Until this Friday, I had never gotten off the train to Leeds at Burley Park station, and to be honest it’s fairly easy to see why. Unless you happen to live here, or are attending a gig at the Brudenell Social Club, there is no reason to possibly get off a train here. Go back.
The venue itself however is pleasantly surprising. The tables outside are always busy, with drinkers who don’t seem especially bothered about sitting outside a fairly loud emo gig, and both the sound and atmosphere inside the venue are nice, friendly and intimate. The bar has decent cider on tap. I manage to steal a large Libertines logo from a poster on a wall nearby. So far, the night seems like it could be fantastic.
As I walk into the venue, opening act Great Cynics are just starting. They’re by no means bad, running through their fairly enjoyable indie punk with a nice sense of youthful abandon and a genuine sense of three friends having a good time, but their songwriting is nothing to get excited about and by the time their set was over their impact on the room seemed largely forgotten. Almost immediately after the end of their set, people began to move forwards towards the stage in anticipation of the second band on the bill, St Louis’ own Foxing. The transition between bands feels slightly strange, as musically Great Cynics have far more in common with headliners Tigers Jaw than Foxing do, but the sense of excitement in the room speaks for itself as the band prepare to perform.
Live, Foxing don’t simply perform their songs, they produce vast waves of sound that crash into the audience with both ferocious impact and ethereal beauty. Every member seems to completely throw themselves into their performance from the moment it begins, giving their melancholic indie rock a whole new level of intensity. The post-rock influences in their sound are brought to the forefront as every song becomes elevated by the rawness of their live playing, bathed in an ocean of guitar noise and effects pedals. What’s more, not of a second of it felt rehearsed or put on – frontman Connor Murphy emanates shyness as much as he does passion on stage, humbly thanking the audience, the other bands on the bill and their tour manager between nearly every song. Although their set is criminally cut short to four songs, performing only ‘Inuit’, ‘The Medic’ and ‘Rory’ from their 2013 debut The Albatross and one new song from their forthcoming follow-up effort, the band manage to achieve more in this brief time than most bands can in a whole tour.
Following up a performance like this is not something many bands are capable of, and enjoyable as Tigers Jaw are, for me at least they are not one of them. It’s not that they don’t get a good reaction from the crowd – this seems to start well and continue to get better over the course of the night, with dozens of teenagers throwing themselves off the stage onto each other and several songs managing to bring the whole room together. The problem here for me simply lies in the lack of any real conviction on stage. It’s as if the band are on autopilot – other than treading through their setlist, beginning with ‘The Sun’ and working through much of 2014’s Charmer as well as some of the best from their self-titled record up to an encore of ‘I Saw Water’, the band fail to give much else to their audience.
It would be easy to argue that the songs speak for themselves here, and that’s definitely true, but following the sheer force of Foxing, Tigers Jaw’s set feels a little lacklustre and uninspired. Also, where the former used the sound of the venue to take their music to the next level, for some reason the Brudenell seems to have robbed Tigers Jaw of some of the warm vibrant glow that made their sound so appealing to me on record. Good, but theirs is not the stand-out performance of the night by any means.
Words by Joe Gilbertson.