Words by Ed King / Pics from Michelle Martin
There are a lot of reasons not to be in this room.
Mainly that Peace’s ‘intimate homecoming’, on their way to the sticky stages of Reading & Leeds, sold out in a sneeze – with tickets becoming harder to grab hold of than a greased up Jimmy Hoffa.
Then there’s the fact that we never ran a BPREVIEW for this gig (a professional discourtesy I blame on the aforementioned sneeze), with the last times we’ve covered Peace (Fri 13th Dec ‘13 @ O2 Academy / Sat 27th Apr ’13 @ O2 Academy) inciting curiously… erm, passionate responses from their… erm, passionate followers.
Then there’s the mixed bag public domain pan bashing that Happy People received after its release in Feb, including a see-saw supportive slap from the hand that once fed them. A lesser publication might have stayed at home.
But thanks to the holy trinity of a hard working PR agency, promoter and Institute barman (you know who you are) I am indeed standing at the back of the Temple on a soggy Thursday night; notebook & pen, cider & shot.
“All I wanna do is get high…” declares The Drive’s front man; a rambunctiously fun four piece from Manchester (well worth a stop/look/listen) and Peace’s non-local support band tonight. I write their name in my notebook, circle it, and shudder at the naivety of my own self destruction – scanning the fresher faces in a venue whose dark corners I know only too well. “COME ON BIRMINGHAM, LET’S GET FU*KING MENTAL…” Honestly, that’s an end not as fun as it sounds at the start.
Leaving their lead guitar feeding back, nice, The Drive exit stage left; a precocious surge rushes from the front of the room (stage) to the back (bar), charging with fists clenching five pound notes and ID. The Temple is dedicated and full tonight; no one wants to skip a beat. And who can blame them.
I didn’t catch the initial Peace train, not being a regular at the Adam & Eve or Sunflower Lounge, but when the bubble finally burst (the abbreviation that dare not speak its name) we were still left with an extraordinary debut album, a precarious spotlight and the fight for appropriated civic pride. Each subsequent Birmingham Peace gig has been an event in itself.
Sadly the first time I saw Peace live, at their first ‘homecoming’ gig at the O2 Academy in Apr ’13, I was left underwhelmed. They seemed tired, wired, and strangely monosyllabic for such prodigal sons. But I don’t think they were playing, that night, for a new audience.
Red and yellow sweeps, interspersed with a blanket strobe, march us into ‘I’m a Girl’ – thrashing with twisted metal verses to its anthemic call to arms chorus. We have most certainly begun. The crowd actually erupts; a horizon of sharp fingers point upwards. The four people on stage drive into their set like they’re jumping from a train. A group of people at the bar start to claw and hug each other, as if they’d been either electrocuted or lost. What the f*ck just happened?
Then, like angry glass, the staccato riffs and pneumatic cymbals of ‘Bloodshake’ cuts through the room; if the last three minutes were fevered, the next three are a clear and present danger.
“Thanks very much,” yells a seemingly calm Harry Koisser, “how you all doing?” As rhetorical questions go, even this has some front. ‘Lost on Me’ then struts off stage and into a choir of lyrical appreciation, one so violently autonomous it drowns out the band – only giving them their song back for the chorus. By this point Douglas Castle is double bent into a guitar solo whilst the crowd jump so high I can no longer see the stage.
Following the album tracklist sandwich, ‘Perfect Skin’ small ‘p’ pops its way across the room, before ‘Gen Strange’ lands as the penultimate Happy People proffering of the main set. There have been a range of responses to Happy People in the press, where the seemingly ingrained need to slag off a second album has been both the frame and focus, but watching these tracks live, tonight, is unassailable; they capital ‘R’ Rock.
Then back to the halcyon days when all you shat on stick was golden. And as for ‘Follow Baby’, a proud early line in the sand, this is no more than deserved – before the creative blood stain on the sheets (to me) that is ‘Lovesick’ slithers into the set; the loveless spawn of The Monkees and the B52s. And from the same minds that made ‘Float Forever’…
Then, as if hearing my disgruntled prayer, cleverly disguised as a turned back and “pint of cider, and a shot of Bourbon please”, the second brightest moment (again, to me…) on In Love prangs its way around the room. ‘Wraith’ gets delivered and responded to with almost pantomime precision, before the 6min+ ‘World Pleasure’ closes the main set with a ferocious wall of sound. Superb.
And no one in the room, at this purported curtain call, is making any pretence of leaving.
Ed’s note… ‘1998’ and ‘Someday’ were the encores, respectively. I’d stopped writing by this point; but I remember thinking, as the Positiva dance track got practically dragged out of them by the crowd, I get this choice of cover now… five minutes in, it’s The Who.
For more on Peace, visit http://www.peaceforeverever.co.uk/
For more on The Drive, visit https://soundcloud.com/thedrivemusic-1
For more from the Institute, including full listings and online ticket purchase, visit http://theinstitutebirmingham.com/