It’s been a little while since I last told the Interweb about a live music experience within the frame of this blog’s ARM feature, thus what better occasion to make up for it than trying to narrate the inhuman and all-encompassing energy usually brought forward by L.A.-based punk/post-hardcore band letlive.? Yes, I know, despite what you’re thinking that is indeed the actual way to spell their name, one word with period, go check that out if you don’t believe it. The four-pice outfit is currently performing a short leg of European dates before returning home for the official release of their highly-anticipated fourth album If I’m The Devil…, due on 6th June and wonderfully previewed by the politically-fuelled single “Good Mourning, America“, a track that many people already define as punk’s response to Kendrick Lamar’s socially aware hip hop undertones. In fact, letlive.’s been experiencing some certain kind of hype since their sophomore record Fake History, released in 2010 and widely praised by fans and critics ever since. Not necessarily the most melodically and lyrically accessible band, letlive. has seen developing an extreme cult following over the years, largely propelled by their general avoidance of commonly traditional marketing/promotional methods, rather investing almost all of their efforts in pushing word of mouth propaganda among their existing and new fans and delivering radical live experiences for their audience.
Yesterday’s concert was my second time seeing them live, though I must say the two occasions are practically incomparable, for many reasons. My first witnessing of their disruptive and inspiring live performances was in Zurich back in September 2011 when they were supporting UK anthemic rockers Enter Shikari. I didn’t know them at the time and incidentally also came a little too late to their set as I in fact probably only got to see half of their show, obviously reinforcing the thesis that at the time I was there merely because of the British headliners. However, those 25 minutes I experienced with letlive. on stage – or rather more offstage I would say as eclectic and energetic frontman Jason Aalon Butler kept backflipping and crowdsurfing most of the time – were no short of a premonition of their promising potential, and if their live stage presence was to be any kind of a sign of their musical force on the records too then it quickly became clear that I had to engage with the band at some point. And so I did, catching up with Fake History after their re-release under Epitaph Records and most importantly witnessing the relevance and intensity of their third record The Blackest Beautiful in real time, albeit needing a little while to grow on me. The time had slowly come to experience them live as headliners, hence changing a whole lot of perspective compared to when I first shared a room with them in 2011.
Fast forward a couple of years and here I was at their first London show in quite some time at Tufnell Park’s The Dome North of town. Unsurprisingly supported by raw and violent Birmingham-native trio Youth Man, letlive. was once again nothing short of amazing. Taking the stage with British precision at 9pm o’clock, the L.A. punks filled the small capacity venue with dances, mosh, sweat and positive energy for over an hour. The buzz and wilderness between the four walls was extremely intense, testified by yours sincerely as someone who’s always been into punk live shows and who could only physically coexist in the front rows for about half of the 15-song set, before backing up a little and resting a heavily sprained ankle (here’s lookin’ at you, “The Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion”). The vibe was unlike most of nowadays’ gigs: almost no one bothered to pick up smartphone and record a thing (my bad for the one attached below…), the mosh pit was completely real, relentless and dope, boys and girls of all age embracing each other bro-fisting, smiling and screaming at the top of their lunges angst-filled lyrics with rare liberation. All this back backed with an impeccable performance on the part of letlive. – incidentally backed by a additional touring guitarist Mishka Bier after the departure of legacy member Jean Nascimento less than a year ago – with Jason Butler’s singing at this best on tunes such as “The Dope Beat”, new single “Good Mourning, America” and emotional encore-opener “Pheromone Cvlt”.
The band’s rhythm section was no different, it just worked perfectly without ever overdoing while at the same time arguably being the driving force behind groovy and flowy tracks like “White America’s Beautiful Black Market”, “Casino Columbus” and, according to Jason’s intro to the song, live rarity “Lemon Party”. The whole thing simply sounded rad – acknowledging that the backing rhythm guitar is in this regard essential and much needed to complement and thrive a proper wall of sound – while the physical and visual addition of infinite crowd-surfing, stage invading and high jumping just rendered the whole occasion a true rarity. Again, this appears particularly true if compared to the majority of shows in this day and age (and I consider myself a heavy-concert goer thus with some degree of legitimacy in claiming this), that unfortunately seem to manifest themselves more within the screens of smartphones than in the body and souls of the attendees. For real though, who really looks back at all the shitty and low-fi pics and videos recorded during gigs?
However, if I were to spot a flaw during yesterday’s performance – come on, in the end this is indeed a review feature – I must say, with the exception of the aforementioned “Good Mourning, America”, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of further new material showcased at the gig. That is, with just over a month to go before the release of the new album, it’s probably not too far off to expect a bit more previews into what the new output really holds for us. In fact, I initially thought that whole reason for this short pre-release European tour was to actually present some new tunes satisfying a long-lasting appetite from truly devoted fans. Yet, nothing new except for what’s already out there. Though I guess this must have a more than valid reason, and probably I dare to say that to some degree letlive. understandably wants to enjoy as long as possible the overwhelmingly positive reaction to their latest single, which last night had Jason shouting the following in the middle of song: “Fuck, this came out two weeks ago and everyone knows all the words already!”. Word of mouth really does work for them, I guess.
This is the rad setlist letlive. performed:
That Fear Fever
The Dope Beat
White America’s Beautiful Black Market
Good Mourning, America
I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.
Listen to letlive. ll.ove.