A couple of years ago, I found myself half-accidentally in Southampton at The Joiners, watching a bunch of hardcore bands, some of which turned out to be relatively big names later on. Truth be told, I was only there to see a band called Dead Swans; I was still a bit of a newcomer to the underground scene. However, a local band called Kerouac, pretty small at the time, played before them. I was blown away. It wasn’t by-numbers hardcore, it was far more unhinged and lacked the ignorant mosh-calls and head-kicking of your average four piece. Last year, they announced that they were splitting, which was a complete bummer. Thanks to the restrictions of work, money and travel, I never got to see them. However, around November, they announced one last show: it was at The Joiners, presumably encouraged by the venue’s recent string of benefit shows to try and avoid closure. And as if I wasn’t sold at that alone, they announced that fellow local punk band Our Time Down Here would be supporting. This was a dream come true.
Doors were at 6, since the lineup itself was fairly hefty, with a good six or seven bands playing. As usual, work commitments crushed some of my hopes and dreams and so I unfortunately managed to miss at least half of the show. However, I managed to get there in time for bearman-led post-hardcore dudes Burn The Fleet. A familiar name at least, but I had never really listened to them. There is a certain charm though, of seeing a band you’ve never listened to, and being impressed enough to uncross your arms and vaguely nod your head. Coming on quite bizarrely to Let’s Get High by Dr. Dre, they proceeded to rip into an enormous sounding set, punctuated by their vocalist/bassist throwing out fairly low-brow but amusing semi-anecdotes (“They call me the best finger in Southampton. My street name is Digitz”). I wish I could say more about them, but it’s difficult to do so when you aren’t too familiar with a band. Suffice to say that when you are impressed by a live show, you should strive to become familiar.
Next up were Our Time Down Here. I used to play in a shitty band and on one occasion, me and three of my best friends ended up in Portsmouth playing a show with them (I seem to recall that we were headlining inexplicably). We made a point of watching the other bands, half out of etiquette, half out of the fact that otherwise the room would have been empty, but like Burn The Fleet and Kerouac, Will Gould and co boggled my mind. How were they so good when we were so shit?! Anyway, I’m digressing. The point is that I was extremely stoked for OTDH, and I was definitely not let down. Opening with Precognition, the room had finally woken up. Moving gracefully but energetically from track to track from their last album, Midnight Mass (check it out on Spotify and then buy it), with a suprise song from an older record, OTDH killed it. They had brought an atmosphere into the room that had disappointingly not been present yet, but which certainly set Kerouac up for an excellent set.
Having only ever released an EP and two splits, Kerouac’s setlist was destined to be only as long as their discography. That said, it is even more impressive that they received the reaction that they were about to. The gloomy notes of Heavy Hearted kicked things off and it only took about a minute before the first person dived off the stage into a now-riled up crowd, setting the tone for the next half an hour. Launching fist first into next track I Owe Some People The World But I Owe You Shit, the head-crawling and mic-grabbing continued in earnest, not stopping until vocalist Thom paused proceedings to announce his gratitude to everyone for being there, and promising that, for anything other than lame metalcore bands, the scene is not dead. The strained guitars of Porcelain marked the halfway point, and the crowd once again launched themselves at the stage, at Thom, at each other, limbs flailing everywhere. There is absolutely nothing that beats the vibe of a show like this; it’s a vibe that cannot be captured on record, behind a safety barrier, or five tiers up in a stadium. Eventually, the unmistakeable drum intro of A Sheep. A Well. signalled the end of the line and as Thom flew into the crowd screaming “Mean what you say what you mean…”, the crowd didn’t let up one bit. An absolutely incredible set from a band that never got as far as they should have done.
I’m sure over the next few months, The Joiners will be holding more benefit shows, of every genre, so even if you don’t like the sound of people trampling on your head, there will be something for you. Go to a show, buy a beer, watch the bands, support a brilliant venue. No scene is dead.