Pop punk quintet ROAM call Eastbourne home, but have been on enough tours (including across mainland Europe) to make even the most independent person feel homesick. Having previously toured with the likes of Neck Deep, they understand the need for a memorable live show to spread their name, and that’s exactly what they deliver. These five are proof that it doesn’t have to be a crowd of thousands to change a spark of energy into a full-blown fire.
A dramatic drum intro signifies something huge is about to kick off, and it’s a highly accurate indicator, launching the set open with more enthusiasm than felt safe for the space, with frontman Alex Costello leaping and bounding around all over the place. This instant energy to begin the set held a massive effect on the crowd – and this was only in the long, manic intro.
Like a kangaroo on crack, the band bounded into every track with a reckless and ridiculous craze that the crowd mimicked soon enough. Who care if you didn’t know the words? Who cared if you didn’t know the band from Adam? Who cared if they weren’t even your style of music? No one cared, and the inspiring lack of inhibitions that the madness created was a real triumph. At a gig, enthusiasm is everyone’s style.
With impressive power, Alex’s vocals managed to make their mark through the antics and ring (relatively) clearly across the music, although with such an aversion to rigidity on stage, it’s understandable why the set held a few looser moments. Compromises must be made, though, and this was definitely worth it; for the majority of the set, the show held as much of the colour and accuracy as the studio version. In a vastly over-packed genre, the band felt original.
The show managed to contain few gaps between tracks, and what there were could be better described as luls, filled with Alex explaining how grateful the band are, and a strange anecdote about Sam’s bag (more info about that in our upcoming interview, and resolved at date of publication). Bringing a second vocalist (Alex Adam) into the mix added another layer to the performance, shaking up an already shaken show. The only truly noticeable moment where the set didn’t match up came in a new track; “it hasn’t got a name yet”, the frontman mumbles before the vocals are lost the overwhelming percussion of the song.
The closing song broke in with massive gang vocals, only further exaggerating the unapologetic confidence the band boasted; I can’t have been alone in think they were about to tear the place down. “If I told you what I meant would it make any difference” prevailed as an infectious hook, throwing a last burst to the crowd before the end of the set. No studio version could do justice to seeing these guys live.
From the opposite end of England comes another quintet, headliners Me Vs Hero. After releasing their brilliant album I’m Completely Fine (review here) at the start of this month, the north-west pop-punkers set out of a headline tour with the intention of wowing the country – and they succeeded.
As opposed to the compromise of energy over accuracy that ROAM chose, Me Vs Hero opted to take a tighter approach and hold back a little on the enthusiasm front. Whilst there was a clear decrease in the zest of the show, the set was by no means lifeless, and an electric buzz remained in the room throughout the night, flaring up on certain fan favourites. If the show had no been preceded by such a no-holds-barred band, Me Vs Hero would’ve easily overwhelmed the crowd with their enthusiasm; as it was, the bar was unreachably high.
However, as a part of this compromise came an obvious gain; the quality of the sound was almost up to studio level, and a fracture-less opening was only improved by the comfort that the band oozed on stage. The entire show felt rehearsed to a tee – from every bold drum intro right down to the inserted anecdotes and crowd participation that added an extra touch to the show. Occasionally the vocals became lost in the blur of the backing instrumental, but moments such as these were the only ones which deducted from the sophistication of the set, and the majority held a direct alternation between the strength of the vocals and the music.
This polished, rehearsed and overall clean atmosphere became most prominent in Days Of Our Lives, where a certain long-standing familiarity showed its face. Even the harsh vocals on tracks felt impeccable, without the risk of screamed-out lungs before the set wound itself up (at one point featuring a non-band member to join in), and a lot of only minimal mid-show breaks kept the evening bubbling along. Frontman Sam Thompson took a short break towards the close of the set to give a mention to Nottingham’s pride and joy – Annie’s Burger Shack (“we’re full of burger goodness”, he half jokes after receiving the wrong set times and rushing their meal). Moments like this – along with a shout-out to an old drummer in the crowd – highlight the rapport in the band, adding a sense of togetherness.
A show of hands (and cheers) let the band know that a fair few of the crowd already had their mittens on I’m Completely Fine, and the tracks off their current release slotted nicely alongside older works that roped in more of the crowd through the gang vocals. On stage, the vocal work was just as tight as the musical backdrop of the show, either alternating precisely or layering sublimely. For technical accuracy, there is very little you can fault the band’s live act on.
As the set wound to its close, the with-strained edge faded a touch and what had begun as a few nodding heads became a start of a pit among a surging mass. The encore track boasted the most energy in the set, with an impressive and lengthy close rounding off the set. They’re one of those bands you need to see live, even if for no other reason than to have them impress you.