Concert Review: Creeper At Academy 2, Manchester
Months prior to the first night of the sextet’s first ever UK headline tour, which kicked off with a sold out show at Manchester’s Academy 2 on March 25th, the community of the Creeper Cult was already rallying their forces for the tour, social media group chats for every gig springing up almost as soon as the dates were released, and filling with a flood of goths and punks excitedly exchanging plans and stories, forming connections between this already tightly knit community. The sense of unity was even more prevalent upon arrival at the venue, where clusters of fans already sat, the faint echoes dancing skywards of songs from Creeper’s debut album ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ which had only been released to the masses a day previously, every person clad in the unofficial uniform of head to toe black, despite the rare sunshine that was beaming down onto the pavement! Callous Heart patches sown onto the backs of black denim jackets met your eyes whichever way you turned, and as the afternoon wore on and more fans began to arrive, like black shadows in amongst the abundance of brightly coloured summer clothes the passing crowds were sporting, squeals of recognition and excitement rang out all along the queue, as hugs were exchanged, laughs echoing up and down the line as old friends and strangers alike recognised that this was a community where they were accepted and where they could feel at home despite being considered an outsider in every other sense of the word! Even as the time ticked closer to doors, there was none of the usual snide pushing and subtle rearranging of the queue by people desperate to beat others in getting through the doors- on the contrary, the queue grew more disorganised as friendship groups slowly grew and new connections were made. It was therefore something of a shock when the crowd realised that the doors had opened, and the excitable hoards began filtering through the doors, up the clanging metal steps and into the plushly decorated venue- the perfect backdrop for the grandeur and theatrics the Creeper never fail to bring to their live shows.
Building towards that symphonic grandeur, however, the first support of three for the night was distinctly more stripped back and basic, though in no way lacking in meaty basslines and intricate runs and riffs. This band were London‘s Puppy, a relatively newly formed three piece whose musical output blends frontman Jock’s distinctive high-pitched vocals with bassist Will’s crunching bassline and a powerful downforce from drummer Danny‘s impassioned percussion, which saw him lose grip on not one but two drumsticks over the course of the band’s thirty-minute set! Mosh pits opened up at the midway point of the set, when the pace began to pick up after a relatively sedate opening few tracks featuring the likes of dark, slumbering bruiser ‘My Tree’ and the grungy melodic twist of ‘The Great Beyond’. The darkly enticing opening riff of ‘Arabella’ gave way to dense, meaty guitars and a falsely tranquil melody, but the crown in the jewel of this short set was without a doubt the dark, hypnotic closer ‘Entombed’, with its darkly bubbling riffs and veiled aura of dagger sharp intent which was so far removed from the genial banter the band threw backwards and forwards on stage, calmly tuning their instruments between songs while chatting happily, evidently in their element, basking in the atmosphere of restless anticipation which they were leaving in their wake for their successors to pick up and run with.
Those successors came in the form of seasoned underground quartet Energy, who delivered exactly what they promised on the tin: energetic, passionate punk with a dark, macabre spin which became more evident in their newest release, single ‘Witching Hour’, its sinister supernatural undertones that ran through the lyrics and into the poisonous intent of the growling bassline a clear indication of what had endeared these experienced musicians to the night’s headliners. Frontman Jason Tankerly’s enigmatic stage presence grabbed the attention of the crowd at once, every eye in the now packed out room trained on the stage as the band crashed through a collection of insistent, commanding and wildly unchained songs guaranteed to ignite a fire in the pit of your stomach that will make you want to conquer the world! The mosh pit which had so far remained contained behind an obstinate wall of parents and more subdued gig goers now broke through to the barrier, a small pool of riotous fans jumping and pushing with wild abandon, sending ripples through the rows to either side of them, making the whole crowd sway and bounce, whether they wanted to or not! I was astonished when it was revealed that Energy had been around for eleven years- while the artistry and intricacy of their music reflected this, their youthful passion and vitality with which they performed certainly did not! How this band are not huge heavyweights in the punk scene is beyond me, although in a way, being able to see such a powerful dark whirlwind of a band in such an intimate setting is a very rewarding pay off for the fans!
