By Jake Paterson, Co-Deputy Music Editor
Although seemingly an institution of sorts in the present for a certain brand of carefree indie rock where the energy of your mates and the number of pints flowing is as much as a consideration as the band on stage, Sports Team have always kept their ethos of not taking themselves too seriously. With a Mercury Prize nomination and a polished second album now out in the world, nothing really has changed.
With almost everyone around me asking if I’d been to Truck Festival over the summer, we were packed into the tightest pit I’d ever seen in the O2 Academy. Sports Team, who formed at Cambridge University (apart from Oli Dewdney who's a Bristol alumni), it goes without saying that Bristol has a special edge for the band having played three riotous shows in the space of 12 months here.
The support, Fat Dog, were given clear instructions to get people going. Within moments two of the band members were in the audience starting moshes for their own songs. The lead singer, dripped out in a strange modernist cowboy outfit let the power go a little to his head - making a line through the centre of the crowd, screaming “I am Moses”, and then getting the left and right side to shout “LEFT” and “RIGHT” respectively, before descending on each other amidst the ska-punk chaos that was unfolding on stage.
When Sports Team finally came on, lead singer Alex Rice came adorned with a bouquet of flowers and tuned his back to us to throw it over his shoulder, bride at a wedding style, the future lucky bride being a direct participant in the celebration being baptised into the Sports Team family.
Separating the show out into five movements, in some effort to save the audience from complete exhaustion (of what was the rowdiest I’d ever seen the O2 Academy), the pacing was near perfect. Opening with ‘Here it Comes Again’ and then launching straight into ‘The Game’ the energy was high from the get go.
For slower songs like ‘Cool it Kid’, the crowd took the opportunity of the lull in the frenzied audience to crowd surf, with at most five people in the air at any one time. They trawled through older cuts like 'Fishing' and 'Going Soft' with precision, and the bridge to 'Camel Crew' had me in an infectious smile for minutes.
Some of the material off of their new record Gulp landed somewhat in a haze of obscurity, but was saved particularly when Rice left the stage for rhythm guitarist Rob Knaggs to perform 'Light Industry' and 'Lander' without the support of their Jagger-esque frontman. His vocals were captivating, and seeing the crowd mosh with the same energy was testament to the band's quality.
It was a chaotic night. Taking off his shoes after an untied shoelace, Rice was asked to sell his feet pics for no more than £5. The interaction with the crowd was close to near unity, Rice often strutting into the crowd to be welcomed with open arms and ruffles of his hair, and would lean into the front row for as many songs as possible.
Asking for all of the lights to be turned off for the penultimate track 'Kutcher', the crowd harmonised with a drunken beauty aimed at something magical that Sports Team have captured. Closing with one of their oldest songs 'Stanton', the wedding's afterparty was complete. The band's honeymoon period on the road seems never to come close to an end.
Featured Image: Jake Paterson
Have you seen Sports Team live?