Before we begin, let’s take a moment to remember the eardrums of the Birmingham gig-going collective, as they took one hell of a beating on the 26th January 2019. Boston-formed and now LA-based band Slothrust took to the stage at The Sunflower Lounge in their apparent war against hearing to an audience that knew that if this was the last thing they heard, then what an exit it would have been. Birmingham was treated to a trip backwards through rock music history as part of this requiem for the ears.
Coventry indie-rock band Candid opened to a very, very full room of fans who enjoyed the foursome’s late 00s influenced set. There was a good attentive audience hooked on their songs, with “Concrete Jungle” being a particular highlight. They even cheekily threw in a plug for a new song that they weren’t going to play, just to “keep the suspense”.
Next up, touring support Active Bird Community from Brooklyn picked up the keys to the time machine and took the audience to the early noughties to bask in the emo pop punk of that era. Championing a new generation of desolate, disillusioned teenagers in a sound that teenagers-that-were can also bask in a melodic wave of nostalgia. They never let things settle either, keeping it interesting by switching vocal duties between Tom D’Agustrino and Andrew Wolfson to good effect. At one point drummer Quinn McGovern swapped places and sung lead for one track, leading to a few excited cheers from the crowd. A great performance that won a few new fans in the audience and worked their magic to warm up the crowd for the main headline act.
The basement of The Sunflower Lounge continued its role as a makeshift TARDIS by continuing to travel back in sound. Pavement and The Flaming Lips were played during the mid-set transition, setting up the mood for Slothrust’s appearance.
Immediately loud, immediately energetic and immediately greeted with a sold out crowd for their first Birmingham headline show, Slothrust began their rock-armed assault on The Sunflower Lounge. Within the first few songs, they demonstrated themselves as a band where the live performance allows you to “get” them.
The songs came alive and you felt the energy emit as it travelled through everyone. They were all in sync, incredibly tight and the songs flowed effortlessly. Personal highlights included (but were not limited to) You’re the Worst theme tune “7:30am” and the song dedicated to Robin Williams “For Robin”. After a cover (that I didn’t unfortunately recognise but setlists from earlier gigs in the tour state was “Sex and Candy” by Marcy Underground), they then played “Like A Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone” and at that point we were fully in the 90s. The loudness was unleashed and the crowd began to really get lively; everyone enjoyed every minute of it.
As vocalist/guitarist Leah Wellbaum mentioned that they were about to play a song from a first album that’s only available on bandcamp or at the merch stand and a request for a song was met with “we’ll get to that,” Wellbaum muses that the first album wasn’t her favourite, but plays it to a great reaction. Then current single “Double Down” (which recently received a remix by Willy Beaman) is played to an enormous reaction. The crowd sang along and Wellbaum channeled her robotic movements from the video to great effect.
As with all good things, they can’t last forever. So they “closed” with “Horseshoe Crabs” and then break music kayfabe by saying they can’t do the usual encore theatrics due to the fact the only way backstage is through the crowd and past the bar. So they finish with “Crockpot” and a very, very appreciative crowd.
Ending on a high, with the torn and battered eardrums of Central England laid waste by these travelling rockers from overseas, Slothrust emerge triumphant. Not only that, they say that they plan on coming back – presumably to finish the job of deafening us all. After a brilliant show like that, we may just let them.