Review Of With Confidence At Sound Control, Manchester
Indeed, as I began chatting to those around me in the queue and meeting new people, snuggled under my blanket for warmth as the sun slowly dipped below the skyline, I realised just how similar I was to so many of my fellow gig-goers. Some of my old friends turned up and joined me in the queue, and as we all began swapping stories, it became apparent that we had all found this music and this scene for incredibly similar reasons, and had been through similar struggles to get to where we were today. There was a huge sense of family and belonging as the hours drew on, and people rallied together, sharing warmth and food as well as many a story with everyone around them. I found eerily close connections with people who previously I hadn’t even known about, and laughed at how absurd it was that we had been so close by each other and never crossed paths until now. And when With Confidence’s frontman, Jayden Seeley, and guitarist Luke Rockets emerged, hoodie-clad, from the venue doors, squeals rose up from the waiting crowd, and many a shy ‘Hey!’ was exchanged as they moved along the queue, beaming brightly down at us all huddled against the wall, stopping occasionally to talk to old friends or to receive gifts and letters from awestruck fans. Just past where I was sitting in the queue, a rush of girls had swarmed and formed -what was albeit a very orderly- line to take selfies and say hello to the guys, both of whom took the enthusiasm admirably, only cutting the line short when they had to retreat back into the warmth for last minute interviews and sound-checks. Their visit was the icebreaker that melted away the constraints of the cold and gave way to a rush of excitement and fever pitch chattering, as people began to stand up from their sentry posts and extract tickets from deep within pockets, smiles painted on every face. By the time the venue doors opened, I too was bouncing around like an excitable puppy, and after pausing briefly to have our tickets and bags checked, my friends and I stormed our way into the venue, Converse clanging up the metals steps to the main Sound Control stage (which the band had upgraded to just that afternoon!). We quickly nestled our way into the crowd, cementing our places in the second row and turning our eyes towards the stage, eagerly awaiting the beginning of the show.
The first support band on this tour were our local lads Milestones, and having seen them twice now in as many weeks, it is clear that this is a band you do not want to sleep on. Despite having to start their set fifteen minutes earlier than planned because the show was going to run over past curfew, and as a result they had to begin playing to a room that was barely half full, they didn’t appear fazed in the slightest. Their bouncy, pop punk melodies and infectiously punchy basslines spread a warmth throughout the room that soon broke the veiled tension, and it was impossible not to nod and bounce along to the ironic self-deprecation of ‘Call Me Disaster’ and the impassioned, lively ‘Hindsight’. And by the time the band reached melodic ballad ‘Shot in the Dark’, the room had filled, and clusters of lights floated serenely above the crowd, tiny white pinpricks against the velvety blackness. The palpable energy poured off every member of the band in waves, and in the smaller room, it was even more potent than it had been at the O2 Ritz a few weeks previously. The thought that continually struck me was one of disbelief that this band had only just released their debut EP, ‘Equal Measures’: the clean, polished nature of their songs, production and stage presence gave them a confidence and sense of being self-assured that is usually indicative of much more well established bands with at least a few EPs and an album under their belts. And yet simultaneously, it was clear that the fun and excitement that fuels emerging creative minds was in no way lacking: in fact, on the contrary, they had it in spades, and none more so than frontman Matt Clarke, whose never-failing wide grin, uncontainable energy and passionate speech in support of everyone being able to chase their dreams spoke volumes about the ambition this band has and the thrill that comes from their rapidly broadening horizons, which, when you look at their packed out touring schedule for this spring and summer, could easily see them becoming one of pop punk’s next big things. If a headline tour is indeed in the works, believe me when I say, those will be shows you do not want to miss!
