LIVE: PUP / Solids / Shit Present @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

By Matthew Wilson

It’s coming towards the end of PUP’s set at the Brudenell and another stage-diver careens headlong into the venue’s floor. Frontman Steven Babcock’s seen this all before, so he pulls no punches. “Hey guys,” he says in between songs, “you’re really into crowd-surfing, but you fucking suck at it. Here’s a hint, gravity wins.” The crowd cheers at this admission of their mediocrity and continue to bounce off the walls of the venue, as PUP barrels through their set with vigorous intensity.

It’s not because PUP are pissed at their crowd or anything. PUP are just kicking back against a world that has wanted their dreams dead for the last few years. For a while, it seemed like ‘The Dream Is Over’ wasn’t ever going to materialise, the album’s title being the exact phrase Babcock’s doctor uttered following the discovery of a cyst on one of his vocal chords. Against his doctor’s advice, Babcock and PUP refused to back down, coming together to release one of this year’s most aggressive, confrontational and remorseless albums. Their appearance tonight reeks of antagonism, but not animosity – this band has nothing to prove and nothing to lose.

Rewinding back to the start of the night, and the Brudenell is buzzing with anticipation; not just for the headline band, but for openers and fellow Specialist Subject labelmates Shit Present. The Exeter based band are rapidly gaining a cult following in the UK scene; not surprising, seeing as their lineup is essentially a who’s-who of the DIY punk scene. They kick off the night’s proceedings with a bang, as guitarist Thom Weeks (y’know, from Gnarwolves?) lurches around the stage, a goofy smile on his face, whilst singer Iona Cairns (y’know, from Great Cynics?) propels the band along with her Courtney Barnett inspired lyrics. Shit Present have got an arsenal of kickass songs, the candidness of ‘Evaporate’ being able to sit next to the loneliness of ‘Melbourne’. Closing on frantic ‘Anxious Thing’, Shit Present prove that they’re more than the sum of their parts, and the buzz in the Brudenell builds.

Solids have a hard act to follow. In between Shit Present’s energy and the anticipation of PUP’s infamous live performances, the Montreal band have a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, the band don’t quite pull it off, the melodic guitar parts of Xavier Germain-Poitras not quite hitting the tone needed for the night. The three piece band are enjoyable to listen to, but the stage feels a little emptier whilst they’re playing on it, and the audience’s attention dwindles somewhat. Still, even if the band can’t heighten the room’s energy, they definitely help maintain it. By the end of their set, the room is salivating for the headline band.

So when Pup take to the stage and open with the solid one-two punch of ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You’ and ‘DWP’, the Brudenell explodes. Oddly, Pup have a brooding intensity tonight, the band feeling a little bit walled off from the audience. But this only serves to drive the audience even wilder, as new album cuts like ‘My Life Is Over And I Couldn’t Be Happier’ are driven further into realms of self-hating anger, an aggression that drips through the entire set. The optimism of ‘Dark Days’ from their debut album takes on a cynical tone, Zack Mykula’s frantic drumming on ‘Factories’ becomes claustrophobic, but the audience keeps on exploding into mosh-pits, stage-divers and pointed finger singalongs.

When ‘Reservoir’ rears its head at the end of the set, the barrier between Pup and the audience finally breaks down, the entire room dissolving into a sweaty, aggressive release of adrenaline. The band’s antagonism collapses, Babcock spits venom with a smile on his lips as fans collide in a mosh pit that envelops the entire centre stage. Joined onstage by Weeks, who takes over vocal duties for ‘Old Wounds’, Babcock is able to step away from the microphone and just rock out. As the night ends in a cacophony of feedback and distortion, sweat dripping from the Brudenell’s ceiling, PUP have proved that their dream is very far from being over.