Due to the standard concoction of last minute drives, Manchester parking, and incredibly early doors unfortunately we miss Fearless Vampire Killers, arriving just in time to see the last few people shell out £16 for tickets. However, the room is still buzzing from their set when Tonight Alive take the stage to serve up some well rehearsed pop rock and set the crowd well and truly going. Singer Jenna McDougall commands the stage and has the crowd eating out of her hand from the off. Despite sounding like they’re playing in a tin can – presumably the sound guy is taking advantage of the young crowd providing a queue free bar – and the fact that McDougall looks like a primary school choir girl singing along to her songs in full robotic fashion, Tonight Alive put on a good show. There’s nothing groundbreaking on display here but it’s a strong set and difficult to argue with. The band clearly love it, the crowd love it, and despite a frightening overuse of vocal delay and demands that the crowd ‘give us those horns’ the band provide exactly what the tin says: well-intentioned, inoffensive pop rock and roll. (3/5)
Next up are Chiodos, playing to a mixture of new faces and an old guard brimming with nostalgic pleasure. When singer Craig Owens announces to the room that, “This song is called, ‘There’s No Penguins in Alaska’”, my seventeen-year-old self is desperately trying to burst out of my chest and sing his little heart out. The sound has improved noticeably much to the benefit of Chiodos’ heavy barrage of synth and riffs, and the band proceed to deliver far and away the strongest set of the night. Owens works the crowd well, with everything feeling a lot less rehearsed than Tonight Alive had made it seem. Much like them however, Chiodos are clearly passionate about the music they play and about the people who listen to it. Unfortunately Owens’ words about living for yourself and doing what makes you happy – an ever present yet no less important speech at shows like these – are cancelled out by his frequent sex talk and demand to hear who amongst the audience (averaging 15 years-old at a push) likes their sex dirty; the chorus of high pitch squealing that follows will stay with me a while. It is, quite frankly, gross. Again though, Chiodos supply a strong set, tight as all hell and with presence to spare, without the incredibly cringy sex talk this would have left a better taste in my mouth; but there’s no refuting their ability as a live band. (4/5)
Last up, the band everyone’s been waiting for, Black Veil Brides have arrived – and they are terrible. “What’s motherfucking up, motherfuckers? We’re Black Veil Brides, motherfuckers! Motherfuckers.” This seems to be some sort of mantra. They need everyone to know that they are, in fact, rock stars. But it’s hard to take that already somewhat repugnant attitude seriously when the bass player is asking, ‘Who’s fucking partying with us tonight?“ whilst dressed in his Mötley Crüe uniform and talking into his 90’s boy band head mic. That’s exactly how the entirety of the set goes; Black Veil Brides come across as a boy band in make up. They offer nothing but posturing and clichés and then sell it on a t-shirt for £20 a pop. Singer Andy Biersack looks incredibly uncomfortable in a Batman shirt cut to look like something from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno’s wardrobe. After a couple of identical sounding songs, fit to burst with guitar solos most high school rock bands would be ashamed of, and plenty of synchronized beer drinking – did they mention what enormous rock stars they were? – Black Veil Brides decide it’s time to cover Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’. This lasts what feels like an age and all around us Dad’s are regretting more than ever driving their teenage daughters to this farce. With the exception of the man a few feet to our left who has spent the last two hours playing Bejewelled Blitz on his iPhone and continues completely oblivious to his surroundings. Not long after this a bra appears on a mic stand, because, well… rock stars, if you weren’t already convinced.
Eventually the crowd is treated to an interlude, notably not the encore, just a little interlude in the middle where the band leaves the stage and we stand in silence listening to prerecorded violins. The standard ballad follows and introduces a generation of people to the fake rain that had grown old not long after ‘Black Sabbath’ had hit the shelves – it matches the heart beat that comes later in terms of tacky ways to hide the fact that this band don’t actually do much. There are an awful lot of sound effects and a lot of brilliantly struck poses, but there is almost nothing in the way of real, heartfelt musicianship to be found. In ten years time many members of this audience will turn red as they tell their friends that their first show was Black Veil Brides on the 2013 Kerrang! Tour and those friends will ‘awh’ in response.
This thought, however, presents me with a problem because, as with the other two bands, the crowd is incredibly excited. Cheering, singing, and having the time of their lives and with the Facebook photos to prove it – the band ask how they’re doing and the response is deafening. People love it and I can’t argue with that. I can’t turn around and tell someone not to have fun, not to love something. This is, if anything, an introduction to heavy music that could lead people to discovering something real and true. But this is neither of those things. This is a t-shirt, this is posing, and this is nothing at all. As Biersack flexes his arms to another ear destroying round of screams during the final weak guitar solo, I finally tear my eyes away and walk, bewildered, from the venue. Maybe music isn’t dead but if people keep selling this soulless, posturing nonsense to generation after generation then it could soon find itself six feet below a pile of deliberately ripped black jeans and identikit vests. (1/5)
Words by Tom Knott (@nounandthenouns)