Impact caught Florida punks, Merchandise, for the second time on their first full-length UK tour.
Back in Birmingham, the first time we saw Merchandise on this tour, we observed that although the songs were still great, the sound let the band down a little. Arriving in Bedford, it was clear that the sound was going to be just as important tonight, with the upstairs Esquires gig room being a cavernous, converted ballroom. Thankfully, it was just about spot-on.
One of the main draws of this tour is that Eagulls, a Leeds-based punk five-piece, are supporting Merchandise on most of the dates. Sadly, I arrived to the news that their van had broken down outside Sheffield and consequently, they weren’t going to play. Disaster. Although it did present a chance to catch the first half of a dire football match…
After over an hour of scratching my head at the absence of a recognised Chelsea striker, I returned to Esquires in time to catch the second half of Blisseyes‘ set. A local band, they received a very warm reaction for their unidentifiable anthemic indie-rock, not as intelligent as Wild Beasts, nor as hook-filled as White Lies. Next please.
A short delay followed, before Merchandise took to the stage. Carson Cox, frontman and cool guy, informed the audience that being a Bank Holiday, we had to party. Sadly, very few paid attention to this and continued to observe proceedings from a safe distance. After all, Merchandise’s gloomy post-punk isn’t exactly dance friendly.
Their set was, to put it bluntly, superb; twice, three times as good as last week in Birmingham. The majority of songs were taken from their two most recent EPs, with the odd old one thrown in. Surprisingly, however, there was no ‘Become What You Are’: their signature song. Was this some kind of statement? Or do they just like surprises? Either way, it didn’t detract from what was a solid performance.
The sound was excellent. The throbbing basslines cut through the heavily-distorted, yet intricate, guitar-playing, while the drums kept things ticking over, yet never took centre stage. Cox’s vocals never overpowered, but were high enough in the mix to shine through.
Merchandise are one of the most interesting bands around at the moment. Not many others are doing post-punk like they are, even if their 80s influences are often painfully obvious. Not as developed as the recorded versions, their songs still sound magnificient and this is all you need to know. Catch them now before they get too big to play redeveloped ballrooms in hideously dull commuter towns.
…Alex is listening to The Wytches – ‘Beehive Queen’…