Real Friends – Thekla, Bristol, 13/04/17

Image result for real friends band
This show was originally scheduled to take place on the 16th of December, with support from With Confidence and Knuckle Puck. Unfortunately it was postponed due to Dan Lambton – frontman of Real Friends – struggling with mental health issues and seeking help, and the original support acts were unavailable to perform the rescheduled dates.
I’m actually quite grateful that this show was pushed back. Instead of seeing With Confidence playing a short opening set I was able to attend the Bristol date of their headline tour, and I discovered Microwave and Can’t Swim: two bands that I’d heard of before, but hadn’t really listened to.

Microwave were the perfect replacement for With Confidence. Their expertly blended pop-punk sits on the heavier end of the spectrum, and when vocalist Nathan Hardy began verging on screaming in the middle of ‘Trash Stains’ he effortlessly grabbed the attention of every person in the room.
This was their first UK tour, but it’s definitely not going to be their last. A remarkable amount of people were singing along to every word, pushing to get closer to the band and moshing without restraint despite their early stage time.
They’re obviously comfortable in front of a crowd, easily joking around and making the entire room chuckle when Nathan said that “Can’t Swim almost had to drop this show, because they were a little bit afraid of being on the boat!”.
Closing song ‘Vomit’ was the highlight of their set. As the climax of the song approached, the band split the vocal duties, roaring into the microphone on the repetitive “There’s nowhere else, nobody else, nothing”, the emotive performance so powerful that it sent chills down my spine.
If Microwave can perform a set like that on their first UK tour, I can’t wait until they announce some headline shows and return to our shores. Until then, I’m going to be playing debut album ‘Stovall’ on repeat. 

Setlist:
Trash Stains
Busy
Drown
Lighterless
Dull
But Not Often
Stovall
Vomit

Can’t Swim were the only band on the line-up that I couldn’t connect with. Frontman Chris LoPorto’s vocal was so gravelly that it sounded like he needed to clear his throat, and it grated on my nerves during most of their eight-song set.
There were a couple of exceptions, the most notable being ‘Stranger’. It’s catchy “Oh god, I always felt like you were such a stranger” chorus sparked the interest of the previously passive audience members and a few people started dancing along, but for the majority of the set the crowd were standing in polite indifference. When comparing their set with the response that Microwave received it would have made more sense if they’d been the main support for this tour, but closer ‘Your Clothes’ ended with a bang worthy of a headliner. If the entire set had been as strong as those two songs, it would have been hard to beat their performance.
Can’t Swim have only been a band for two years, so it’s impressive that they’ve already landed themselves such a lucrative support slot. It’ll be a while until they can headline a venue of this size, but hopefully they’ll get better with experience.

Setlist:
What’s Your Big Idea
Come Home
$50,000,000
Stranger
Right Choice
Hey Amy
We Won’t Sleep
Your Clothes

This was Real Friends first time playing a show on a boat, and they were a tad excited about it.
After screaming about nautical circle pits and recommending The Lonely Island’s ‘I’m On a Boat’, vocalist Dan Lambton asked the audience “How many bands do you see here that make it a point of saying they’re on a boat?”, grinning proudly at the exasperated groan he got in return. “Well, I don’t give a fuck what anyone else says, this is our first time on a boat!”
It must have been a first for the boat, too, because there aren’t often shows this raucous on Thekla. You couldn’t keep track of the amount of crowd surfers sailing over people’s heads, coming to a stop on the stage to sing a few lines with Dan before diving back into the action. This is a band that matters deeply to their fans, and with relatable songs such as ‘Summer’ and ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ it’s impossible not to yell the words and let your emotions loose.
‘Mokena’ was a particularly powerful moment. It may be one of their most stripped back songs, but the “I’m fucking up, and getting over it/I’m over it” chant had every person in the room shouting the lyrics back at the top of their lungs. Yes, it’s simple, but it’s bloody effective.
Last year’s ‘The Home Inside My Head’ showed a huge development for Real Friends, both musically and lyrically, but every song seemed equally adored by the energetic audience at this sold out show. It doesn’t matter if they appeared on one of the various EPs that the band released at the start of their career, or their debut album ‘Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing’ – they were all received enthusiastically, and there wasn’t a moment in this set that fell flat. It’ll be exciting to see what Real Friends do next: they have upcoming tours in the US and Mexico, and then will presumably start work on their third full-length.

As I mentioned earlier, this show was meant to have happened back in December. Dan bravely opened up when the show was originally rescheduled, and he wasn’t afraid to continue the conversation about mental health during the show. “I want you to know mental health is not a fucking joke,” he began, just before the band started their two song encore. He shared that he’s “not 100% there, but [he’s] working on it”, before telling the crowd “Please, go get help. I implore you. […] Take a chance. Because if you stay where you are now, it’s not going to plateau. It’s going to get lower and lower, and I want you to get higher and higher.” With the crowd cheering throughout his speech and applauding furiously, it’s obvious that they appreciate Dan’s advice and his honesty: he’s an inspirational man.

Setlist:
Empty Picture Frames
Colder Quicker
Loose Ends
Floorboards
Late Nights In My Car
Mokena
Lost Boy
Old Book
…And We’re Just Changing
Stay In One Place
…Maybe This Place Is The Same
I Don’t Love You Anymore
Dead
Keep Lying To Me
Anchor Down
Mess

I’ve Given Up On You
Summer