Review by Ian Paget
Despite being a long way from home and on a seemingly never-ending run of tour dates, US trio Weakened Friends arrive in Birmingham with all the fresh energy of a band loving life on the road. With a DIY edge and sonic nods to the poppier side of 90s grunge, the band showcase their debut album ‘Common Blah’ beginning with snarling opener ‘Peel’ which draws comparisons to Veruca Salt thanks largely to singer/guitarist Sonia Sturino’s fiery vocals. ‘Early’ on the other hand recalls the melodic sensibilities of early Smashing Pumpkins whilst ’95’ and ‘Common Blah’ introduce a pop-punk feel which seems to suit animated bassist Annie, who bounces around non-stop for the majority of the set with a huge smile on her face, with the ironically upbeat ‘Miserable’ a joyous exercise.
Sonia’s quite upfront about how much of a buzz the band get from shows like this, telling the crowd “this is our favourite thing in the world to do, so to come to a place we’ve never been to and do this with you all on a Monday night is fucking awesome” before taking a breather to joke about the new royal baby, their thoughts on the US president (“he sucks!”) and TV habits on tour.
As well as tracks from the album, the band delve a little deeper for EP track ‘Blankets’, with ‘Hate Mail’ and the scuzzy ‘Not Doing Good’ also proving to be highlights late in the set before coming to a close with the angsty ‘Honestly’. Facing calls for an encore, Sonia jokes with a straight face that she’s concerned about missing the beginning of Law & Order on TV at their hotel, but agrees to play one more brand new song which brings all of the elements in Weakened Friends’ sound together.
Wolverhampton’s Methods support with a synth-driven take on the darker end of post-punk such as Joy Division and Bauhaus, but with a distinctly modern twist. Tracks like ‘Future Demons’ show a satisfyingly confident band who create a moody atmosphere with panoramic guitars and an engaging frontman in expressive vocalist Ash, who is a little like Peter Gabriel with a healthy dose of punk spirit. By the time the band finish with the soaring ‘No Cover’, it all just clicks into place and fans of Editors and Slow Readers Club will find a lot to love about Methods.
First on tonight are Whitelight, a Birmingham guitar/drums duo who inevitably fall into the riff-based mould of acts like Royal Blood, but with a pleasing unpredictability that makes things interesting. So where the garage-rock sound of ‘Working Land’ might feature a bluesy guitar solo, tracks like ‘Bucks Fizz’ trade on big riffs before cleverly breaking down into a quiet section and then building back up for an explosive finale. High-powered closer ‘Killing Machine’ twists and turns with both members providing vocal harmonies and is the peak of their short but enjoyable set.