Live Review: Sleaford Mods, Rock City (09/10/2015)

Paul Hudson

What does it say about us when this is the music that moves us? One man holding a beer playing beats off a laptop to the left of stage while to the right another spits foul-mouthed vitriol into a microphone. What does it say about the sentiment of a large section of society? People normally go to gigs to have a laugh and forget their troubles –but people flocked to The Sleaford Mods glorious homecoming at Rock City on the 9th October to have their troubles spat back in their face, to get pissed, and to get pissed off. “Who’d have thought it? A full house? For two cunts like us.” Says Jason early on. And it’s still better than Shaking Stevens.

Sleaford Mods (vocalist Jason Williamson and beat-maker Andrew Fearn) say that despite their lyrics they don’t aim to be spokesmen for the working class or any sort of underclass; but within seconds of arriving on the Rock City dancefloor it’s clear that the people have decided otherwise – the crowd is almost universally just that. Despite being a trendy band (like it or not, Sleaford Mods are one of the ‘trendiest’ bands out right now… and I imagine they don’t like it) the crowd is not full of young hipsters either; half of the turnout are middle aged, or older. The anger of Sleaford Mods must take half a lifetime to build up, and plenty are here to finally let it loose.

Jason and Andrew have always been careful to represent their home town even as they shot to success, their breakout single was called ‘Tied Up In Nottz’, and they did so in Rock City with their choice of opening acts. The band Kagoule are familiar support artists; in the past few years the nineteen year olds have played before Johnny Marr and The Who and its clear why they were chosen: the band put in a rip-roaring set, at times with guitar sounding as thick as Led Zep, at times reminiscent of Nirvana, and producing a sound astounding for a three-piece throughout. When second warm up Cappo came out, nobody knew what to expect; and definitely didn’t anticipate a fire-bellied MC tearing up the stage for the twenty minutes following. That’s more the pity though, as Cappo has been rapping since ’95 and had been releasing records since 2003. His experience makes sense in retrospect; he was no faker, his bars and dynamism couldn’t have come from an amateur.

But Sleaford Mods were the main event. The opener to their 2015 LP Key Markets in which a crowd chants their name will presumably be replicated at the start of every one of their gigs for years to come, and it was boyishly recreated here. Once they were on the stage any pretence of civility lasted about twenty seconds, until the whole of the floor opened up into a mosh pit and stayed that way for the duration. Fearn’s beats can sound tinny on record but blasted out from the stage the primal drums sent the crowd googly. By the start of the second song, just about everyone in the room was drenched in sweat and flung beer, all sense was forgotten, and loyalty too – girlfriends were ditched for the pit, and though there were presumably some Blur fans in the room, when he spat “even the drummers a fucking MP. Fuck off you cunt, sir” the crowd cheers. In Rock City the fans are the Mods, and The Mods are theirs.

Despite the power of the beats, Jason is the star of the show. Metallic rhythms might shake the floor but nothing shakes the spirit like an angry norther on a rant. He stands there the whole night, body twisting, spit and sweat gushing in plumes from his head. His anger and contempt makes most punk bands look like pretenders: no wonder Slaves don’t like him. And his words revel in the sort of cold nihilism the abandoned working classes have been left to revel in, be it the catchphrases the crowd chant with aplomb (“Eucalyptus? You can fuck off.”) or the long, despairing diatribes – “Nick Clegg wants another chance, really?/This daylight robbery is now so fucking hateful/It’s accepted by the vast majority/In chains years from now/Who’s that tit?/Don’t matter who that tit is/He’s still with us/In our arses, in our food, in our brains and in our death/In our failure to grab hold of what fucking little we have left/We have lost the sight and in the loss of sight/We have lost our fucking minds, alright?”

“People flocked to Rock City to have their troubles spat back in their face, to get pissed, and to get pissed off”

In the midst of a society in which a job at Tesco is a job for life, where ‘affordable homes’ are now affordable only to the wealthy, where industry is gone or ruined, where millions live in poverty and with every conference speech another couple of hundred thousand are thrown under the bus… it’s no wonder that when Jason listened to the words of real working class people in the streets and in the pubs and tried to replicate them on stage, this is how he heard them speak. And it’s no wonder The Telegraph fucking hates them. At the end of the gig people stood and chanted 10 minutes for more. Towards the end Jason pronounced: “Thank you Rock City, we are sons of Nottingham, we are yours.” But it’s clear that they mean so much to a great many more than that.

Liam Inscoe – Jones

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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