After a short interval, in which the in-house technicians ran across the stage in a state bordering on frenzied to try and get everything set up as quickly as possible to prevent the show running over, and during which they played ‘Empty Apartment’ by Yellowcard, which resulted in me crying onto my friend’s shoulder, the second of the three support bands took to the stage. Toronto-born Safe to Say were somewhat of an anomaly on this tour, as while the other three bands fell primarily into the pop punk category to varying degrees, the Canadian four piece had a sound which was heavier and meatier than the soaring melodies and major-keys of their tour companions. Falling somewhere between the zones of post-hardcore and alt rock, Safe to Say proved that genre is no boundary to an audience having fun and embracing the music, and the crowd around me had no qualms about jumping up and down on the pounding choruses of songs like ‘Only Rain’ and the feverish, reverb-laden ‘Zoey’. And yet the softer, pain filled ‘Tangarine’ carried a weight of its own which held the crowd suspended in silence, spellbound. And the one thing that is guaranteed to get a Manchester crowd singing along is to compare us to somewhere else, because we will always try to prove ourselves, and for Safe to Say, the comparison with the previous night’s audience in Leeds from vocalist Brad Garcia worked like a charm! The band’s sound may have been heavier than the rest of the songs heard that night, but their spunky punk roots were still evident, and it was their passion and tongue-in-cheek quips to the audience that really forged their connection with the pizza-and-pogoing crowd before them. The stereotypical Canadian politeness was all but forgotten from the fiery opening riffs of each track, and replaced with blistering vocals and deep, reverberating basslines that sent vibrations shooting up my spine. It was an intense blast of anger and rebellion in equal measure, and it provided the perfect catharsis for the frustrated youth that packed out the small room, who simply wanted to live in the moment and forget the world for a while, lost in the music. For me, the lyrics of ‘Afterglow’ say it best: ‘What’s forever when you’re young?’
Having said that, the wait after Safe to Say had vacated the stage seemed to last forever, as an expectant tension filled the room, so strong it was almost palpable. And when, after another round of Yellowcard playing (this time it was ‘Always Summer’ which had me in tears!), the final support band of the night bounded onto the stage, and there was an unmistakable shift in the atmosphere from excitement to another plain of hysteria, as Broadside took up their positions and crashed into their first song with barely a pause for breath. And from that moment on, pauses for anything were few and far between, as the mosh pit opened up behind me, compressing the crowd until we were packed in as tightly as sardines, with no need to propel ourselves off the ground, as when those around you began to jump, you were lifted effortlessly off the ground, carried along in the undulating waves of the crowd. Crowdsurfers were thrown up at once, carried over the barrier effortlessly by the crowd (and only about one in three kicked me in the head and gave me a mild concussion!) Despite wrestling with a multitude of technical issues in the opening minutes of their set, Broadside didn’t let it phase them, and powered on through regardless, a mind-set in keeping with that of their lyrics and music.
All too often, modern pop punk is branded as ‘soulless and over simplified’ to appeal to ‘idiotic, try-hard teenage girls’, but that stereotype was completely blasted out of the water by Broadside. From the struggles of allowing yourself to fall in love explored in the gut-punching lyrics of ‘Storyteller’ to the all too relevant and topical ‘Human Machines’, which examines the mundanity of conforming to the life which is expected of you, and simultaneously encourages you to break free of expectations and follow your own path, guided by your dreams: meaning poured out of every word. Meaning which was only enhanced by the soaring melodies married with the fervent, fever pitch passion of the vocals and punchy, insistent basslines that seemed to crawl inside your chest and fill it with fire and hope. It was a moment that reminded me of why I love alternative music so much, because I realised that I had been wearing the biggest smile for the past hour and a half without having to force myself to hold it in place, and being packed in amongst all these other people who were singing at the top of their lungs without a care in the world, who probably all felt the same as I did. By the time the final notes of what has become my new favourite love song ‘Coffee Talk’, faded away, the atmosphere in the room was electric, a hundred hearts beating in unison as the stage lights lifted once more, and we all knew without conscious thought what was coming next.
My fever pitch anticipation never dimmed throughout the half an hour wait between sets (apart from when they played Yellowcard YET AGAIN, this time playing one of my favourite songs ever, ‘Awakening’, and causing me to again have to hold back tears), and the buzz in the room fizzed like sherbet as the minutes drew by, and copious amounts of tape were added to every cable onstage to prevent any chords being pulled out as had happened during Broadside’s set!
