The Actress and Bishop is a left-field venue choice, especially for a band as internationally known as Norway’s Sløtface. It’s obscure, off the beaten track and this is the first time in this reviewer’s seven years in Birmingham that he has seen a band perform there. It is for the most part an able, if tiny, performance space, despite the sound bleed from the Friday Night pubbing that is happening below. Plus there’s seating!
Before the main act are Wolverhampton indie rockers, JUMP THE SHARK. Being the sole support tonight it is their job to warm up the crowd, and of this they do a noble job. One guy stage left is really into it, dancing and jumping about for the whole set. Everyone else reacts in a more politely non-committal manner. Driving basslines permeate their songs with solos peppered throughout, with three separate vocalists for a sense of variety. They finish off with ‘Robot Song’ with its automated sounding drum loops and riffs, building to a final chaotic close.
All memory of Jump The Shark is barged forcibly away by SLØTFACE. Having released one of the best new albums of this year (Try Not To Freak Out) mere weeks before this show, those in the know know that they’re in for something special. Kicking off with the uptempo stomp of ‘Magazine’, before continuing with ‘Pools’ and ‘Bright Lights’, despite some jarring between song pauses, the band are off to an enviable start. The band’s energy is sky-high, bounding across the stage, the audience can barely keep up. ‘Pitted’ ramps things up even further with its “And there’s that song on, I hope for Queen B/But I can fake it to Bohemian Rhapsody” refrain and the hard rock riffing. It’s also the first of multiple occasions that singer Haley Shea ventures into the pit.
Their ability to hype up the crowd is incredible, from a slow start for the crowd to get to their level, the band whip up a fury of pogoing limbs and banging heads. A Nina Simone sample introduces the dance-tastic ‘Night Guilt’ with its big bassy Daft Punk style attack. By ‘Sponge State’ the band were still not adequately impressed with the crowds energy levels, so the bassist, Lasse Lokøy, relocates to the middle of increasingly frenzied pit. Intermingled with these absolute bangers are slower moments like ‘Slumber’; its “Even as a child I knew/I’d never have friends like these again” lyric being sung back religiously by the crowd.
They close their set with a hyper ‘Nancy Drew’, the whole crowd jumping. With the whole venue in the palm of her hand, Shea directs the crowd in the call-and-response chant of main-set closer ‘Backyard’. During the last moments of this song, Shea takes a unexpected backwards leap into the crowd from which she’s barely saved from the floor. Due to this anti-climatic ending, Sløtface re-try their finale, instead closing with the very awesome dance-punk oldie ‘Bad Party’, complete with its sweary spoken-word section. On nights like this, you don’t have to be high to be sure of how fucking good Sløtface are. Be sure to check them out next time they’re in town.