LIVE: Boston Manor / Modern Error / Gender Roles @ Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes

By Yasmin Brown

There’s no better place for a rock gig than a pub. Said no one. Ever. And yet somehow, tonight, that statement is entirely true. 

Before the show even starts, you know it’s going to be utter carnage. If you’ve ever seen Boston Manor perform live before, you’ll know full well that crowd surfing, circle pits, and walls of death are persistently encouraged throughout the show, and without a barrier between floor and stage (meaning no room for security), this is going to be one manic evening.

Boston Manor crowds rarely need warming up, but if they did, Gender Roles and Modern Error would be the bands to do it. The humorous yet caring banter of alternative rockers Gender Roles and the dark, brooding shouts of rock band Modern Error are all this crowd needs to loosen up and prepare themselves for the chaos that’s about to ensue. 

It goes like this:

Band takes to stage. Band plays song. Crowd goes absolutely fucking mental.

No time is wasted here. Just seconds after Boston Manor starts playing opening song, ‘Liquid’ – their collaboration with Trophy Eyes’ frontman John Floreani (sadly sans Floreani) – bodies are in the air. Well. Half in the air. This is a pub, after all. While it’s a sold out show, there’s still only capacity for 250 bodies, and with five of them in the air and another four on stage at any one time, your chances of managing to crowd surf all the way to the front without falling are about 1 in 20. 

While at many venues, crowd surfers will find themselves being hauled over the barricade by security and led safely to the side, tonight’s venue lacks both a barricade and visible security, meaning that any crowd surfers end up on stage facing no other option than to stage dive back into the mayhem below. All the while, Boston Manor make their way through track after incredible track without skipping a beat, laughing as fans slip and trip off the stage, face planting onto the crowd, delighted at the sight before them.

This is so much more than a band playing to their fans. Tonight forges a connection between everyone in the room (metaphorically, yes, but also physically every time a foot connects with a face), and it shows the trust that Boston Manor place in their fans by encouraging them to jump on stage. It allows us to not just attend the show but really experience it and become a part of it. This band is insanely talented, and their energy highlights that they so clearly love what they do, but if they were to play the same songs in the same way without encouraging the accompanying ruckus, they simply would not be as great as they are.

Despite a short pause to promote respect in the pit, the show otherwise runs without fault. The passion that exudes from the band is reflected in the fans, with every word being screamed back at them until throats are hoarse, and even then – immersed in a cesspit of sweat, beer, and other unidentified yet definitely unpleasant scents overwhelming our nostrils – we continue. What might be most impressive over the entire evening, however, is how through the madness, frontman Henry Cox maintains faultless vocals, hitting every note even when there are so many fans on stage that there are almost too few people left on the floor to actually catch them as they dive. 

It sounds violent, and frankly at times it is, but whenever someone falls, there are instantly a handful of attendees rushing to pick them up. There’s an understanding in this insanity – a level of mutual respect – that makes it a safe space. Boston Manor have created a family, and as the final two songs – fan favourites ‘Laika’ and ‘Halo’ – play out, you’d be hard pressed not to find yourself tearing up at what you’ve experienced over the past couple of hours, and the community you have come to find yourself feeling a part of.

This band is just getting started, but it would be a genuine surprise if they weren’t still making waves when the next decade draws to a close.