Eventually, however, the lights dimmed onstage once more, and a scream rose up from the crowd, louder than any we had heard that night, as With Confidence themselves finally took to the stage. Flashing a quick glance at Luke, his fellow guitarist Inigo del Carmen and drummer Josh Brozzesi, Jayden gave the crowd his characteristic grin before as one they flung themselves into the first track from ‘Better Weather’, ‘Voldemort’, and also flung the crowd into complete bedlam! The mosh opened up once again, crowdsurfers came flying forwards in waves and every person was off their feet, jumping and singing along to the chorus. ‘Voldemort’ is a song that deals with the stigma surrounding mental health and how speaking out about your struggles with mental health is still considered incredibly taboo, but the atmosphere in the room was about as far from restrictive as you can get: it was white hot, fiery and untameable, and most of all it was freeing. Nobody cared that you were screaming along at the top of your lungs. Nobody cared that you were sweaty and all your eyeliner was sliding down your face. Nobody cared about what you’d been through or what you’d done. We were all just there together, enjoying the music and forgetting about everything else. It sounds corny, but it honestly felt like we were a family.
Although, clearly some people didn’t get the memo, as by the end of ‘Voldemort’, Luke was looking furious, glaring at a guy in the crowd, screaming ‘F*CK YOU!’ and flipping him off as he stormed towards the back of the stage to try and calm himself down. Jayden too was looking irate, but Luke beat him to it, grabbing his mic and shouting ‘F*ck you! You, that dickhead who just punched someone in the f*cking face!’ Jayden chimed in, attempting to diffuse the quickly escalating tension by saying, relatively calmly ‘Guys, please nobody hurt each other! Violence has no place here, this is a With Confidence show and that sh*t doesn’t fly with us, alright?’ He was greeted with a chorus of cheers from the crowd, and the guy in question averted his eyes from the stage, looking sheepish. ‘Now,’ Jayden continued, ‘let’s start this again. We’re With Confidence from Sydney, Australia! Now, how many of you have heard our record ‘Better Weather?’ A forest of hands shot up, along with a cacophony of cheers, at which Jayden blushed a little and said, somewhat stunned ‘Wow, that’s a lot of people!’, drawing bubbles of laughter from across the sea of heads. ‘Alright, well this is a song from that record, it’s called ‘Archers’. The subsequent screams flowed seamlessly into words as everyone began singing along to the movie-soundtrack worthy, sunshine-infused melody, the lyrics an outright expression of the sense of community and belonging which was already filling the room. Both Luke and Ini bounded across the stage, leaning down towards the crowd and singing the words back at us, joy evident on their faces as they galloped from one fizzing melody to the next: ‘Archers’ faded into the insanely youthful, vibrant ‘Tonight’, and then to ‘Dinner Bell’, the smooth melody that veils a much more sickening than sweet subject matter.
Pausing to catch their breath, the band finally took a half step away from their mics, to screams and cheers, and grabbed some water from the sides of the stage, as Ini stepped back up to his mic, and said tentatively ‘So, ugh, this next song-‘Jayden genially cut across him then, saying with a bright-eyed glance at the crowd ‘Ini doesn’t usually talk on the mic much, so this is a treat for you all right now!’, to which the crowd cheered and Ini, with a glance in Jayden’s direction which clearly meant ‘Shut up!’, blushed before continuing ‘This next song is one I wrote for my best friend, and I just want you all to know that if you ever feel worthless, that’s bullsh*t, because there’s always someone you can talk to and always someone who cares!’ The storm of cheers the rained down was deafening, and I added my own screams to the din, my eyes already pricking with tears as I knew what was coming.
‘This song is called Keys’.
From the first line, a wave of emotions hit me square in the gut, and just looking at the pain and passion that resided on Ini’s face in equal measure was enough to tip me over the edge, and I couldn’t help but let out a small sob, my voice breaking as tears flowed over my cheeks. The insistence and desperation behind the words of the bridge hit me like a bowling ball, as I realised fully for the first time the depth of what this song meant to the band, and I broke down even further as I screamed along: ‘You are more than the photos on the wall, hold you in our hearts so that you’ll never ever fall, we are the wind, that pushes you home, take apart of us so that you’ll never be alone.’
