin (guitar), Aurélien Mariat (bass) and Conor Nicholls (drums), who take to the stage with no affectation. A few more people have moved onto the floor, which is now around two thirds full, and it is pretty crowded down the front. As the band start their set with ‘Separation Scars’ from the debut ‘Lost in the Noise’ EP (out March 1st), it’s clear that the front few rows are fans of the band as they are singing along to the band’s last single and raising their fists. Kel on guitar is animated in his delivery, hair flying everywhere as he swings around, never losing a beat.
Zak’s vocals are raw and emotive on the band’s recorded material but in this live setting he is mesmerising to watch as he is completely lost in the moment. His voice takes on a slight huskiness that somehow gives a greater depth to the lyrics. As the set continues with more songs from the EP, ‘Cross Me Out’, Funeral Verse’ and ‘Self Synthetic’, Conor on drums gives his kit a damn good thrashing, powering the backbeat to the band’s vibe, as Aurélien’s thick bass provides the resonating element of the rhythm section in addition to his screamed backing vocals. This is a band that needs to be seen live to be truly appreciated, and the crowd here obviously get this from the applause that rings out as the last notes of ‘Blackout Poetry’ bring the energetic set to a close.
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By the time the stage has been set up for AS IT IS, the excitement in the room is palpable. The five-piece burst onto the small stage in front of their dramatic grim reaper/ depression backdrop and guitarist Ronnie proceeds to fist bump as many people as he can before first song ‘The Wounded World’. The enthusiasm knows no bounds, from both band and crowd alike as vocalist Patty is like a firework as he leaps all over the stage and the audience is singing so loudly, at times I can barely hear Patty over them. Moving on to ‘The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)’ and ‘The Great Depression’, it’s not long before a mosh pit has formed in centre of the floor but it doesn’t last long. Patty speaks to the crowd, saying this is a great venue for ‘The Intimate Depression Tour’ and they are hanging on his every word, they clearly adore him, and it’s easy to see what is so appealing. He is charm personified, a mental health advocate, with a faultless singing voice and a stage presence that is utterly charismatic. He was also asleep (with a beanie over his head) on the sofa in the corner of the bar when we came in earlier, so he is also obviously human.
The crowd are jumping with their hands raised, in response to Patty’s “Let’s see you get your hands up in the fucking air!”, hands that have black ‘X’s on them in tape in homage to their idol, singing along to songs that clearly mean a lot to them. The band seem genuinely thrilled that the audience is so appreciative and are singing back their songs so enthusiastically, a fact that Patty lets them know. Then we have our first crowd surfer of the evening, a young girl who is caught up in the moment. The band are polished and professional, drummer Foley powerful in his movement, the concentration etched on his face; bassist Ali booming out a pulsating rhythm to complement Foley’s drumming.
Patty introduces new song ‘The Haunting’, for which rhythm guitarist Ben sings some vocals as well as leaping about the stage as he pulls off impressive licks. Lead guitarist Ronnie puts in a stellar performance too. Introducing ‘You, the Room & the Devil on Your Shoulder’ as the last song on their first album, Patty goes on to say that the band were in a dark place when they wrote that and they didn’t like themselves very much. He says, “There is a lot of talk in the industry about mental health, suicide and self-harm and that is a good thing, but it should in no way be normalised. Just know this, if you are in a bad place right now, things will get better. It’s great so many artists are talking about it, which is a great thing”. This gets a huge positive reaction from the audience. Throughout the long set, there are songs old and new, all of which go down a storm, so it’s hard to pick out highlights, but ‘The Fire, The Dark’ and set closer, the beautiful ‘The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)’ have to be up there. There may not have been as many crowd surfers as back in December, but my attention was elsewhere, so I totally forgot I was counting.
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