Words by Ashleigh Goodwin / Pics by Phil Drury
After shuffling to the O2 Institute wrapped in my coat and pushing my face into my scarf, I want nothing more than to sit down by a fire and not move for a few hours.
However, upon entering the venue it’s hard not to adopt the enthusiasm from those also attending the Jaws homecoming tonight; it’s infectious, and as large groups of people snake round the walls for the cloakroom and the merch desk there is definitely an air of excitement (and a bit of pre-emptive screaming).
Heading upstairs, South Londoners Social Contract (described by Jaws as “a bloody great new band”) are starting up and have already attracted a decent cluster. People are scattered around, looking appreciatively at the stage, and throughout their set the room begins to fill up with groups at the back making space for dancing whilst flinging their arms around each other and jumping in unison.
Social Contract deliver a really interesting set, incorporating pop, grunge and a danc-ier edge when performing their debut single, ‘Citizen’, which was released earlier this year. The atmospheric pink lights that stream from the stage only solidify their calm and cool performance, whilst singer Josh drawls “yeah, what’s good?” Although their catalogue of releases is small online, I’d definitely check this band out if you’re a fan of Foals or Bombay Bicycle Club.
Marsicians are the second support, and the crowd responds instantly – if you had no knowledge of the tonight’s show you’d think they were the headlines. Self-described ‘upbeat indie meets dirty pop’, Marsicians perform a strong set giving a slightly Circa Waves vibe and on certain tracks, such as ‘Arms of Another’, James Newbigging’s vocals bare similarity to Matt Healy of The 1975. The set includes tracks such as the insanely catchy ‘Too Good’ and ‘Throw Ourselves In’, all of which incorporate memorable guitar riffs or choruses as well as a feel good vibe – making them translate extremely well in a live space.
The aura from the band is something really special too, they look so completely in their element and I didn’t expect to get so into it, which left me wishing I’d checked Marsicians out prior to tonight. Between the overall chaotic crowd and the flying pints (that didn’t seem to faze them) Marsicians wind down with their last song of the set, ‘Absense’ – an atmospheric slow burn that ends in a medley of guitars. And as cliché as it sounds, you can feel the emotion radiating from the stage and it leaves the crowd completely hyped.
Throngs of people now move around the venue, calculating how and where to get the best view for Jaws. Following this I find my way to the balcony, which is pretty much deserted as the floor below is full of bodies pressed together. The crowd sing enthusiastically to Nirvana and The Darkness in the changeover but surprisingly, the biggest reaction is when Skepta’s ‘That’s Not Me’ begins, with a large bulk of the crowd instantly pushing, shoving and manically jumping around. This preludes Jaws, as the lights fade and people instantly take to their mates shoulders despite the O2 Institute security gesturing for them to get down. Jaws’ sign at the back of the stage lights up and the crowd absolutely lose it as the Birmingham born band now take to the stage.
The opening, swirling, guitar riff to ‘Surround You’ starts and people sing along to the beat whilst the crowd go crazy – pushing and swaying relentlessly, as lead singer Connor Schofield greets the audience with “what you saying Birmingham, we good?” By the time Jaws perform their third song, ‘Think Too Much, Feel Too Little’, from their debut album Be Slowly, it’s hard to tear my eyes away from the crowd; it’s like watching something on fast forward, the atmosphere is electric and when an adventurous audience member jumps on stage mid-set, the trio don’t falter once as the guy bounces and sings all whilst getting escorted off by security.
Through ‘Work It Out’ and ‘What We Haven’t Got Yet’ – from Jaws’ Simplicity album (released early November), pits are created before the songs even start; people sway on their mates shoulders, beer, jackets and even a shoe at one point fly through the air. Schofield relays “you guys have a lot of energy, thanks!” before inviting the crowd to sing through tracks such as ‘17’ after announcing “my voice is fucked, sing along”.
Schofield proclaims, “I don’t know what to say, this is amazing, thanks…it’s nice to be here”, and the trio finish with ‘Be Slowly’, before the lights to down and Jaws disappear off stage after a completely mesmeric set, which of course is met by the “we want more” chant. Before there is time to process, inflatable beach balls are thrown into the audience from the balcony, welcoming Jaws back to the stage as they launch into ‘Donut’ with Schofield saying “let’s enjoy the rest of the evening together” before completing a four-strong encore. Jaws finish on ‘Gold’; the crowd finish with the momentum that they have somehow sustained throughout the whole set.
Seeing Jaws headline in such a large venue as the O2 Institute really does solidify the idea of supporting local acts; tonight you can feel a sense of pride, seeing this Birmingham born band receive such an amazing reception. Their two albums are strong standalones, but whether it’s due to the energetic crowd or just the gig atmosphere that gives their songs a fuller sound, Jaws should definitely be caught live if you ever have the chance.
As tonight’s opening band Social Contract said in their set, “it’s the last day of the Jaws tour…it’s been a fucking great time, we had a blast”, and you only have to look at the crowd streaming out of the O2 Institute at the end of the night to know they did too.
Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review
For more from Jaws, visit www.jawsjawsjaws.co.uk
Marsicians – supporting Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review
For more from Marsicians, visit www.marsicans.co.uk
For more on Social Contract, visit www.soundcloud.com/socialcontractband
For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com
For more on the O2 Institute, including venue details, event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham