LIVE: Real Friends / Brawlers / Trash Boat @ Underworld, London

By Ben Tipple

Real Friends, who are stopping off for a run of headline shows in-amongst their arena filled tour with All Time Low, are easily the biggest pull tonight. Having sold out the London date not too longer after announcing it, it’s immediately evident that the majority of tonight’s crowd are holding back for the headliners – either choosing to spend their time elsewhere, or milling at the bar.

For this reason, neither Trash Boat nor Brawlers see the number of punters they deserve. That doesn’t stop both from throwing themselves (somewhat literally in Trash Boat’s case) into their performance, to remarkably different reactions.

Rough around the edges and somewhat naive, recent Hopeless Records signees Trash Boat take the no holds barred routine to a distinctive new level. Seemingly before the first words have been uttered, brash frontman Tobi Duncan finds himself crawling back onto the stage with blood pouring from his nose. It provides a spectacle, as does the incessant sea of young stage divers who are seemingly paid to be in tonight’s music video charade, but it doesn’t do their sound any favours.

Already marred by overly loud vocals, Trash Boat veer from the chaotic into the messy. There’s energy aplenty, but it’s partially directed into the wrong areas. Punk doesn’t need to be refined, but basing themselves on consistent swearing, stage dives and on-stage bravado does little to enhance their gritty pop-punk. A little more focus and a little less arrogance might help Trash Boat to unload some of their garbage into the sea. Still, there are clear moments of potential in the chaos.

Leeds based four-piece Brawlers face the opposite problem. What they have in skill isn’t close to being matched by the audience’s energy levels. Despite still battling similar sound issues to their forerunners, the band deliver a confident and exciting run through both older and brand new material. Vocally and instrumentally on point, their upbeat Weezer-esque sound unfortunately fails to connect with tonight’s crowd.

Those that exhausted themselves during Trash Boat (we did see at least one person get knocked out) are refreshing themselves elsewhere, leaving a relatively calm group of onlookers. Undeterred, Brawlers continue to show the young upstarts how to deliver a refined sound that remains both fun and full of energy.

Real Friends have no difficulty drawing the crowd into a frenzy. As their set goes on, panicked faces by security are mirrored in the band’s eyes as they repeatedly ask the crowd to be a little more careful. It’s this explosion of unrivalled energy that demonstrates just how well the Illinois sad boys relate to their audience.

Despite some badly timed stage dives (which gives us an idea for a Tumblr), the crowd is with them for every word. Be it the fast paced ‘Late Nights In My Car’, or the personal ‘I’ve Given Up On You’ and ‘Sixteen’, voices sing back every word at the stage with enough meaning to imply every single person in the room had involvement in the lyrics.

Tonight offers a release to those in attendance, and to the five people on stage. As Real Friends remark, entirely seriously, that tonight is one of the best of their lives, there’ are undoubtedly plenty of people in the room who would wholeheartedly agree.