By Callum Baker
Photography: Georgina Hurdsfield
The Manchester instalment of Basement’s first headline run for their latest effort ‘Beside Myself’ was a unifying affair for fans old and new. Two albums deep into their contract with mega-label Fuelled by Ramen, Basement have seen themselves tread deeper into unfamiliar waters, garnering more success, higher profile tours and an ever-expanding fan base.
To honour their now rather eclectic listener base, the Ipswich five-piece curated a conspicuously mixed bill for their return to centre stage.
Proceedings were kicked off by Melbourne export Ecca Vandal, accompanied by her troop of nameless multi-instrumentalists. There’s something perplexing about witnessing the performance of a band that brands itself only by the identity and namesake of its lead singer, despite the quartet delivering such a streamlined set that exerted a notable level of collective charisma. Their rebellious and groove laden indie/punk/pop (think old Bloc Party meets MIA meets letlive.) was admittedly an unconventional choice to precede what was to follow. With this said, variety is the spice of life – and that sentiment was certainly reaffirmed tonight.
Joyce Manor were next up, a band finding themselves in far more familiar territory than their predecessors. They wasted no time with pleasantries and drove through a set of emo bangers that spanned their entire discography, effectively exhibiting the versatility and maturity shown throughout their career, though standouts like Catalina Fight Song and Heart Tattoo elicited the most rapturous responses.
How do you strike the balance between the humility expected from an emotive hardcore band from a small town and the authority expected from an alt-rock powerhouse? This seems to be the conundrum that Basement are wrestling with. In lyrical theme with their recent endeavour, it feels like there’s something of a ‘disconnect’ between the two pies the band has its respective fingers plunged into. The anticipation leading up to their arrival starkly juxtaposed their somewhat resigned live presence, keeping banter and engagement with the crowd to a minimum. Though this impersonal interaction between band and crowd was subverted by frontman Andrew Fisher’s honest and transparent vocal and lyrical delivery, as well as an anxious energy that resonated through all the members.
The club venue was somewhat ill fitting for Basement on both a performative and sonic level. The stage barrier established a divide that one doesn’t expect from their shows, and the room didn’t compliment the sound all too well, resulting in something that sounded slightly flat.
Those who aren’t so well versed with Basement’s latest album, considering its thus far short teething period, may likely have gone home disappointed by how new-material-heavy the setlist was. With this said, the band didn’t neglect the fan favourites, with highlights including but not limited to Crickets Throw Their Voice and Covet. The response evoked by material from this era of the band’s career may hopefully illustrate the importance of knowing one’s audience and understanding the induction period required for any new release.