The main reason I wanted to go to Hit The North Festival this year was for Blaenavon. And, as usual, they did not disappoint. Heads up, they’re my favourite band so there’s no such thing as an objective review for me. Think indie rock with huge choruses and intricate lyrics, and you’ve got a good picture already. Blaenavon are back and ready to take things up a level.
After a delayed start due to soundchecking (which was a common feature across everyone I saw that day), the band started with ‘Catatonic Skinbag’. They played this at last year’s festival too as a brand new song, and it felt like the experience had come full circle as everyone now knew the words and it gathered as much excitement as some of their big singles from That’s Your Lot. I’d snagged myself a front row spot, in pretty much the same place as last year, so the de ja vu was real. Basically, I love this song and it was a perfect opener. The boys slipped into ‘Destiny’s Mild’, throwing it back to their Miss World EP; at times it felt like I was the only one really going for it but a glance back saw the middle of the crowd getting into it too. By the time ‘My Bark is Your Bite’ got to the chorus, there was an impressive pit forming out of the keen fans, and the atmosphere was building. ‘Lonely Side’ is quite possibly my favourite Blaenavon song, so I really can’t comment much on it as I was dancing and singing along too hard to even think about review notes. [NOTE: My literal only note after the show was ‘They were good AS ALWAYS’.]
Ben Gregory (vocals) introduced a new song called ‘Fucking Up My Friends’, which I am already in love with. Huge shoutout to the guy in the middle of the front row who somehow knew ALL the words already. The song sounded huge, characteristically Blaenavon but with a hint of what’s to come with their upcoming album. Ben joked about the album coming “sometime” as they’d recently rescheduled the release and its accompanying tour; for me, if they’re working on songs as good as this one, they can take all the time they need. After the new one, they brought it right back to ‘Wunderkind’ from their 2013 Koso EP, dedicating it to a fan – even with this older track, there were still plenty of dedicated fans singing along. Since I’d last seen them at Hit The North and their headline tour supporting That’s Your Lot, there hadn’t been much opportunity to hear these older songs live, the ones that had made me a fan before their debut. It was a great addition to the set and reminded me that I need to go back and listen to all the EPs Right Now.
As expected, ‘I Will Be The World’ went OFF and the crowd became a sea of dancing, jumping and screaming along. This song always feels like the very core of what Blaenavon is: complex lyrics sang softly before exploding into a chorus of noise, sound and energy. ‘Orthodox Man’ and ‘Prague ‘99’ followed this feeling, creating a set climax that got everyone moving. Again, I was in my own world dancing and having the time of my life, and it felt like the rest of the crowd felt the same way. ‘Prague ‘99’ always ends Blaenavon’s shows on a high, and this time was just the same. Ben, Harris (drums), Frank (bass) and newest member Scott (guitar) all appeared to be having the best time onstage, which was especially good to see as it’s been a hot minute since they performed. The band had taken some time off for personal reasons, and Ben thanked the crowd for being there to see them after what felt like two lifetimes since they performed. I was so happy to see them back on stage having a blast; it’s where they belong.
After their set finished, I spoke to Ben who promised that the next album would be even better. I believe it, and I’m sure I’ll be back on that barrier next time they’re in Newcastle.