By Jamie Shepherd, MSc Contemporary Identities
Drenge bring their ‘Strange Creatures’ tour to Bristol’s SWX: Jamie Shepherd reviews.
I first encountered Drenge when it was just the two Loveless brothers, Eoin and Rory, at the sadly short-lived (but phenomenal) Beacons Festival in the fuzzy days of 2013. Unlike the current deputy leader of the Labour party Tom Watson I didn’t resign from my post in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet and return to the backbenches, but I did add these bombastic boys from Derbyshire to my mental list of bands to keep an eye on.
I can still remember the raw and exhilarating energy that emanated from that tiny stage in Yorkshire as if it was yesterday. Six years on from last seeing Drenge, I thought it might be best to see if they still live up to that performance as a lot can change between three albums (with the latest released in February), an EP and an extra man in the line-up.
When it was time for the band to take the stage, the subdued strains of Cigarettes After Sex’s ‘Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Now’ that blared through the venue seemed like an ironic choice. We all knew what was about to follow would be anything less than subdued. Frontman Eoin was clad in a brown Jarvis Cocker-esque suit that made the northern mam in me go “eeee he’s gonna be sweating loads later on” and skulked to the front of the stage. The rest of the band took their positions and the stage was bathed in an eerie red wash. The funerary drumbeats of Strange Creatures’ ‘Prom Nights’, with their almost military march-like character, was more than enough to command the audience’s full attention.
Once this forlorn was over, we got a swift “thank you” from Eoin before they dashed straight into ‘Bonfire of the City Boys’. The opening monologue of this track, again, gave Eoin a Jarvis Cocker in sleazy storytelling mode vibe, a la the Pulp frontman’s lyrics in ‘F.E.E.L.I.N.G C.A.L.L.E.D L.O.V.E’ (Jarvis with anger management issues my friend suggested).
The synth strains of ‘Autonomy’ from the EP of the same name vied for attention with Eoin’s frenzied dance moves and Rory’s barrage of percussion, with Eoin’s dancing definitely coming out on top. Before launching into ‘Bonfire of the City Boys’, Eoin shouted “Hell fucking yeah” before howling the track like Brett Anderson in heat.
Eoin sarcastically asked the crowd if it was Friday today to a cheer of some sorts while Rory followed it up with an endorsement to Café Casa, the outrageously cheap café just off the Bearpit, saying he couldn’t fault the breakfast he had there today. ‘Never See the Signs’ followed before a frantic rendition of ‘The Woods’ which saw Eoin finally take off that stressfully warm-looking jacket as Rory’s vocals became even more prominent.
The maudlin opening of ‘Backwaters’ was soon replaced by Eoin’s best Joe Strummer homage, with his lyrics seeming like a passionate plea to the assembled audience. The following number ‘Avalanches’ was punctuated by a heavy synth-line which was part Deerhunter Microcastles era and part Krautrock royalty and elicited some metronomic clapping from the crowd. Staple since 2013 ‘Bloodsports’ was played at breakneck speed while ‘This Dance’ which followed was punctuated by some Ian Curtis-esque dance moves from Eoin himself.
Eoin quickly announced that it was “time for another old one” before launching into 'People in Love Make Me Feel Yuck’ which became the biggest singalong of the night. Eoin dedicated that song to “Harley from the London shows” (whoever he was). The mournful ‘Strange Creatures’ followed which was backed with orchestral synths that wouldn’t be too strange heard being played in a cheap funeral parlour.
Eoin flattered the crowd by telling us that it was “always a pleasure” to be in Bristol before announcing they were going to finish with an old one ‘Let’s Pretend’. The song started with the band bathed in a blue light, with their silhouette only visible, and playing yet again at a funerary pace. When Eoin sang “there is nothing in my heart” you certainly believed it.
With white lights on and mechanic whirring blaring from the front and a swift “thank you” the band left the stage before shortly returning for a three-track encore. They started with the atmospheric ‘When I Look into Your Eyes’ before closing with the exhilarating exuberance of their classic ‘We Can Do What We Want’ starting the weekend in the most energetic way possible.
Featured Image: Alexia Kirov/ Epigram
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