LIVE: Bloody Knees / Abattoir Blues / Birdskulls / Broadbay @ Sebright Arms, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

Tonight, the Sebright Arms is taken over with modern emo vibes galore: flannel shirts, expensive pints and cheap roll ups as far as the eye can see. Having supported Wolf Alice in 2016, with a handful of shows plotted in-between, it only feels right that Cambridge grungers Bloody Knees kick their new year off in an intimate setting.

First to hit the stage are dream punk masters, Broadbay, bringing their pleasant yet loud as hell pop tunes to the basement venue. While they’ve self imposed the ‘slop pop’ label upon themselves, their performance is anything but sloppy, providing gutsy, hard driven power chord riffs garnished with big choruses. Essentially they are channelling what Yuck used to be in 2011 and pulling it off successfully. Seeing their drummer Bill Wood pull off such delicate harmonies while retaining tight drum fills is very impressive to say the least. It’s a short but sweet set for the Brighton trio, bringing their DIY love from Brighton via Northampton to a welcoming audience.

The next offering on the bill comes from Birdskulls, bringing grittiness and headbanging action into room. The trio’s reluctance to play ‘Ghost World’ and ‘Poltergeist’ is a bit of a disappointing revelation, but it’s also nice to see a band be so confident with showcasing their new material. Vocalist/guitarist Jack Pulman apologises for the lack of merch tonight, but this dosen’t stop a lone fan representing a Birdskulls longsleeve, galavanting around the room and starting a one man mosh pit to ‘Good Enough’. Pulman sneers with its final chorus ‘I don’t wanna go to bed’, and thats a good thing, it’s only nine o clock and there’s a lot more fun to be had here.

As if two Brighton based bands weren’t enough for you, Abattoir Blues change the mood for tonight with their far more melancholic set of anthems. Instead of being a trifecta of energy, they move caustically as a unit, with brooding, atmospheric riffs, channeling the angst felt on tracks such as ‘Fading’ and ‘Sense’. Frontman Harry Waugh’s vocal range in particular is incredibly nuanced, yet cathartic when it needs to be over punishing psych riffs. By now the one man push pit as seen earlier mutates into a full on room participation, with audience members jumping on their friends, eager to get the last mic grab in. Ending on top form, you’d be surprised that Abattoir Blues weren’t the headliners if not for the strict set times imposed this evening.

Clocking in at 10:30 pm, Bloody Knees make their way onto the stage, plunging into ‘Stitches’ as if it were 2014 all over again. Of course, with new material being teased along the way, their 2016 single ‘I Want It All’ is lapped up with glee, with it’s sleazy riffs bringing about yet more push pits and stage dive mayhem. There’s even a crew member with a camcorder stands at the side of the stage to capture all the madness. There’s very few bands that can keep their pop sentiments intact while building up a dirty wall of noise, but in a live setting that’s exactly what Bloody Knees do. Their material flows together effortlessly, and fan favourites such as ‘Daydream’ and ‘Never Change’ have only gotten better with age. The set finishes just as promptly as it started but it’s rare to see such a young band perform so impeccably, alongside every other band on the bill smashing every expectation.