The Fleece is a big player in Bristol’s music scene, having hosted an impressive list of names over the past 35 years, despite its relatively intimate size. I’m ashamed to say this was my first visit, although I’m still fairly new to Bristol so forgive me!
It did seem like the night I’d chosen to try it out was reserved for bands whose names begin with the letter B and who can make some serious noise…
I arrived as Bearpit were just starting. They’re a local group named after Bristol’s infamous city centre underpass, and speaking to a couple of them afterwards, I found out that this was their biggest gig so far. You wouldn’t have known though, as they more than held their own on the stage. They blasted through tracks from their EP Blacklist in an explosion of fast beats, strong riffs and almost entirely unclean vocals, with long hair and dreads flying around the stage. They were an interesting choice of opener, being a heavier brand of metalcore than what was to follow, but Bearpit definitely filled their purpose of getting heads nodding and the crowd hyped for the acts to follow. I’m sure this won’t stay their biggest gig for long.
Next up were Blood Youth, who I’ve been a fan of for the last couple of months thanks to editor Dan introducing me to them. Having heard how good they are live, I’d been buzzing to see them. They did not disappoint. As soon as they reached the stage guitarist Chris Pritchard launched into the intro of Making Waves, the first track from their debut full length. The track immediately got the still fairly small crowd moving. This was closely followed by the frantically brilliant Dead Space, and then a selection of more of their hard hitting yet melodic tracks spanning both of their EPs and album. Singer Kaya Tarsus’ raw vocals were impressive throughout, and in a live setting managed to come across way angrier than the recordings (that’s saying something). I could see that they had a number of fans present, and I’m sure that they made a lot more by the performance they gave. By the second half of their set, which included the more melodic Closure followed by the thundering Failure, a crazy pit was well underway just behind me, egged on by Kaya himself. They finished with Reason to Stay, after which they cleared the stage quickly, seeming to keep up their aura of fury with few words for the crowd. Their stormy composure quickly cleared though as they were soon by the merch table mixing with their existing and new fans.
By the time the Arizonan metalcore headliners took the stage The Fleece was still far from packed out, and I was hoping this wouldn’t affect their performance. It didn’t: blessthefall’s energy throughout the set was electric, and singer Beau Bokan’s high-voltage stage presence was mesmerising as he jumped around, constantly interacting with the crowd. They kicked things off with What’s Left Of Me, and bassist / screamer Jared Warth’s vocals quickly returned the fury to the room. Their stand-in drummer (Matt Traynor being on paternity leave) put in a solid performance, especially during the high-speed Youngbloods. Highlights of what followed included Hollow Bodies and Oathbreaker, for which Beau’s infectious energy got the whole crowd jumping with him. He seemed on a mission to grab each person in the crowd’s hand: one overly excited super fan next to me told me at the end of the gig that he’d touched Beau twenty times. Beau also took it upon himself to keep the crowd hydrated too as you can see from the picture I took above: I was right in the firing line! Meanwhile guitarists’ Eric Lambert and Elliott Gruenberg pulled off their heavy riffs and stunning solos with relentless skill and headbanging.
The band didn’t bother to leave the stage for their encore, they decided to “end this shit right!” and plough straight into Hey Baby, Here’s That Song You Wanted. The energy in the room somehow climbed yet another level, as did Beau who leapt from the stage and up onto the bar for part of the song.
The only disappointment of the night was the venue not filling up, and I hope the rest of their dates in the UK drew closer to the type of crowd the bands deserved, and that blessthefall can easily pull back home in the States and other parts of the world. blessthefall have been back in the studio recently and Blood Youth are also working on their next album, so watch this space.