LIVE: Real Friends / Can’t Swim @ Epic Studios, Norwich

By Louis Kerry

In a climate where there’s ten a penny pop punk bands that are all style and no substance, groups like Real Friends, who speak up about real issues more than they do about their haircuts couldn’t be more important right now. On one of their biggest UK tours to date, the US rockers not only go out to prove that they are one of the hardest working and most entertaining bands on the scene right now, but they also have stuff of value to share with their fans.

Supporting Real Friends, are the hotly tipped Can’t Swim. As one of the early breakthrough acts of 2017, the group from New Jersey deliver their emo soundscapes full of chunky riffs and gritty vocals perfectly whilst winning over the crowd at the same time. With intensity and perfect timing, Andrea Morgan on drums does an outstanding job. It’s genuinely great to see a female drummer in a scene where there so few of them in the limelight. With many people here early just to see what the fuss is all about, Their tracks like the Thrice- esque ‘Stranger’ and the raw yet anthemic ‘We Won’t Sleep’  make everybody stay fully immersed in the band’s captivating nature as they prove that all the hype they have been getting is more than justified.

With just a one hour set, Real Friends manage to blast through favourites from every chapter of their career. From opener ‘Empty Picture Frames’ highlighting their latest release to some their early favourites like ‘Floorboards’, it’s not just a typical show to promote a new album, it’s one where we celebrate an entire career.

There are huge singalongs for the likes of ‘Lost Boys’, ‘Late Nights in My Car’ and ‘Keep Lying to Me’ that all start up a tiny pit of adrenaline fuelled teenagers who’ve had too many red bulls. The stand out moment however is when singer Dan Lambton starts the emotional rollercoaster that is ‘Mokena’. His beautiful harmonies create three minutes of magic.

Performance-wise they are not quite on the level as likes of All Time Low or The Wonder Years. They still struggle to get the crowd completely hyped up and their between song interactions need somewhat more of a focus. Until they can step their live personalities up a few notches it looks like they’ve reached as high as they can go.

What’s more important than their general performance however, is the message that Lambton is wanting to send. When he’s not serenading everyone in the building with his astonishing voice that makes him the envy of all pop punk singers, he makes it known that he genuinely cares about his fans and their emotional wellbeing. Having postponed this very tour due to anxiety, Lambton encourages everybody to take care of their mental health, that nobody is alone in the battle against it and that music and live shows like this will always be there as an ‘escape’ for anybody who struggles with the real world – mentally or otherwise. Whilst so many bands try and steer away from such topics, Real Friends should be commended for challenging it head on.

Finishing their encore on the fast paced and thrashy ‘Summer’, their hour of pure crowd-pleasers, relentless fun and important words of encouragement, if Real Friends can make just one person feel better about themselves for even just one hour, then they will be going back to their tour bus feeling accomplished. Lucky for them, they’ve left an entire audience with smiles on their faces.

Louis Kerry