Less than a week on from seeing a stellar Shame grace the Troxy stage, I found myself back in East London, waiting to see a band I hadn’t seen since a show of the year contender at the end of festival season last year. Ahhh yes, Yard Act. Before I caught them closing out the summer of 2022 at End of the Road last year I wasn’t convinced of their live potential. After seeing them however, I was a bought and sold convert for life. The energy, the fun, the stacked set list, it had everything and left nothing to be desired.
Now though, as we rush towards the summer of 2023, I had the chance to catch them at a headline show of theirs, in a final victory lap of their first two critically acclaimed projects. I was far more excited than the first time I caught them, a main reason being that they were being supported by post-punk fast risers Fat Dog, another band I first came across at End of the Road.
I turned up not expecting a lot in terms of crowd engagement for the support, but was blown away by what I witnessed. An electric example of how crowd engagement and great music can burst through the majority of the crowd not knowing any of your songs. A pool of around 50 people circled around frontman Joe as he jumped into the crowd for the back half of the set. The instrumentation was unrelenting, pounding away at the eardrums of everyone in attendance. Something really special is about to come out of this band, who have signed to iconic indie label Domino recently. What I see every time I catch Fat Dog is incredibly hard to explain, what I am sure of is some ground breaking projects on the way. Their energy and sound is that of a post-punk Death Grips, as if MC Ride and his gang of merry music vandals locked themselves in a room and listened to Warmduscher and Viagra Boys for a couple months. Make of that what you will but to me, literally and figuratively, they are music to my fucking ears.
Once the buzz of raw testosterone had subsided in the wake of their set, a new buzz began to build, the buzz of impending Yard-Actery. Opening their set with the two-toned bass intro of Rich, dragged out to get the audience involved. “I’m gonna do a Freddy Mercury, where I say something… and then you repeat that.” An unexpected start, but one that did the trick, bringing the crowd members (that may have missed out on Fat Dog) shot in the arm up to speed.
A couple of new songs also featured as the set signified a final goodbye to some classic tracks, at least for the foreseeable future. As sad as it was that tracks such as Fixer Upper and Peanuts were missing from the set list, the new songs did a good job of conjuring some excitement for the direction the band are going in. The one that sticks out most in the mind is Trench Coat Museum. Its energy, without a single member of the crowd knowing a word, matched many of the well-known songs of the night, serving as a surprising high.
The constant flow of crowd swell, the opening and swift closing of mosh-pits, just the overall energy of this gig was at such a consistently high peak that it was hard to catch your breath, let alone drink in the brilliance. On the eve of a weekend that was about to see the British public requested to swear allegiance to the adulterous brother of an alleged sex offender, Yard Act really felt like the only legitimate form of entertainment. As Land of the Blind played the choice of silence over the weekend was floated out to the crowd – “or… we could just sing over it, ba ba ba baba ba, ba ba baba…” to be witness to the social and political antithesis of what the coronation weekend stood for was, for me at least, a rather refreshing palate cleanser for the sickening display of misplaced patriotism that was to follow.
Other highlights in the set for me included a surprise appearance of cradle to grave cut Tall Poppies, which was accompanied by an intriguing, drawn out spoken word finish (far longer than the album track) that was a great addition, if not for much of the monologue being drowned out by fan noise. Witness (Can I Get A?) and The Overload also served as adrena-soaked-crowd-churners that saw arms thrown into legs and heads thrown into other, bigger heads (all in good fun and fun love). The almost non-stop set was one that you couldn’t help but revel in, from start to finish.
Speaking of the finish, very few acts are able to pull out such a well-balanced encore as Yard Act at this point. Opening with arguably their signature track at this point, 100% Endurance, a beautifully communal moment in a set that was screaming out for it, paired with the set closer and set list non-mover, Trappers Pelts. Giving the crowd a final chance to expel their innate feral vigour, if they hadn’t done so already. A personal favourite of mine, its own peaks and troughs served as a perfect microcosm of the night itself ad by the time the dust had settled, there was little else to think, feel or hear.