Live Music + Gig Reviews

¡Forward, Russia! + iLiKETRAiNS @ Barfly, Cardiff

24 February 2006

This is how it should be. Cardiff Barfly is packed to the rafters, cramped, sweaty, and the beer is flowing. Even the dingiest corners of this seedy, but ever-brilliant venue host swathes of expectant music heads discussing musical politics whilst their pints slosh round in their plastic caskets as people fall into each other.

Then onto the cramped stage bounded (literally) one of the hotly tipped bands of 2006, to a soundtrack of ultimately cheesy ’80s synth rock (which the singer would later inform me was culled from the Transformers soundtrack). Ladies and Gentleman, ¡Forward, Russia! were about to blow us away.

Setting the scene for ¡Forward, Russia! was iLiKETRAiNS whose ethereal, moody rock (think Editors meets Explosions In The Sky) was impressive and well received. And they all had matching black jackets sporting the National Rail logo on the sleeves.Cool.

Anyway, back to the headliners. Their name has been spread lavishly across the music industry of late. Their danceable, spiky, anxious rock enticing quite a following, even before their debut album has even neared the horizon.

They jumped head first into their set with the transcendent Thirteen, marking the Barfly stage as their own early on. As the song drew to a close, vocalist Tom, somewhat arrogantly sneered at the crowd before saying, “Don’t you dance in Wales?” Before anyone could formulate an answer the band had plunged full throttle into recent single, Twelve.

As the set progressed it became gleamingly obvious that what was happening in front of us was pretty special. Even technical difficulties with Whiskas’ guitar during the opening songs couldn’t phase the quartet who were now dominating Barfly. Once it was fixed he defined the moment by jumping aloft the speakers stage right and reciting a prickly guitar solo ¡Forward, Russia! style.

Now, this might not seem like such a big deal if you’re playing a massive stadium concert or something, but when Whiskas was on top of the speakers in the Cardiff Barfly, he was leaning right over the crowd, head jammed right up against the ceiling, pissing himself.It prompted many in the crowd to film it on their phones.

Tom on vocals was perfect throughout. His schizophrenic voice matched only by his spasmodic fitting on stage. Writhing around like a madman, cocooning himself in the lead that trailed from his saliva soaked, sweat soaked microphone. The guy’s a maniac, but what a voice. There was some nice crowd interaction too – Tom asked “Anyway, what did you think of our support?” prompting Whiskas to scream into his microphone; “I like fucking trains!” In hindsight, he probably could have phrased it better, but the crowd knew what he meant as shouts of “I like trains!” echoed all around.

And that was it. Before you knew it – “This is our last song”. Eleven. An apocalyptic slab of edgy, bitter rock. No Fourteen then, but leaving slightly disappointed over songs that weren’t played shows how far the gang from Leeds have already come.

Brilliant songs, tight as anything, a front man who had the crowd in the palm of his hand. They looked like they were loving it on stage with their matching ‘¡!’ t-shirts. They owned the Barfly. How can something so dirty be so musically cleansing?

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More on Forward Russia
Wolfmother + ¡Forward, Russia! + Fields + The Maccabees @ University, Leeds
¡Forward, Russia! + iLiKETRAiNS @ Barfly, Cardiff
The Best Of ’05 As Chosen By The Best Of ’06: ¡Forward, Russia!