If VANT can boast any archetypal embodiment, it’s politically lion-hearted. After their debut single ‘Do You Know Me?’ hit the airwaves in 2015, they’ve turned more than a few heads and have garnered a dedicated fanbase, famed for their honest and politically conscious lyrics which strip away the cushy outlook of mainstream music. In fact, it’s the “ongoing self-destruction of a species” that takes priority as their muse, and, luckily, it’s that exact sagacious energy that criss-crosses their first ever Wedgewood Rooms set.
Openers Dead! saw the near-sold-out crowd near-warmed-up, giving their set their all but failing to rile the crowd up as much as their successors, proving that a band like VANT needs little preparation. After hitting the ground running with ‘Fly-By Alien’ and ‘Jesus Was A Conman’, it wasn’t long until frontman Mattie Vant shed his guitar and joined the crowd from the front of the barrier. This is a man who certainly walks the talk, and does it faultlessly, but it was too early for any kind of screaming, shirt-tugging, or pushing with the might of 200 people behind to get to him. That would, of course, come later.
‘Parasite’ marked the point of no return for the “planet-earth-born” boys, a wild 1-minute-twenty-five of punk-rock heaven snapping the crowd into overdrive, before diving into the relatively new, but widely known, ‘Peace and Love’, perhaps their biggest anthem to date. Indeed, there’s a fine line woven between naff political bravado and sincere insight, but if you walked through the doors of the Wedgewood Rooms at the very moment ‘Peace and Love’s’ chorus hit, it’d be hard to think a room full of people heartily singing ‘We need peace and love/we need mother nature’ is anything but uplifting.
Soon the room was amassed with sweaty mosh pits and deafening chants, and we all sank to the floor, peaking over the barrier, as VANT built to a drop, before dancing to the surf-rock swagger of ‘Mess Around’. You can’t say being politically active isn’t at least a little bit fun.
‘I Don’t Believe in God’, one of the underrated high points of their debut album Dumb Blood, chimed in as a surprising crowd-pleaser, before ‘The Answer’ stripped away its playfulness and dealt the crowd back to punk-rock-basics. After a well-received ‘Put Down Your Gun’ and ‘Lampoon’, fan favourite ‘Karma Seeker’ hit with the deafening roar of the crowd. There was pushing, there was shoving, there was screaming and shirt-tugging as Mattie shredded a guitar solo up against the barrier, held up by those behind it, and they dove into ‘Do You Know Me?’ Very fortunately, we do, and quite well it would seem now.
Having fully earned their encore, they stormed back on stage, sweaty smiles plastering their faces. A little bit of ‘Wonderwall’ banter (inevitably) ensued before falling straight into ‘Time and Money’ and the wonderful, stadium-ready ‘Parking Lot’. The crowd spat the words out at the very top of their lungs, an utterly crowning choice for their grand finale, and with that, VANT’s Portsmouth cherry was well and truly popped. But with such a politically lion-hearted relevance, it won’t be long before these boys will be lighting the fire at the forefront of the revolution, without a doubt heading back down south soon enough. There’s no turning back now.