I’m not going to beat around the bush here or pretend that I am anything other than an ENORMOUS …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead fan. Because I’m a super fan, as I have been since around about the age of 14. At a similar point in my life, Rival Schools were intercepting my music radar with appearances on MTV2 – my major point of reference for ‘alternative’ music at the time. Many, many things have changed in the 10 years since then, but what hasn’t is my unfaltering adoration of …Trail of Dead, so when the opportunity arose to see them on a co-headline tour with Rival Schools, of course I was first in the queue.
The two headliners tonight are joined by Japanese Voyeurs, a rowdy five piece from London. Unfortunately, the sound in the venue is quite poor for their set, all bass guitar and cymbals. Singer Romily Alice has a Daisy Chainsaw-esque style – high and childlike, juxtaposing the thundering guitars around her. Their sound is dark, heavy and powerful, a breed of rock that isn’t particularly ‘en vogue’ at the moment, but which this band certainly seem to have the energy and fervour to try and reinstate.
Next up are Rival Schools. Reforming in 2008 after a hiatus of a few years, the band released their highly anticipated follow up to 2001′s United By Fate in March after a mere 10 year gap. Tonight is the band’s chance to impress with tracks from Pedals, and songs such as ‘Wring It Out’ and ‘Eyes Wide Open’ go down well. The set’s best received songs, however, are certainly those from their debut, with ‘Travel by Telephone’ and ‘Good Things’ attracting squeals of excitement from boys and girls alike in the audience. There are a few shows of camaraderie with their tour mates as Rival Schools, on numerous occasions attempt to crack out a cover of …Trail of Dead’s ‘Relative Ways’. They’ve more or less perfected the intro, but apparently not yet learnt the rest of the tune – it’s quite a touching gesture in any case. To finish up, singer and guitarist Walter Schreifels hands his guitar to the tech in order to “be able to do some real front man shit”, as the band bursts into crowd favourite and ultimate Rival Schools tune, ‘Used For Glue’. The crowd’s reaction is extremely vocal throughout their entire set, with adoring fans reminiscing about the band’s effect over their teenage selves and lapping up the chance to see them on stage again.
The final band of the evening, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s moment finally arrives. Entering the stage to their traditional ‘Ode To Isis’ theme, the group charge into ‘Strange News’ from latest album Tao of the Dead. It’s a ferocious set tonight, delivered by a notably stripped back band. Previous tours have seen the group take to the stage with two drummers, keys players, extra guitarists, all adding to the sense of chaos that …Trail of Dead are renowned to bring to their shows. Tonight doesn’t feel mellow by any means, but in comparison, does seem to be a little less manic. The band tear through a set including the gorgeous ‘How Near, How Far’, the theatrical ‘Will You Smile Again?’ and the full version of ‘Relative Ways’ that Rival Schools so valiantly attempted earlier. Although it feels like the crowd take a little longer to warm up for this band than for Rival Schools, there’s no question as to who the majority of the audience are here to see. An impassioned set from a band which, even on a tour supporting their seventh full length album, aren’t showing any signs of quietening down.
With a hoarse throat and a left ear drum that, I’m pretty sure has finally been murdered, I join the hoards to leave the O2 Academy. A lot has changed during the past 10 years, but both of tonight’s headlining bands have shown that they’re still here, as loud, as frenetic and as brilliant as ever. My 14 year old self would have bought a t-shirt, my 24 year old self is wise enough to know they’re hideously overpriced. I did nick a poster though…some things don’t change.