Male Bonding @ The Garage, London 17/10/11

October 24, 2011 by  

This was not the typical Male Bonding venue. Only three months ago, they were playing over the road in the closet-esque Buffalo Bar, and now they’re here ? The Garage. The less interested press-types standing at the back, and the ones who paid for their tickets at the front, this evidently isn’t the communal sweat-shower that the band are probably used to.

Along with an extra member, who we were not introduced to, the threesome quietly took to the stage. I’ve never seen a band so subdued before a show, but when they finally wielded their instruments the mute switch was turned off and melodic fuzz began to emanate from the sound system.

‘Endless Now’ was the album of choice for the first half of the show, and as Male Bonding enthusiastically smashed out some of their arguably less well-known songs, the fans at the front bobbed their heads in mellow approval. It was here that it was pretty noticeable that the band are more suited to smaller venues. John Arhur Webb’s voice is barely audible at the best of times; in a tiny basement this doesn’t really matter, but in a larger space, you can’t hear a word he’s singing. This is, however, a testament to the impressively massive wall of sound that the band is able to make, considering the relatively sparse line up, which almost makes up for it. Also, the atmosphere, while essentially entirely out the band’s control, was quite unusual. A Male Bonding crowd is normally a very enthusiastic one, but here the fans were diluted with people who seemed slightly indifferent. Although, I’m sure every band has to go through a teething phase like this as they gain more notoriety ? the transition from tiny sweatbox to corporate venue is bound to be a little weird.

Everything changed when they played ‘Franklin’, though. It sounded brilliant. The subtle, catchy guitars were captivating, and you could actually hear Webb’s voice. A whole avalanche of older material from ‘Nothing Hurts’ followed, all of which went down very well, the fans at the front jumping all over each other causing a ripple effect which caused even the most nonchalant of the press guys at the back to nod their heads. Soon enough, the crowd’s enthusiasm transformed the Garage into what was a bit like a very big small venue, and the band were in their element again. They clearly preferred playing the old stuff.

It took a while to get going, but Male Bonding’s performance was very solid overall, and remarkable towards the end. They warmed to the larger stage and, if the way they were jumping around is anything to go by, actually liked it. At least here, they actually have space to jump around. The support bands were fantastic too. All in all, it was a successful night for all involved.