Typically, by the third support act of a packed out tour line up, the majority of the crowd are beginning to get restless, waiting as the minutes tick by towards the arrival of the band they, for the most part, came to see. Stroud’s Milk Teeth therefore had a momentous task ahead of them, a veritable mountain to climb, yet they took to the stage explosively and completely obliterated that mountain! The rural town of Stroud is not usually a place of musical notoriety, but with their punchy punk melodies and wildly untameable energy, Milk Teeth, -fronted by bassist and vocalist Becky Blomfield, and completed by guitarists Chris Webb and Billy Hutton and drummer Oli Holbrook- are certainly capable of putting the pastoral Gloucestershire town on the map! Shattering the silence of their sleepy hometown, the foursome plunged headfirst into opening track ‘Brickwork‘, its relentless guitars overtured with impassioned screams peppered throughout Becky’s caramel smooth vocals, bringing the perfect balance of punk rock energy and devilishly self-assured joie de vivre! The uniquely titled ‘Burger Drop’ built on a foundation of an -ironically- meaty bassline to create a grungy, weighty rock track which drew to the fore startling similarities in the vocals and overall feel of the song to the classic Hole track ‘Celebrity Skin’.
Indeed, the passion and vigour which radiated from frontwoman Becky became even more reminiscent of the iconic Courtney Love with the introduction of the white hot firecracker fuelled by liquid fury ‘Cut You Up’, and another brilliantly inventively named track ‘Crows Feet’, which paired an insatiably infectious melody with deceptively poignant lyrics reflecting the inner turmoil that was being released by the rowdy antics of the once again revived mosh pit! The crowd were treated to a live debut of the band’s new song ‘The Ballad of Charlie Holmes’, a clear indication of the potential this young quartet has to grow and develop their sound over the coming years, through their evident passion for their artistry and their genuine humbleness and disbelief at the response from the crowd, which was a flood of cheers and screams at the end of every track! The only lie the band appeared to tell throughout their entire set was the title of midway track ‘No Fun’, as that was the very antithesis of the atmosphere in the room as, following a brief lull in pace to accommodate the devastatingly dark and self-loathing acoustic lament ‘Kabuki’, the party atmosphere kicked into high gear! Drawing on the crowd’s palpable enthusiasm, Milk Teeth humoured the shouts of the guys in the pit and orchestrated a sing along to a snippet of Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’, which had the whole room in fits of laughter before the band swooped back in with the grunting bassline, moody melody of the guitars and quiet finesse of the vocals which blend together to make up ‘Swear Jar’. Ramping up the energy once more, Milk Teeth hurtled towards the finish line with the fervent underdog’s anthem ‘Brain Food’ and closer ‘Vitamins’ rode in on the back of the liveliest refrain of the night, leaving the audience with a sizzling anticipation in their veins and a permanent memory stamped on the back of their retinas of the talented, energetic musicians and punk rock goddess in the making who make up Milk Teeth.
Already, the crowd around me looked exhausted, but the night was far from over yet, and thanks to the efforts of one or two of the more proactive security attendants, a round of water was handed out that refreshed and revitalised the crowd, who readied themselves for the oncoming storm of black and purple which was imminently going to emerge from the shadows.
The quavering opening notes of ‘Black Rain’, the first track from ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’, sent a wave of shouts and screams rising up from throughout the entire room, screams which quickly gathered into a collective voice, shouting along to the emotive quatrain of poetry from Creeper’s keyboardist Hannah Greenwood which heralded the beginning of the album, and the beginning of the main event of the night. A collective voice which descended into frantic screams once more as frontman Will Gould leapt, catlike, from the shadows, along with Hannah, guitarists Ian Miles and Oliver Burdett, bassist Sean Scott and drummer Dan Bratton, the six-piece flying, -for the first time, as this was ‘Black Rain’s live debut- straight into the meteoric blast that is the opening riff, the unrelenting insistency of the grunting bassline and pummelling guitars creating an eclectic lightning storm of sound that bores into your brain and roused a dark, black fire within the chests of every Creeper Cult soldier packed into that sweaty room. The operatic chorus lifted the track out of the darkness of the melody into a soaring symphony, elevated by the addition of Hannah’s harmonies to frontman Will’s deep, powerful vocals. The post-hardcore tinged, melodramatic punk screamer that is ‘Poison Pens’ followed, and from the roaring response from the crowd, it was impossible to believe that it was the track’s live debut! The whole room shook with the weight of the jumping crowd, as fans screamed the lyrics back up at the stage without any hint of inhibition, the mosh pit now taking up the majority of the room and even a few plucky early crowdsurfers catapulting themselves over the barrier. It was utter bedlam, wild, anarchic and unbelievably exhilarating!
