LIVE: Bob Vylan @ Tunbridge Wells Forum

By Aaron Jackson

Finally, time for a proper sweaty punk rock show. And where better to host it than a former public toilet, in a place headliners Bob Vylan less-than-fondly dub the “armpit of England”?

The evening’s proceedings begin with an endearing and energetic performance from local three-piece Bruise. Although the crowd is initially sparse and scattered, the Maidstone boys do a fantastic job making enough of a racket to draw punters in, and by the time they amble off stage, the audience is itching for more noise.

Enter Manchester four-piece Witch Fever – a tour-de-force representing anger and empowerment. Vocalist Amy Walpole delivers an especially dominant performance as she refuses to be bound to the stage, freely marauding around the entirety of Tunbridge Wells Forum which, by this point, is suitably packed out. Their fearless attitude is backed by an expertly delivered set, demonstrably earning them a host of new fans; ‘Bully Boy’ leaves a particularly lasting impression as Walpole expresses her disgust towards the treatment of women in the music industry. Bowing out with new lead single ‘Reincarnate’, this set is a statement of intent from a band that are just getting started. If the live performances of this new material are anything to go by, their forthcoming debut EP will be one of the standout releases of this year. Don’t miss out.

The tone is set for the main event as vocalist Bobby Vylan and drummer Bobb13 Vylan take to the stage with ‘Down’. Fuelled by anger and a healthy dose of venom yet skulking in pace, this is just a taste of things to come. Then, wasting little time in getting people moving, the duo kick things off properly with ‘I Heard You Want Your Country Back’, sending the crowd into nothing short of a frenzy. What follows is perhaps the biggest cheer of the night, as front man Bobby Vylan introduces ‘England’s Ending’ by announcing that “this country’s in need of a fucking spanking”.

A testament to the quality of this year’s LP ‘We Live Here’, it’s the songs taken from this record that receive the warmest reception from the crowd. The quickfire run of ‘Northern Line’, ‘Save Yourself’ and ‘CSGB’ fly by in a flash, with barely enough time to draw a breath. That said, the energy never falters for one second, and Bob Vylan don’t miss a beat. A highlight in their discography, ‘Pulled Pork’ sees Bobby unflinchingly calling out the London Met as he struts across his stage with a custom branded baseball bat. His intensity infectious and conviction convincing, Bobby hits a home run.

The vehemence doesn’t let up as the band dedicate their next song, ‘We Don’t Care (It Ain’t Safe)’, to all the “fucking yuppies” that hike up the price of living in London. Their message is heard loud and clear across the room with the refrain of “we don’t care, go home” being impossible to ignore or misinterpret.

Bob Vylan also give the audience a little taste of what’s soon to come with a performance of new track ‘Pretty Songs’. Starting off sickly sweet and totally, but deliberately, unsuited to the band’s usual dynamic, it isn’t long before they detonate into a more familiarly explosive performance; the soft verses that so starkly juxtapose everything else the duo do only help the heavier parts hit even harder.

Cries for fan favourite ‘Merch Stand’ are answered with the penultimate song of the set. With no signs of their stamina depleting, the duo continue to rip through at an unrelenting pace – and seeing the evening close out with a stage invasion during ‘We Live Here’ truly is one of those “nature is healing” moments. Live music is back and, with this tour, Witch Fever and Bob Vylan have delivered a raucous reminder of why it had been so sorely missed.


Click here to see the gallery from Brudenell Social Club, Leeds