Gnarwolves // Live Review

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The Underworld – December 12th

Thom Weeks looks like a bloody happy man. Any eagle-eyed fan will be able to spot the Gnarwolves frontman waiting in the wings, smiling away and singing along, giving his support to the bands they’ve brought along for the ride. Occasionally he breaks out the air drums. Clearly the dude is having the time of his life on this tour, and playing for a packed-out Underworld crowd has him, rightfully, in high spirits. Of course, it’s a bit of a buzz-kill if a crowdsurfer stomps on your distortion pedal, causing the heft of ‘History Is Bunk’ to drop out as fans rush the stage. Thom looks grave for a moment; no one likes a strange kid trampling on their gear, but the wave of enthusiasm from the crowd, singing every word back to the stage at the top of their lungs manages to put the smile back on his face. After all, tonight is a night for the faithful members of the Gnarwolves Cru. It’s going to be a messy one.

This is all a world away at 7.30 when Public Domain open up the night with a dose of skate thrash. It’s fast, aggressive stuff which sees heads nodding, if not banging. Prawn are a more diverse proposition and put in a sharp set of emotive alt. The New Jersey quintet sit somewhere on the spectrum between Balance and Composure and Jimmy Eat World, delivering heartfelt tracks like ‘First As Tragedy’, ‘Second As Farce’ and ‘Glass Irony’ with an understated charm. It helps that, with the post rock undertones of Prolonged Exposure and Scud Running, they sound absolutely huge.

Gnarwolves are a potent celebration of punk counterculture; don’t be surprised if you feel a compulsion to hurl yourself from a monitor or jump around the venue like a rabid animal. If anything that is the appropriate response. It might be a challenge to peer through the flying bodies, moshers and screaming fans, but it’s still clear to hear that Gnarwolves are on killer form. Latest single ‘Bottle to Bottle’ opens the set having already achieved anthem status, while the worn-in cuts like ‘Tongue Surfer’ and ‘Coffee’ cause all-out chaos. The set whirrs by in an unbroken stream of the kind of raw but earnest punk Gnarwolves have made their own, a joyous racket of confessional lyrics and unpolished punk hooks. By the closing chugs of ‘Skate to Hell’ the crowd is battered, bruised and beaming, the chants of ‘Gnarwolves Cru, Fuck You’ filling the venue long after the final note has rung out.

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