Bridge and Tunnel / OK Pilot - live in Birmingham (Cover Artwork)

Bridge and Tunnel / OK Pilot

live in Birmingham (2009)

live show

Situated by the canal, with a large outdoor deck full of picnic tables, you might wonder if you were at the right place for a punk rock gig, as The Flapper seems, from the outside, like a friendly family pub. But go inside and down a flight of stairs and you'll find yourself in the kind of sweatbox venue that ALWAYS makes for a fun and intimate gig. And for his first gig at the venue, promoter Kev (representing the West Midlands DIY Collective) has clearly started as he means to go on, booking a frankly brilliant lineup for the night.

First up were Brighton's Breaking the Habit, who played a short but quite impressive set of fast melodic punk rock with all three non-seated members contributing vocals. However, they'd clearly been saving their best for last, closing their set with "CxWxP" (which you can hear on their MySpace page), an upbeat Latterman-esque song with some massive vocal harmonies. They even successfully pulled off an a capella ending (which I've seen few bands manage without it sounding really cheesy). All in all, a cracking start to the procedings.

Next to take the stage were Manchester's the Cost of Living, who were here to show us what Descendents would sound like with a female singer -- pretty damn good, apparently! Vocalist Ruth, whilst possessing a rather awkward stage presence, clearly knew her way around some fantastic pop melodies, which were made even more intense when the guitarist (whose melodic riffs and mini-solos betray a huge Steven Egerton influence) chimed in with some gruff harmonies.

My first thought when OK Pilot burst into their first song was, "Holy shit, this sounds like Glass and Ashes!" For a three-piece, they've got a hell of a stage presence, and they certainly brew up an impressive shitstorm of kinetic noise, with a few hints at melodies here and there, and some insane drumming carrying it all along. Judging by the sound of their recordings, they've not quite harnessed their live intensity in the studio yet, but the second they do, as their set amply demonstrates, they'll be un-fucking-stoppable.

I should mention at this point that Bridge and Tunnel's set at last year's Fest ranks among the best live performances I've ever seen, musical or otherwise. The passion and intensity the band showed throughout the whole set was unbelievable, and I spent most of the gig staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the stage. This time, knowing a few more of the words than I did six months ago, I was able to sing/scream along to some parts of the songs, but otherwise found myself similarly transfixed, and a quick glance around the venue revealed that I wasn't the only one. The highlights of the set, for me, were some particularly feral renditions of "Night Owls," "Dear Sir" and "Wartime Souvenirs," with Rachel, Tia and Jeff screaming and/or singing each and every word as if their lives hung in the balance, and Pat beating the ever-living shit out of his drums. There are few bands out there who put as much effort and palpable emotion into their music, lyrics and shows as Bridge and Tunnel, and so I'd urge you, if you get a chance to see them live, do NOT miss it.