It must be great to be a small venue like the Barfly at this time of year; what with the Download festival being just on the horizon, it inevitably means that a lot of the bands playing will also stop by the smaller clubs to play some warm up shows, just as tonight’s three groups are doing. Despite the fact that this tour is comprised of three somewhat lesser-known bands — all of whom will play the second stage at Donington — the Barfly is completely sold-out, due in a large part to the show being 14+ and not anything stupidly high. As a result, the room is full to brim with trendy haircuts, colourful t-shirts and a huge sense of excited expectancy.
Opening things up, half an hour from screamo six-piece Alesana. While they don’t strike a chord with me on record, on stage they are something special. To describe their performance as energetic would be to do it an injustice; not one member stays still for a second, and the band remain incredibly tight whilst still swinging guitars and body parts in every conceivable direction. They bounce around like primates on amphetamines, while vocalist Dennis Lee is like an ADHD kid tanked up on Coca-Cola and dolly mixture with a microphone in his hand. A superb performance, delivered with a huge grin throughout. Their set is made up of songs from both their ‘On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax’ album and their most recent ‘Where Myth Fades to Legend’, with “This Conversation is Over” being a memorable highlight. They leave the stage to a deserved ovation, and with more performances like this in the future Alesana should be on the way to big things.
Next to join the party is Ohio’s The Devil Wears Prada, whose 2007 album ‘Plagues’ was a superb mixture of brutal metal and hooky pop. Once again, the sold-out Barfly is treated to a stunning live set. TDWP can just about claim to be the heaviest band on the bill tonight, a point confirmed by their crunching live sound. As with Alesana, there’s no time for standing still, particularly keyboardist James Baney, a man not afraid to take to the air or even to brave the Birmingham crowd. Their huge choruses on songs such as “Reptar King of the Ozone” and “This Song is Called” are ridiculously catchy, have the crowd singing along loudly, and have a similar sound to those belted out by Still Remains. With another performance that is as tight as a duck’s behind, and songs that have a good spread of hooks and beatdowns, TDWP are pretty hard to fault tonight, and as they finish they receive the second huge cheer of the night.
Finally A Day To Remember, a band who were superb on their last visit to this stage supporting Maylene and the Sons of Disaster back in January. This band is one of the few out there that can truly claim to have a unique sound — how many other hardcore pop-punk bands can you think of? Yes, you read that correctly, hardcore and pop-punk, together. It makes for one hell of a mix I can tell you — bouncy, poptastic choruses followed by killer beatdowns. No other band can make you pogo and want to fight at the same time quite like A Day to Remember can.
Their set is mainly made up of tracks from their excellent ‘For Those Who Have Heart’ album, with songs such as “The Danger in Starting a Fire”, “A Shot in the Dark” and “Show ‘Em the Ropes” sounding excellent. The band are supremely confident on stage, especially vocalist Jeremy McKinnon who surveys the crowd with a smug look that just falls short of arrogance, and yet still looks genuinely thankful when he gets a help singing his own words from those in front of him. The singing is probably loudest on their excellent version of the Kelly Clarkson hit “Since U Been Gone”, while my own highlight was “Monument” — quite simply, it is a monumentally good song that sounds even better in the live environment.
The Florida five-piece return for one final song, “The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle”, before carrying on their path to the hallowed fields of Donington next weekend greeted by yet another adoring cheer.
Tonight highlights the strength in depth that big festivals such as Download have; those bigger names are going to have to go some way to give a better show than that given by tonight’s bands. These three young groups should all have big futures ahead of them, especially with a live show as good as tonight’s. All three are vibrant, original, enjoyable and necessary. My only hope is that when they return to these shores, they can play for a bit longer so that it’s actually dark when the gig finishes! Keep your eyes and ears open for tonight’s bill, they could all soon be something special.
Review and photographs — Dave Musson