Making a special stop in Leeds in the midst of a lengthy UK tour with Wolf Alice, Drenge are greeted with waves of cheers and applause as they appear on stage at The Wardrobe. They are the headline act this evening, and though they are performing in a smaller venue than they could certainly fill, the pitted area for the crowd is completely packed with, on the whole, young fans.
With the momentum of widespread acclaim for their highly anticipated second LP, Undertow, which was released earlier this year, Drenge are well accustomed by now to putting in a strong live set. Now a three-piece, including former Wet Nuns frontman Rob Graham, their live sound is fuller, richer, heavier. The pounding drum fills and biting riffs of ‘Never Awake’ induce, immediately, an electric atmosphere throughout the venue.
“They produce an eclectic set mixed with old and new favourites”
Across a performance just over an hour in length, they produce an eclectic set mixed with old and new favourites. Particular high points include the first single off of Undertow, ‘We Can Do What We Want’ – the titular refrain of which is hollered with delight over and over again by the crowd.
Equally eaten up are singles from Drenge, such as ‘Face Like A Skull’ and ‘Backwaters’, with a particularly riotous response to the punchy track ‘Nothing’. In a set defined by its grungy, angst-fuelled energy, there is still time to feature the slower, lyric-led ‘Fuckabout’.
Although they recently pulled a big crowd at Leeds Fest, they confess part way through the evening that they prefer the intimacy of packed, sweaty, underground venues such as The Wardrobe. Despite the imagery and references to the rolling hills, woods, and rivers that Undertow and parts of Drenge are thick with, undoubtedly the live sets resonate through smaller venues like this with greater energy.
The heat becomes unbearable as they come to finish off with the building crescendo of ‘Let’s Pretend’, but that doesn’t stop the opening of a gigantic mosh pit across the width of the venue.
“The frenzy of ‘Gun Crazy’ sits just fine next to the bigger, slower, more atmospheric ‘Standing In The Cold'”
Even with the maturity that comes with a second album, and the fuller, more polished finish to Undertow compared with Drenge, old and new tracks blend effortlessly in the live arena which is relieving – the frenzy of ‘Gun Crazy’ sits just fine next to the bigger, slower, more atmospheric ‘Standing In The Cold’.
Although a breather is probably due after this tour, seeing how an already impressive repertoire comes together live is an exciting prospect for future releases from Drenge.
James is listening to ‘IV. sweatpants’ by Childish Gambino