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 thisseedy, but ever-brilliant venue host swathes of expectant music headsdiscussing musical politics whilst their pints slosh round in their plasticcaskets as people fall into each other.

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

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

Anyway, back to the headliners. Their name has been spread lavishlyacross the music industry of late. Their danceable, spiky, anxious rockenticing quite a following, even before their debut album has even nearedthe 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’tyou 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 washappening in front of us was pretty special. Even technical difficultieswith Whiskas’ guitar during the opening songs couldn’t phase the quartet who were now dominating Barfly. Once it was fixed he defined themoment by jumping aloft the speakers stage right and reciting a pricklyguitar solo ¡Forward, Russia! style.

Now, this might not seem like such abig deal if you’re playing a massive stadium concert or something, but whenWhiskas was on top of the speakers in the Cardiff Barfly, he was leaning rightover 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 matchedonly 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 didyou think of our support?” prompting Whiskas to scream into hismicrophone; “I like fucking trains!” In hindsight, he probably could havephrased it better, but the crowd knew what he meant as shouts of “I liketrains!” echoed all around.

And that was it. Before you knew it – “This is our last song”. Eleven. Anapocalyptic slab of edgy, bitter rock. No Fourteen then, but leavingslightly 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 palmof his hand. They looked like they were loving it on stage with theirmatching ‘¡!’ t-shirts. They owned the Barfly. How can something so dirty be somusically cleansing?

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