SHVPES are a force to be reckoned with. Since the release of their debut album, Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair almost exactly three years to the date of this show, they’ve evolved and grown into something weighty and substantial. A warhead, perhaps.
SHVPES is a name people recognise now, and while surpassing expectations of success for a band at this stage in their career, it’s not surprising when you look at how far they’ve come musically in just three short years. The near-sellout Underworld show; the second of two dates to mark the release of new single ‘One Man Army’ is proof that SHVPES can and will make it huge, and if you’re not onboard yet, you will be very, very soon.
Opening act, The Well Runs Red garnered a lot of confused expressions as he took the stage with just a DJ in tow. Expecting a full band and getting all the might of one – wrapped up in one individual, the attendees of Underworld were in for a treat of something a little different than they’re used to.
I’ve heard that his name’s George and that he’s from Bristol, but the rest of the details of this music project – and how I came to be standing in front of it at Underworld tonight – are unclear. Mysterious and definitely piquing the curiosities of all the early-birds in the room, the Soundcloud Screamer is something of an enigma. What can best be described as Trap with screaming, he also sounded a bit like an English Rammstein at times, and very Marilyn Manson vocally.
Highlights included the DJ occasionally coming centre stage to dance in a strange but equally fascinating, and all-round endearing manner with George. Most admirable was the defiant confidence; unmarred by the fact that they were providing something completely different to what the standard SHVPES fan would be into.
This was all part of a larger music scene that I don’t yet quite understand. Nonetheless, I am totally intrigued by it all, and tonight, I finally dipped my toe into the waters of the Soundcloud Screamo scene.
Taking the stage and jumping straight in with ‘Monday Man’, Phoxjaw brought their quirk in spades to a venue filling up by the minute. Almost like one big performance art piece, Phoxjaw know how to put on a show. With a live sound exactly the same as their recordings, it’s hard to imagine a time I’ll ever be able to listen to them through my earphones without wishing I had the visual experience of vocalist and bassist Danny Garland kneeling down to scream into a dangling mic that had fallen off its stand.
Having just signed a deal with Hassle Records that day, the band were in high spirits; guitarist Josh Gallop cheers-ing the crowd with his beer. Weird, wacky, and wonderful, Phoxjaw had the crowd fascinated and amused in equal measures.
Phoxjaw live is a journey that they embark on, taking you along for the ride. It’s all best experienced first hand than explained, like a story you had to be there for to truly understand. Ending on ‘Triceratops’, the music had stopped, but Garland let out one, final scream. Phoxjaw does Phoxjaw, and they do it so well.
Skywalker got straight down to business with their gritty-but-upbeat post-hardcore. With a name like Skywalker, I expected a tech band – or maybe some nu-metal revival. However, their buoyantly energetic sound was a pleasant surprise – and not at all out of place in such a varied line-up. All the way from the Czech Republic, frontman Jay Kutcher mentioned many, many times just how happy they were to be here at Underworld tonight.
Encompassing unrelenting energy and a genuine passion for what they do, all members of the band must have dislocated a bone or two at some point during the set. Ending on what Kutcher mentioned is their own favourite Skywalker song, anyone assessing the scene in the room would have been forgiven for thinking that this was a Skywalker headline set. Everyone’s just found their new favourite band.
Already proving themselves as a relentless crowd, the inhabitants of Underworld were ready and waiting to be rewarded in the form of a solid set from the headliners. Kicking things off with shiny new track ‘One Man Army’, SHVPES were not here to fuck about. Straight into the frustratingly catchy riff of ‘Undertones’, tonight was shvping (sorry) up to be a big one.
Not many bands could manage to pull off going from absolutely smash-the-fuck-out-of-everything anger to hip-swinging groove basslines in a matter of seconds – and do it so seamlessly. But the juxtaposition of a song like ‘Someone Else’ was a chance to show off what this band does best: variation while still sounding refined and uniform to the SHVPES sound.
Golden oldie ‘Two Minutes of Hate’ was an opportunity for the crowd to actually smash the fuck out of everything, and after a much scaled-back version of The Purge film was over, frontman Griffin Dickinson told the crowd, “We’re gonna take a break from punching the shit out of each other” before calming things down with anthemic ‘Renegades’. At a SHVPES show, there’s time to go wild like you’re at a sweaty Underworld show, and there’s time to sing along at the top of your lungs, arm up in the air and body stiff like you’re at an arena show; this band are made for both.
“We’re gonna play some old songs because we’ve run out of good ones” was Dickinson’s introduction to ‘State of Mine’ and ‘God Warrior’. The band may have left behind the Peaky Blinders branding and evolved into something much more sophisticated than where they started, but the reaction from the crowd during both songs led me to infer that fans still quite like the old classics.
‘Two Wrongs, No Rights’ was an unexpected addition to the set, and a change in vibe that allowed everyone in the room a well-deserved break from screaming and sweating. It also allowed Dickinson to show off his rarely-displayed diverse vocal talent while sitting down and getting cosy with the crowd. Engaging, and holding an unparalleled connection with the audience, raw emotion and regret for past mistakes hung off of his every word.
The soppiness was in just a small enough dose, and now it was time to get angry and flail arms everywhere again. Filled with humorously naughty but now iconic lyrics, ‘Counterfeit’ is the song you wouldn’t play around your gran, but the song to go absolutely mental to at a SHVPES gig.
An undisputed fan favourite, the number of attendees dressed in t-shirts blazoned with the lyrics “Your mother should have swallowed you” gave me an inkling that the crowd was going to go off in epic proportions. That, they did, and when the time came for that line, there wasn’t a single voice in the crowd that didn’t scream the words. Just don’t tell their mums.
That could have been a perfect end, but tonight, SHVPES were the gift that kept on giving. Back on stage for an encore of ‘Calloused Hands’ and ‘Afterlife’, fans took one last opportunity to try to lose life or limb. If you’ve seen the video for ‘Afterlife’, you’ll have seen Dickinson karate-dive (is that a thing?) from a building. Tonight, he did precisely that, straight into the crowd, and surfed while he sang. No SFX needed, it was the stuff of action-replays, and I’m almost convinced the man’s got superpowers.
Dickinson had mentioned how he spends so long in his own head, wondering if what he’s doing is actually amounting to anything, and that tonight was proof that it was. Even from an outside point of view, tonight felt like a milestone for SHVPES. Now with a third album on the way, I’m willing to bet that the milestones will get rapidly bigger and bigger from here.