For the majority of the crowd, an expectant rendition of “ ‘cos I’m just a teenage dirtbag baby…” was all that they had been waiting for. Little did they know that Wheatus were about to sandstorm the stage with an energised and catchy array of songs, flawlessly directed by lead singer Brendan Brown and his brilliant showmanship.
Brown was not slow to recognise the band’s misconceived status as a ‘one-hit-wonder’; taking himself charmingly light-heartedly, he informed the crowd “We don’t do set-lists; we only take requests. What do you want?”, then in response to hundreds of freshers screaming “TEENAGE DIRTBAG” he merely responded “Did I hear ‘Hump‘em N’ dump‘em?’ Does this girl over here want ‘Lemonade’? I think you want ‘A Little Respect’ ”. He was delightfully entertaining, and it was hard not to admire his self-satire.
Just to add to Brown’s effortless (albeit, also slightly drunken) witticisms and self-deprecation, he also played on the fact that the public seemed to consistently confuse the band with Weezer by covering their song ‘My Name is Jonas’, which went down an absolute treat (well, at least it did with anyone who knew who Weezer were; at this point, I still overheard countless drunk freshers asking “When are they going to play ‘Teenage Scumbag?!’ ”)
It wasn’t just Brown’s joyful nature that won the crowd over though; it turns out Wheatus actually have more than two songs, and they are actually pretty good. With an impressive falsetto from Brown himself in ‘Hump‘em N’ Dump‘em’, clear country-influenced guitar in ‘Lemonade’, and sheer enthusiasm and enjoyment oozing from the entire band in ‘Leroy’, Wheatus were as close as Summer Party 2012 got to some good ol’ fashioned, sing-along pop-rock.
The band had many tricks up their sleeves to make their 60-minute set ripple with excitement; incorporating an inventive ska beat into ‘Leroy’, a mix of male and female vocals thanks to their two female backing singers, and an epic extended finale of the unanimous ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ were just a few of the techniques Wheatus threw together to get the crowd, who most likely had only heard a couple of their songs previously, involved within the performance.
They certainly knew how to tantalise the audience; playing just a snippet of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ at the very start of their set, and then ending their set on the song pulled the performance together full circle; they had no shame in admitting that this era-defining song was what people most wanted to hear, and so they built up to it and saved the best till last, an admirable feat in my eyes. Brown spoke over the extended guitar riff of the song with poignancy, nostalgia and, most importantly, humour: “This song was released 12 years ago. You know who beat us to Number 1 in the Chart? ATOMIC KITTEN!”. He then informed us that they’d made it back into the UK Singles Chart 2011 and hence encouraged us to make it happen for 2012. With Brown also telling us that they personally reply to all tweets and that all their music is free to download, it was difficult not to be entirely won over by the charming and genuine nature of this band.
Their set not only inspired me to go back, rediscover Wheatus and give them credit for their five-albums-worth-of hard work that had been previously overlooked and neglected, but also gave me a very welcome trip down memory lane. All in all, a brilliant performance, leaving all those who doubted their ability as a band sheepish and mistaken, myself included.