LIVE: John Coffey/ We Never Learned To Live/ His & Hers @ Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton

By Dave Bull

Festival warm up shows are a strange one, particularly when the band play a night during the festival to play a gig, in John Coffey’s case in the wonderfully intimate Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar in Brighton, when surely a huge swath of their supporters were pitching up amongst 2000 trees.

And this was unfortunately the case as there were precisely 24 people at any one time, and this included the eight or so from the support bands. However, John Coffey produced a performance more fitting of a house party and it was a genuinely superb and incredibly enjoyable evening.

Both support bands offered something quite different. His & Hers take Enter Shikari’s shorts to a new level, with a reasonably erotic amount of upper thigh on show from their frontman as he danced and gyrated around like a junked up disco queen. The drummer was something else as well, noted by David Achter de Molen later in their set as ‘the best drummer’ he’d seen in a long while . His And Hers possess a boundless energy and likeability that mark them as ones to watch.

We Never Learned To Live provide a completely different kind of experience, a more melodic post-rock sound with some chunky riffs and a couple of absolute world beater songs give this band a similar sized plinth of meteoric potential. The vocalist could give it some more ‘Umph’ and try to work on his awkard-ish on-stage persona, partly due to his particularly tall physique in what is a particularly low ceilinged venue, but a more engaging front-man would win them more plaudits.  However, musically, they provide a sonic barrage of intricate guitar, building walls of enjoyable energy that buzz through you, and vocally provide a fantastic range which pays homage to Holy Roar’s capture.

John Coffey deliver a set of punk rock energy, boundless comradery and a party mentality that knows no bounds. This is exceptional, given that there are so few punters through the doors. They possess this immense ability to, despite the lack of crowd, build a tension and energy found in venues with over a thousand people watching. This is some attribute, and is helped by both the band’s ease on stage, but also their barrage of rolling beats and pure party anthems. Hits off the new record ‘Eagle Chasing Flies’ and ‘Broke Neck’ go down a storm and there is even a wall of death which possesses admirable vigour and substance, as well as impromptu and hilarious crowd surfing renditions (essentially, someone holding their friends to the 7ft high ceiling whilst they scramble along the lighting rig).

The band manage to entertain throughout, positioning themselves within the crowd for most of the set, Achter de Molen leaving the room with his microphone and singing from the stairs and a punter who could only have been a friend or music industry ‘someone’ who insists on being that extra band member they probably never asked for, providing drinks and even being  floored and kissed by Achter de Molen on the mouth for what felt like a painfully awkward two minutes or so.

It’s a shame that more didn’t turn out for what is always a genuinely great evening with John Coffey, but despite this the Dutch exports provide enough entertainment to send the twenty or so revellers off in to chilly Brighton night, ears ringing, safe in the knowledge that although it won’t go down in the history books, it was a gig of determined showmanship and one which portrayed an array of emerging and current talent in the genre.