LIVE: La Dispute/Title Fight at Relentless Garage, London [20/09/12]

By Lais

The anticipation for tonight’s gig is obvious as soon as the extensive queue outside of the normally reserved London venue is witnessed. This is the only show in the UK on the fourteen date European tour which sees the Michigan wave outfit La Dispute and the Pennsylvanian punkers Title Fight share the headline accolade, and fans are well aware of how special tickets to this sold out show have become. Since the release of the tickets back in May, La Dispute tore through an epic mid-afternoon set at Download Festival closing on the much-loved but rarely played ‘King Park’, while Title Fight moved further into grunge territory with the release of new album ‘Floral Green’. Bringing with them two of the most exciting names in new-wave US punk, this is certainly not a night to be missed.

Unfortunately for reasons out of our control, Punktastic only manage to catch the final three songs from the early Into It. Over It set. The minimal crowd suggests that the “four bands in as many hours” line-up might be slightly ambitious for tonight’s venue. That said Evan Thomas Weiss appears impressively on form, playing stripped down acoustic versions of various tracks from his expanding back-catalogue. Weiss asks the growing crowd whether they were expecting a full band before explaining the solo nature of the creation of recent release ‘Proper’. The songs are clearly written to be enjoyed on an acoustic guitar in addition to a full band accompaniment, and the pitch perfect (disregarding one frustrating ‘voice breaking’ moment) vocals mesmerize those closest to the stage. A solo rendition of Stay Ahead of the Weather’s ‘No Sleep Till Humboldt’ sounds particularly unique in tonight’s setting.

After an impressively short changeover, Make Do and Mend take to the stage immediately powering into ‘Unknowingly Strong’. With only time for six tracks, the band focuses predominantly on offerings from their most recent release ‘Everything You Ever Loved’. Unfortunately the songs do not translate as well to a live environment as their previous album resulting in a somewhat monotonous atmosphere. The lack of movement by the band members onstage does not help to awaken the performance. For tracks that sound massive on record Make Do and Mend need to work on injecting the honesty into the live performance. The penultimate ‘St Anne’ does offer the crowd an opportunity to sing-along, yet the lacklustre nature of the performance has infected the motionless audience by this point.

The first of the co-headliners, Title Fight, arrive on stage to a typically disorganised mess. The vocals are non-existent for the first two songs as the sound crew desperately scramble with microphones in order to solve the problem. During this time the band continue blasting through ‘Safe in Your Skin’ and ‘Shed’ while seemingly the entire audience is jumping on and off the stage. Once the vocals are sorted the band move into grungier territory, taking cues from the early 90s with tracks such as ‘Secret Society’ and ‘Head in a Ceiling Fan’. The retrospective outlook of the new sound permeates through the older songs resulting in an unquestionable amateur feel to the performance. Vocals from both Russin and Rhoden feel strained at times; the latter in particular falling flat on a significant number of notes. The DIY nature supports the ethos of the band yet the craftsmanship remains slightly short of the mark to pull it off tonight.

It is clear that the co-headline element has been disregarded by a large proportion of the audience; tonight La Dispute are the undisputed headliners. The band eccentrically delivers a selection of tracks from ‘Wildlife’ and ‘Somewhere at the Bottom of the River between Vega and Altair’. There isn’t a moment where the band fall out of synch, playing in perfect harmony and allowing frontman Dreyer to lead the proceedings. The careful switch between old and new material works well with the audience – ‘Said the King to the River’ proves a particular favourite, as does the first ever live performance of ‘St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues’. Unsurprisingly it is fan favourite and set closer ‘King Park’ that allows the Garage to explode.

La Dispute clearly take the crown at tonight’s gig, and deservedly so. All band members appear elated throughout their set and feed off an impressive crowd reaction. Their ability to play in time and the unique vocal style of the frontman push the music into unchartered territory, with tonight seeing them at the top of their game. It proves an unsurpassed end to an otherwise disappointing affair.