My emotions were given a short respite as the band picked up the tempo once again with the soaring melodies and vocals of ‘Higher’, and once the cheering had died down, Luke, Josh and Ini grabbed a water bottle each and extracted themselves from behind their instruments, as Luke leant into the mic and said ‘Now, Jayden here, has been battling with a bit of a cold these past couple of days, and he’s finding it a little bit hard to sing.’ Jayden raised his hand nonchalantly as his perseverance was acknowledged with cheers from the crowd ‘But,’ Luke continued ‘You guys have done a great job of helping him out with that so far, so we’re going to leave him here on his own with you guys!’ More shouts followed the rest of the band as they clambered down off the stage, leaving Jayden, grin ever present, alone onstage, staring out at us all with something like pride in his eyes as he said ‘Now, we’ve recently released a music video for this song, has anyone seen that?’ Cheering, of course, answered him. ‘This song is all about heartbreak.’ Several boos shattered the silence, and Jayden, chuckling assented ‘Yeah, boo to heartbreak! I don’t know what it is, but when you’re heartbroken, listening to songs about heartbreak- it’s f*cked up, but it helps somehow. So if this song has ever helped anyone whose been heartbroken, then that’s amazing to me. This song is called Long Night’. Phone lights emerged once more, filling the small space with bright shafts of light as the bittersweet lyrics and melancholy piano melody rang out over the speakers, bringing a relative hush over the crowd, where the only sounds that could be heard were Jayden’s voice and the accompanying voices of the crowd as they carried him through each line delicately, not overpowering him, but amplifying his voice until it resonated around the room, in harmony with other voices whose hearts had been broken and who had been forced to have to heal.
As the song ended, cheers, shouts and screams rang out, as the rest of the band returned to the stage, all looking slightly less sweaty and a little refreshed, Ini with a towel wrapped around his hair, which greatly amused his bandmates and the audience, many voices asking if he’d had a shower backstage! As the band reassembled themselves, a voice from the middle of the room piped up, singing the first words to the chorus of Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’. He was soon joined by many others, and Jayden, cottoning on, turned to the band, who all grinned at him mischievously before breaking into the iconic opening melody of one of Oasis’ biggest hits! Soon, every voice in the crowd joined them, making it all the way through the first verse and chorus before the instruments filtered out and applause rang out along with many jeers and laughs from the audience. Soon afterwards, however, the band returned to the setlist, with punchy anthem ‘Godzilla’ reminding the crowd just whose gig they were at, before the lead single from ‘Better Weather’, ‘We’ll Be Okay, which gave me a rush of nostalgia as I remembered hearing that song when it had just been released at Slam Dunk festival last May, in a room with less than 40 people, and now the same melodies and words were being sung by a crowd of hundreds! Hundreds who evidently didn’t want their night to be over, as when ‘Waterfall’, the nearly 5-minute-long closing track from the album faded out and the band left the stage, stomps and shouts of ‘One more song! One more song!’ chased them down the small corridor to the backstage rooms. It was barely 30 seconds before they re-emerged, looks of disbelief on their faces as the racket the crowd was making, as they once again took up their positions and Jayden shouted jubilantly ‘One more song? How about two!’, an idea which, when the opening chords of ‘London Lights’ started up, it appeared the crowd was very much agreeable to! And by the final song, ‘Keeper’, there was not one of the hundreds of people in the crowded, sweaty room who wasn’t singing and smiling or crowd-surfing or moshing, having the time of their life.
Of everything that was said and played and sung that night, one of the most vivid things I remember is what Luke said to us all just before ‘Waterfall’, and it was this: ‘I just want to say thank you to you guys, because I never would have dreamed that we’d one day be on the other side of the world, playing these songs for you guys’. Because when I look back, dreams were a common theme throughout the night. Whether it be young bands who were just breaking ground like Milestones, looking towards their dream of touring the world and a possible future headline tour, or the headliners With Confidence, who, in a matter of nine months had gone from playing shows to 30 people in a tiny room in the Leeds Beckett Student Union to having to upgrade venues due to phenomenal demand, and who were now playing to crowds of hundreds if not over a thousand on a sold out headline tour of their own. It was a powerful reminder that some dreams, with hard work and perseverance, really can come true.
Written by Charlotte Hardman