The incessant pounding bassline and infectiously raucous, springy-as-elastic guitars of ‘Black Mass’ never fail to birth a frantic, joyous mosh pit, yet the melodic waltz of a bridge was equally as powerful, as complete strangers threw their arms around each other, swaying in unison, belting out the deceptively macabre lyrics, Will’s vocals barely audible over their emphatic chorus of voices! By the time the track ended, Will simply looked stunned as he stepped back towards the mic, thanking the crowd, disbelief on his face as he gazed out over the heads of the crowd, scarcely able to believe the effect he and his band were having on this room, commanding its inhabitants as only the best cult leaders can! Ian too was looking dumbfounded, and although the atmospheric smoke obscured the faces of the rest of the band from my view, the sense of awe and pride was palpable in the air.
Groovy and dynamic, with an insistent bassline that never lets the pace drop, not even to pause for breath, fans old and new delighted in singing along to ‘Honeymoon Suite’, with the lift in pitch at the end of the line ‘I wish me away’ bringing childlike smiles of joy to every face as many members of the crowd greatly exaggerated the shift, laughing raucously! Revamped with new lyrics and a fresh recording for the ‘Eternity…’ era, the next song was the galloping black horse of a song that is the deceptively bouncy ‘Suzanne’, with a call-and-response style pre-chorus that begs to be shouted from a rooftop over a lit-up city, and while an ascension to a rooftop perch in the time span of the three-minute song couldn’t logistically be achieved, the crowd certainly gave it the passion and energy such a setting would warrant! In a frenzy of flashing purple lights, Creeper powered through ‘Lie Awake’, with its eponymous layered refrain and melodic subtleties; the resurrected relic ‘Gloom’, one of the band’s oldest songs, reminiscent of the band’s early potential to be the burgeoning emo gods they are now becoming; followed by fellow Creeper Cult classic ‘We Had a Pact’ which still carries the same emotion and intent that it did at those tiny gigs in Southampton years ago.
Returning from the trip down memory lane, Creeper took their music journey which by now every person in the room was being gladly immersed into to the river down below with ‘Down Below’, yet another live debut after its premiere the previous weekend on BBC Radio 1. With all the undeniably punk punch of a Blondie-inspired riff created by guitarist Ian, sumptuously blended with a Meatloaf-esque bridge with its darkly seductive atmosphere created by the haunting, lonesome piano and whispered lyrics, adding a dash of drama to the soaring melody.
One of the few momentary pauses of the night descended, and once the cheers and hollers that brought a bashful blush to Will’s otherwise ethereal white cheeks had died down, the man in question turned to the audience, saying proudly and affectionately ‘Are there any members of the Creeper Cult Facebook Group here tonight?’. A wave of hands soared proudly into the air, including my own, and shouts of delight at the recognition emanated from across the room. ‘Well this song goes out to the members of the Creeper Cult, we love you guys. This song is called Valentine’. Exultant in the wake of being given such a loving dedication, the Creeper Cult members including myself plunged headfirst into the pit, riding out the waves of the raw, punk energy and emotion that weave through the intricacies of this track. Emotion which continued as Will vacated centre stage, leaving only Ian in the spotlight, until he was joined seconds later by Hannah, who was drawn into the spotlight by a round of wild applause and the fierce chanting of her name on repeat, until eventually, smiling widely, she cut through the noise to introduce her heartfelt ballad ‘Crickets’. Her less theatrical, softer vocals in comparison to Will shimmered and sparkled like stars in the night sky over the bittersweet chords that tugged at the heartstrings as effectively as if they were guitar strings themselves. Full to the brim with reminiscence and pain, it brought tears to the eyes of everyone around me, as arms were flung around friends and strangers alike, every member of the Creeper Cult coming together, swaying and singing in unison, love and affection floating on the air like a warm breeze. By the time the final chords ebbed away, Hannah was staring at us all with a mixture of disbelief and fierce pride in her eyes, grinning broadly as the crowd cheered and screamed once more, the powerful sense of community in the room now more assured than ever.
Never ones to wallow in their emotions for too long, however, Creeper upped the tempo once again with the idiosyncratic upbeat, grand rock of ‘Hiding With Boys’ and the powerful, theatrical and melodramatic anthem that is ‘Astral Projection’, which roused another wave of crowdsurfers so heavy in number that the security guards looked as though they were playing a game of pinball, roving around the barrier in an attempt to catch each one as they came barrelling forwards, borne over the heads of the crowd! By this time, it was inching ever closer towards the end of Creeper’s set, though in the thick of it all it felt like it had been mere minutes since they had first appeared onstage! But as the lights came down, and Will began to introduce the band’s next song, it suddenly dawned on every person in the room what had to be coming next.
