Although its popularity has skyrocketed with younger generations over the past decade, at the heart of indie rock is classic befouled local pub gigs filled with guzzling Budweiser’s and strangely patterned blouses. As it breaks the seal of mainstream popularity, underground indie bands have become even more innovative with pushing the genre forward, and on the frontline of taking a niche genre from grotty basement gigs to academy shows with arena caliber is Circa Waves who’ve been blowing out phenomenal shows across the country that pave a bigger future for the world of indie rock.
We followed Circa Waves to their Birmingham show and immediately upon arrival it was evident that from their experimental talents they’ve breached into mainstreams audiences, leading to hordes of fans collected outside the venue before the show had even started.
The lineup featured some of indie’s underground newcomers, including Scotland’s Vista’s who opened the show with a burst of eclectic style and vivacious energy. Their sound instantly reminded me of some sort of hybrid 60’s rock band, i.e. beach boys, masked with gritty punk influences in their guitars that was catchy but also created a strange atmosphere where half of the crowd were shaking their hips to the groovy choruses, whilst the others were opening mosh pits to the punk riffs; overall it was beautiful chaos.
Typically opening acts can struggle to engage with the crowd, it’s usually the second headliner that actually gets them off their feet but I found that this was the total opposite. By the end of Vistas set the crowd was all moshed out and practically pouring buckets of sweat while a buzz of energy bouncing around the room.
However, all of that seemed to waste away in an instant when the second support act hit the stage with a monotone, mundane performance that diminished any remains of excitement. Although my role is to be analytical and even critical when needs be I felt almost bad that I didn’t enjoy their set. To their credit, it seemed like they were giving it all they had but whether it was pure exhaustion from the tour or anxiety, there was an evident lack of stage presence that created a distance between the audience and the band.
Unless you actually knew their songs, the band barely said much and any vocals were mumbled throughout the whole set or drowned out by the out of tune bass that at one point caused a huge painful, uncomfortable screech which summarized their whole set. It was unfortunate, and I’m not sure what caused their unusual behavior but I would have liked to see more engagement with the audience and a livelier set list.
Despite this, the venue was still packed to its brim with a rowdy crowd chanting every hoot and holler of impatience for their main headliner, Circa Waves. Flooding the stage with a sea of light and electrifying energy, the Liverpool four-piece immediately owned the stage with the caliber of an arena show and the humble gratitude of any underground band who’ve finally made it to the esteemed status of a show this big
The band worked cohesively to deliver a phenomenal performance, with Kieran Schudall fronting his usual charismatic personality that had audiences swooning in his arms. Often bands can fall into the trap of hiding behind their frontman but every single member sang along with the crowd, weaving all their passion and last fragments of energy into each song until they were on the brink of exhaustion.
The setlist was favorable to a variety of their hits old and new but carried the same spontaneous energy along with it and only briefly paused for the odd slow song to give the audience a moment to breathe from their insane rapport. Crowd surfers flying through the air, mosh pits engulfing the crowd and fans screeching at the top of their lungs for the whole show; it’s concerts like these that fill me with nostalgia from my youth and remind me why I do what I do.
I truly believe that this marks a pivotal moment in Circa Waves career. Much like in Motley Crue’s biopic ‘The Dirt’, it felt like they were bringing the arena production value to small club shows that pushes Indie rock into a new direction of mainstream light and opens them up to widespread success. Whether it’s selling out or cashing in on a rewarding audience, Circa Waves are stepping outside the box of what defines an ‘indie show’ and taking those grotty basement gigs into academies with the same chaotic energy from the crowd but with a better production value that gains the genre a well-deserved respect from external viewers.
To summaries, Circa Waves are literally making waves with their shows and helping push indie rock into an exciting future with high production shows with insane crowd rapport that’s just one big sweaty gig- the best kind. 8/10