It’s August, midway through festival season and it is bright grey outside. Much like the rest of the year the best thing to do is to squeeze into a tiny venue and revel in the combination of live music and other people’s body heat.
The Exchange is the dream small venue; the room’s reverse bottleneck leads towards the stage creating great sound and an intimate atmosphere which is absolutely perfect for 100mph punkrock.
First up are The Lovesicks who deliver an impassioned set with a solid combination of style and substance. They rip through short sharp songs with polished ease and leave the room suitably warmed up as they leave the stage.
Red Light Rebels take the stage with the hype of former musical projects 4ft Fingers, The Hookline Riot, and Riot and the Popshots on their shoulders. However, despite the pedigree and their polished live performance, there seems to be something lacking. The integral parts of a great punk rock band are all there; tight fast drumming, rolling basslines, driving guitars, and passionate vocals, but perhaps they were suffering from an off day because their performance just didn’t manage to light the room up.
As Teenage Bottlerocket step onto the stage the room goes up in a proverbial inferno. For the first time the audience are involved and the room increases in temperature instantly. If the other two acts are well polished TB must have been polished so hard layers are beginning to erode because all four members absolutely killed every single song change. The precision of the song changes is so tight it creates a frenzied pace to the set list. In the brief moments where the audience are allowed time to come up for air the stage patter is minimal creating space for another short sharp song.
During one of these short breaks there is a moment of emotive reflection and an opportunity to raise a glass to TB’s deceased drummer, Brandon Carlisle, who lost his life in 2015. His twin brother and TB frontman, Ray, spoke with cracks in his voice and tears in his eyes. An evening that up to this point had been all about a good time just got real, fast. The band dedicated a Tony Sly song to their fallen brother and normal service was resumed. It was a moment which made the whole interlude even more powerful.
Over the course of their time defying, hour long set, the constant two minute bursts of brash punk rock are delivered in such an entertaining manner the time doesn’t matter; all that matters is wanting more. The combination of an incredible performance and a small sweaty room is what punk rock is all about, it seems unlikely that Teenage Bottlerocket will be playing venues of this size for much longer but with seven albums under their belt maybe they are destined to be a hot ticket or underground heroes. Quite frankly in a selfish sense I hope it’s small venues forever.