‘I Choose to Live’.
The ethereal, shivering chords of Hannah’s piano rang out into the hushed silence, carrying a potency which sent a sharp stab of emotion through the pit of my stomach, as I felt tears already beginning to prick my eyes as the voices of the crowd rose up now, more subdued than triumphant, and I threw my arms around my friend who, if it wasn’t for Creeper, I never would have had the joy of getting to know, as the raw, unsullied melody and minimalistic chords built into the operatic grandeur of the second chorus, the sound rising and growing as this community, this family, sang together as one. Even Will’s eyes looked glazed with the beginnings of tears as he stepped away from the mic, his last words hovering and the slowly dispersing as the six piece left the stage and the lights faded to black. Screams and pleas rose up instantly, cries of ‘One more song!’, ‘Creeper!’ and the overpoweringly raucous ‘VCR!’ all flying over our heads in a confused muddle, as the tears slowly dried on our cheeks and we added our cracked, hoarse voices to the ruckus!
It didn’t take long for the band to reappear on the stage, Will saying, somewhat awestruck ‘F*cking hell, thank you Manchester!’ before grinning mischievously and saying, his voice laced with excitement ‘This song is called VCR!’. The next three minutes were relentless and packed full of fierce, whit hot punk energy, as I took my chance to go sailing over the barrier on the hands of the crowd, letting myself be tossed up into the air by the jumping, dancing waves of the people below me! Pushing my way back through the crowd with as much politeness as I could muster with fierce happiness and exhilarating adrenaline coursing through my veins, I found my way back to my group of friends, turning back to the stage just as the band began to do their final round of thanks. As the deafening roar of the crowd rose up once more, people around me began clambering somewhat elegantly onto others’ shoulders for the final hurrah if the night, the Creeper Cult anthem which pushed this Southampton sextet out of the shadows and into the light of the music world’s notice: Misery. Gripping the hands of my friends, who were elevated above me as they sat on people’s shoulders, I was almost pulled off the floor in both a physical and metaphorical sense as we all belted out the lyrics, voices breaking with the emotion and grandeur of the moment, our desperation and defiance tying us all together and making us not just a room of music fans, but truly a cult. The Creeper Cult.
To many people, the logistics of this band may not make sense. They claim to blend horror, punk and emo, three seemingly incongruous styles, with an intricate backstory to all of their music which requires dedication and patience to unravel. They aren’t accessible, they aren’t overly marketable- to all intents and purposes, they don’t make sense. And yet, that’s just what we like about them. Against all the odds, all the criticism, this dark supernatural enigma of a band has risen from the ashes of a tamed, streamlined punk scene and a flagging emo following to create something with mystery, intent, and above all, passion. They have achieved so many extraordinary things already, culminating an ever growing fanbase along the way whose loyalty, devotion and sense of community and belonging is unrivalled in the scene currently. Their music is punchy and untamed, yet it is also theatrical and intriguing, laced in mystery and uncertainty and a dark, somewhat sinister curiosity to discover more. It isn’t often that I agree with raving drunk 20-something lads, but for once I wholeheartedly agreed with just such a man who approached my friends and I as we were leaving the venue, sweaty, exhausted, emotional and overwhelmingly happy: ‘This band are going to be huge you just wait and see! They’re going to be the new MCR, just you wait!’. Well, if that show was anything to go by, you can bet that this won’t be the last we will be hearing about Creeper over the next few years, and I am honoured to be a loyal member of the Creeper Cult who will be coming along for the ride!
Creeper's debut album 'Eternity, In Your Arms' is out now via Roadrunner Records.
Creeper play their final UK show of this tour in Cardiff tonight before heading to Europe, those dates are below:
Apr 02 Tramshed, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Apr 04 Hafenklang, Hamburg, Germany
Apr 05 Lille Vega, København V, Denmark
Apr 06 Krøsset Oslo, Norway
Apr 07 Klubben Stockholm, Sweden
Apr 09 MTC, Cologne, Germany
Apr 10 Strom, Munich, Germany
Apr 11 Arena, Vienna, Austria
Apr 12 Cassiopeia, Berlin, Germany
Apr 14 Backstage By The Mill, Paris, France
Apr 15 Melkweg Oude Zaal, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The band will also play the Main Stage on the Saturday at Download Festival in Donnington Park this June. Tickets can be purchased from the Download Festival website.
Review by Charlotte Hardman, with a little help from Cameron Jake Nell :)