When you think of Funeral for a Friend, many are sure to conjure up images of troubled scene-sters with more emotional issues than a high-school prom. And although their music leans toward this dark and depressing edge, on stage Funeral for a Friend had as much charm and charisma as early Blink-182 or Reel Big Fish – it was fun, juvenile, and a pleasant surprise.
Up first were Tiger Please, an indie-rock outfit from Cardiff that are one of the best support acts I have ever seen. Their stage presence left something to be desired – perhaps they were the wrong kind of act before Rise to Remain and Funeral for a Friend – but the music itself was utterly outstanding. Their sound falls somewhere between Kings of Leon and The Gaslight Anthem, with abrasive gravely vocals and some stunning guitar frolicks lacing it all together. Currently on their second EP Seasons, the future certainly looks bright for Tiger Please.
Second support act Rise to Remain were certainly more at home in front of the FFAF crowd – they bounded onto the stage with energy and enthusiasm, and captured the audience’s attention immediately. Stylistically and technically, Rise to Remain are very much FFAF’s younger siblings, which acted as a perfect prelude to the headline set, but I found very little to get excited about: for me, they were on the right tracks, but not quite there yet.
Funeral for a Friend, on the other hand, were firmly on the right tracks with no threat of derailing. From the moment the lights dipped the crowd exploded into a frenzy, filling The Old Firestation with a cacophony of girlish screams that, given the average age of the crowd, were most likely emanating from the male population. The tension was positively electric, and FFAF rose to the challenge with the storming opener ‘Roses for the Dead’, swiftly followed by ‘Rookie of the Year’ from debut Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation.
Just two tracks in, FFAF had knocked my socks off. Musically, they were absolutely stunning: Matthew Davies-Kreye‘s vocals were lilting and silky, yet abrasive and cutting in all the right measures at all the right moments, whilst the intricate guitar work meandered in and out of prominence alongside the pulsating drums. There was so much potential for FFAF’s intricacies and subtleties to get lost in the live performance, with melodies piling on top of one another in a musical mushy mess. But the balance was perfect, allowing each member to shine.
But they really captured my attention in the way that they negotiated the stage. Given the thematic and stylistic tropes that seem to epitomise FFAF, I was fully expecting a dark and serious set from the Welsh quintet, but was greeted by something quite different. In the first moment of respite from their largely unrelenting set, Davies-Kreye and Gavin Burrough launched into one of the most amusing and cheeky interactions with the crowd that I have ever seen from a metal/hard-core act. Upon the crowd’s apparent inability to form a circle pit, Davies-Kreye warned moshers “if you don’t sort it out, I’m coming down there to sort it the f*ck out”. Their rapport with the crowd was instanteous, allowing them to insult and tease the hardcores at the front without any fear of being shunned, and it was this that set FFAF appart from my expectations.
Musical highlights of the set included ‘Into Oblivion’ and ‘Red is the New Black’, whilst closing number ‘Escape Artists Never Die’ ended the night in audio fireworks – it was intense, thrashy, and energetic, without a single square foot of the floor not occupied by a dancer.
All in all it was an exceptional and unexpected night from the Welsh quintet, demonstrating that they still are one of the hottest, most relevant and interesting hardcore bands on the current scene.
Good: An outstandingly energetic performance, which ticked all the boxes. A varied set and amazing crowd interaction
Bad: Very little. Support Tiger Please didn’t receive the appreciation their ability warranted, whilst Rise to Remain were a little underdeveloped as performers and musicians for my taste.
Welcome Home Armageddon is out in record stores now. Check out the review of the album here