As far as lineups at the Underworld go, it doesn't get much better than this: no crappy openers, no stupid inappropriate bands that don't fit in (like Flobots supporting Rise Against)--just the best modern melodic punk available.
The Arteries started early, but the number of people already there hinted at the exuberance to come. These boys have been rising through the UK underground for a while now, and this was my first time seeing them. Propagandhi-meets-NOFX-style riffs with manic Welsh energy made new fans of many, and even though they don't yet have the popularity to really set the venue off, openers don't get much better, with driving and catchy songs like "Major Threat" getting even people at the back bobbing their heads.
The only band I'd never heard on the bill was Title Fight, who apparently had never played London before. Despite looking like they were 12-years-old, and my focus being on the beer rather than the pit at this point, the guys made the crowd go absolutely insane. Sounding like a cross between slurry pop-punk and Cruel Hand-style hardcore, their powerhouse of a set filled the venue to the brim with adrenaline and passion.
Beered up and ready to go, I pushed down to the stage for my first experience of Shook Ones, who in no way disappointed. It's clear now that the band can't only be described as Kid Dynamite/Lifetime ripoffs--a lot of this sound remains, but the song structures and overall feel are becoming much more their own beast.
Sweaty but not finished yet, the palpable excitement built for the seemingly unstoppable Polar Bear Club. At Reading Festival last year, only a cluster of hardcore fans sang along to them while the rest of us nodded approvingly at Jimmy Stadt's passion and his band's tight, unpredictable rhythms. This time, the ever-expanding fanbase built up through touring, word-of-mouth and last year's Chasing Hamburg pressed toward the front of the stage. I can only assume those on the balcony enjoyed themselves, as all eyes were on the band. On record, I have felt PBC to be repetitive at times, particularly on their first full-length. Live, however, it's clear that the boys' new record has given them a wealth of varied and powerful material to draw from. Opening with the catchy and sing-alongable "Living Saints," it's clear from the start that this was to be a special and memorable set. Stage-diving and fists in the air blanketed the air, Stadt's enthusiasm and boyish joy feeding off of and into the crowd. The midway powerhouse "See the Wind," perhaps the band's Bridge 9yist "hardcore" song, was perhaps the highlight--the end of the night marred only by some drunk guy being knocked out right in front of the band. Fortunately, this wasn't a Limp Bizkit show; everyone gave him space, security took him out back, and the band thanked everyone before rounding off with a final song.
Overall, a fantastic show in a part of the scene I still feel is uncorrupted by fashion and bullshit--just four great, strikingly individual bands doing it for the music and taking everyone along for the ride. If the only bad point in a show is caused by someone other than the bands, you know it's a good one.