Live Review: Bears in Trees at Club Academy
On Tuesday the 15th of February, I headed to club academy to see self-proclaimed ‘tiktok band’ Bears in Trees. It was the third night of their second ever UK headline tour and having requested tickets one minute before doors opened, I had no idea what to expect.
If you’ve been on tiktok in the past two years then you’ve probably had this band come up on your for you page. They’ve been tenacious in their use of social media for self promotion and it seems to have worked. The demographic of the audience looked like the exact type they’ve been trying to target with young, pride-flag wielding teens queuing outside for hours.
As the show got under way, the two support acts, local and loud post-punk band careering and touring support singer-songwriter Lucy Blue could not have been more jarring to listen to one after the other. Somehow though, the crowd did manage to get invested in both, awkward chat from the careering frontman notwithstanding.
As the headliners of the night entered the stage, the first couple of tunes set them up well for what was to come. Emo and pop-punk influences were clear in both their sound and lyrics in the tracks ‘cut corners on short walks’ and ‘ibuprofen’. The fact that I quickly realised that I knew more of their songs than I had thought (ie. more than 0) is a testament to the success of their tiktok campaigning.
Bears in Trees’ music speaks for itself, it’s your necessary emo indie-rock with a bit more to it that owes itself to classically trained members and passionate lyricists. But it’s the atmosphere they create live (and that they manage to replicate to an extent on their social media) that sets them apart. Even without being a member of their clearly cult fanbase, I felt like I was in on all the inside jokes and they had me joining in with call and response sections for songs that I didn’t even know before walking in. In my notes for one of these I’ve written: ‘reminiscent of Humuhumunukunukuapua’a from high school musical 2’, which if you’ve seen the film, I think says a lot about the vibe they were giving off. Weird in the best way.
As we got further into the set the band began to open up more about what their lyrics meant. They cited their own personal experiences but always brought it back to a hopeful and happy conclusion before moving on. This is a move the band’s members have described as a deliberate attempt at self reflection and trying not to make the mistakes that the emo bands they listened to growing up made.
This is probably influenced by the fact that the two vocalists, Iaian and Callum have masters degrees in psychology and therapy respectively. The flips from sincere speeches about the death of a friend to happy riffs and some members of the crowd doing the Macarena to every song (literally every single one), created an unforgettable atmosphere in the already intimate venue and it was in this section that they played fan-favourites: ‘ramblings of a lunatic’ and ‘little cellist’.
Bringing the atmosphere back to a more upbeat place, beaming smiles back on their faces, they were true to their brand and had the crowd join in with making a tiktok, getting everyone back on board for the last few songs.
As the gig wound down, their emo roots were crystal clear and there were some really strong tracks in there. The opening riff for ‘keep it easy’ is still going round in my head days later and their foray into a more beachy rock sound with ‘confidant’ stood out for its syncopation and sunny pentatonics. I’d definitely say they come across stronger live than on their recorded projects but that doesn’t seem to have stopped their streaming numbers from skyrocketing in the past year so what do I know?
With the repeated phrase ‘What do you have to be sad about?’ from another fan-favourite, ‘fresh concrete’, they went out on a high as promised. My plus 1 and I left reminded of the days of being fourteen and listening intently to every word the latest 2015 emo frontman told us, but glad that the us of today have that coming from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. The music stuck with us too, I’ve listened to their album a couple of times in the past week so maybe I’m a convert. Either way, when it comes to a classic indie-rock four-piece like this that leave you with a smile on your face as you walk back out into a cold Tuesday night, what do you have to be sad about?