Review: The Story So Far – Lemon Grove, Exeter

One of my fears about the Rock/Metal scene is that as older bands finally throw in the towel and retire, the music will stop attracting new, young fans and bands and will quietly die. Arriving at the student venue of the Lemon Grove for The Story So Far, my fears are allayed. A big crowd, patiently waiting for entry, and not a single one of them appears to be much into their 20’s.

What has brought them out on a wet and windy night is a bill of three of the best punk bands around on the scene right now.

First up were Drug Church. Like all the bands, this was my first experience of the New Yorkers, and I was very impressed. It’s not easy to generate energy when you are first up, but from the first song “Banco Popular” they grabbed the audience and didn’t let go.

Led by frontman Patrick Kindlon, they raced through a short, but edgy, set. Their sound is kind of ‘grunge-meets-punk-in-a-New York-ghetto’, and the lyrics are socially aware, but with a world-weary cynicism.

At one point, Kindlon riffs to the crowd about how “punk bands often smash stuff up, but we always think how their Mama would feel if they saw them”, before launching into another blitz of guitars and rhythm, and prowling the stage with an air of menace.

The set was over far too quickly, and I can imagine that given the right backing, the name could be one for the future.

A short break and Turnstile grabbed the energy that Drug Church had created, and erupted onto the stage.

Whereas the openers were content to stand back and let the singer create the rapport with the audience, Turnstile flung themselves at them from all angles.

Hailing from Baltimore, the hardcore punk band are a blitz of motion. Singer Brendan Yates immediately heading into the audience with the microphone whilst bassist Babydick Franz cavorts and leaps from amp to centre stage and back. Twin guitarists Brady Ebert and Sean Cullen hang back in the shadows, then forge forward to flank the crowd with driving guitar patterns, and drummer Daniel Fang’s foundation holds the whole thing together.

Shooting these guys from the pit you almost feel like part of the show. Yates appears in the viewfinder, flying towards you then looms over as he whips the crowd up. In the corner of your eye, you see Franz leap in the air athletically and you spin around to see one of the two guitarists bouncing, or planted at the edge of the stage laying down a rhythm.

You don’t sit there quietly taking the odd pic, you find yourself drawn in and your heart races with the adrenaline rush.

The songs fly by. Harsh, fast, intense. This isn’t music to listen to, it’s music to experience.

Finally, up to the stage were the headliners, The Story So Far.

If the first two bands had been bludgeons, this was rapier pop punk. Every song has an infectious hook and singalong lyrics. There is no banter between songs to draw the set out, just fifteen songs that had the crowd moving constantly (usually surfing towards and over the barriers.)

A moment here to credit security at the venue. I have read lots of posts recently about over-zealous security guards reacting badly to crowd surfing and pits at other venues, but these guys got it spot on. As people reached the barriers they were courteously brought to earth and escorted to the sides. Only repeat offenders got a stern word and even then, no more. It added to the atmosphere that people weren’t intimidated and they even got a credit from the band.

The set opened with ‘Empty Space’, and swept on through ‘Nerve’ and ‘Things I Can’t Change’ and there are clear comparisons to be drawn with Blink-182 and Green Day, amongst others. Parker Cannon is a powerful frontman. His vocals are clear and tuneful and his stripped, tattooed torso is the focus of the stage. Kevin Geyer and William Levy alternate catchy riffs and play off against each other whilst a constant, infectious rhythm is laid down by bassist Kelen Caperner and drummer Ryan Torf.

The band describe their lyrics with “This is music to fall in love to, to heal a broken heart with, to celebrate personal victories, or trudge through life’s hardships” and you can see that the songs encompass life as one of the late teens that fill the venue.

The set contains a mix of obvious crowd favourites and songs from the relatively new self-titled album, and Cannon gives the crowd reign to take over singing duties whenever a chorus stirs their voices.

After a few songs, I leave security to deal with the stream of crowd surfers and make my way from the pit to watch from the back.

As I stand there, enjoying the show, I get a tap on the shoulder and turn around. A fellow “oldie” tells me it’s great to see someone else our age, and why is it only kids go to gigs any more ? He seems to feel it is a bad sign. I look at the crowd, young and clearly identifying with every word and emotion coming from the stage, and couldn’t disagree more !

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Review and images by Rob Wilkins

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