Corr where do I even start? Drunken messes, sexist football hooliganism, and beer flying everywhere.
The tone of the night should have been predicted given that both support acts were all-male bands. The crowd as well was very male, but with a wide age range. In terms of women, there were a few, along with a cluster of young teen girls, probably aged around 14/15/16. With drunk older men hovering outside the girls’ toilets, this gig probably failed every single accessibility and inclusivity suggestion you could ask for. The highlight of my night was singing Sweet Caroline in the crowd, during the transition between the Gulps and the Skinner Brothers, and that already says a lot…
The Skinner Brothers have previously supported Kasabian touring in 2021 and have just released the album Soul Boy II. You can read my review on the album here!
The first act of the night was The Chase, and they were probably the best band at Deaf that night… They had good energy and good banter, especially given the dissembling and resembling of the drum kit after the first song. Almost proving their backup job could be stand-up comedy, they seamlessly filled the gaps with puns and jokes, really portraying themselves to be nice lads who were enjoying their time on stage. The music itself was high energy with the quirky use of the keys, at the same time as being indie rock on the guitars and drums, it was almost quite chaotically pleasing. I actually don’t mind their music after listening to it on Spotify after the gig, but I think this is because sounded chaotic and almost messy on stage. Many songs sounded fairly similar and blended in with each other. They treated Manchester to a new song called ‘The Rumba’ and are back in May.
The Gulps are a London band with members from across Europe and the Middle East. The lead singer Harry All exuded Freddie Mercury energy throughout. However, near the end of their set, the band became fairly aggressive and almost angry at the audience. The stage arrangement appeared to be very cramped, and the musicians kept bumping into each other. Initially, I assumed this was due to the small size of the Deaf Institute’s stage, but the last time I was in Deaf in December, Delights had five people on stage and it did not seem claustrophobic. The Gulps definitely put on a show; they were enjoying themselves and every moment on stage. After a few failed attempts to engage the audience, the audience eventually became responsive after about 15 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed ‘Stuck in the City’, especially the chorus. Surprisingly, the Gulps only have two Spotify releases, and finished their set with ‘The Kings House’.
Now we have the headliners of the night – The Skinner Brothers. I was honestly and genuinely excited to see The Skinner Brothers perform live, especially since I rated their most recent album 7.5/10. However, I was extremely disappointed not only with their performance, but also with the energy they gave off and the general atmosphere. The only way I can describe it is that I felt like I was watching a bunch of sleezy old drunk men at the local pub after a football game.
The performance started with a minute-long siren fused with electronic and techno-like sounds, and then a beat that gave off 2007 Jessie J and girls aloud girl group street dance. Not that I wasn’t one of them back in the day. The crowd were hyped, but I was honestly a bit baffled at what I had just witnessed, the siren just did not do the job at setting the tone for the night.
I’m not sure if they were awfully drunk, and if they were, that doesn’t excuse their poor performance, but frontman Zac Skinner was incredibly jittery and spent more time in the air crowd-surfing than on stage; and more time speaking, slurring, making inappropriate comments, or drinking, rather than actually singing their songs.
Within seconds of their first song, Zac was already in the crowd, or the air. I’m not sure what to say about the first song because I was so taken aback. The band sounded slightly better during the second song, ‘Culture Non-Stop,’ but another stage dive occurred (it got repetitive and predictable within minutes).
This was followed by a long break between songs and Zac chatting about how “London is s**t compared to this,” “F**k London, f**k them all,” which prompted the crowd to begin chanting Manchester football slogans in a cult-like manner. This comment surprised me because a large part of their aesthetic is about being ‘proper’ London lads, singing about London culture, and so on. I’m beginning to wonder how performative that is…
A popular song was ‘Away Days,’ which has an acoustic version on their latest album. Before the song began, Zac told the audience, “I want to see geezers on shoulders and girls on shoulders”. This was well received, with many fans following suit and being thrust into the air. The band then performed a new song from their album Stupid Much, which the audience knew the lyrics word for word.
There was a lot of drinking during the first half of their set. Pouring beer cans on themselves, each other on stage, and the crowd. Occasionally taking gulps of beer from the can and hurling them into the crowd. Not only did this mean that everyone smelled like beer and that beer was flying everywhere, but it also meant that cans of beer could knock someone out… Bless the Deaf Institute employees who had to clean up after that!
Then the inappropriate sexual remarks started. I’m not sure mentioning that this was a 14+ event is even relevant, because even as a 20-year-old, I found this rhetoric and comments extremely uncomfortable and unenjoyable. The comments, regardless of age, are neither professional nor appropriate. Zac’s remark that Alfie Clayton had just been dumped and wanted to be “groovy” with a Manchester girl and that “he’s on the prowl tonight” certainly left much to be desired.
Zac then proceeded to distribute beers to the audience. Again, not to be a ‘Debbie Downer’, but with a 14+ gig and an 18+ UK drinking age, you fill in the blanks as to whether or not that’s responsible. Later in the gig, Zac stated that they “started with 50 beers and they’re all gone”, which just shows there was not a moment where beer was not in the picture, on stage or flying around.
They eventually played another song, ‘Mountain High,’ emphasis on eventually because there was so much chit-chat in between. But then again, when they performed one of their songs, Zac either didn’t sing half of it, or it wasn’t picked up by the mic because he was jumping around, or he vanished into the crowd. I genuinely wanted to hug the poor crew member, who appeared to be extremely stressed from having to run on stage to find Zac’s mic wire every time Zac launched himself off stage. In reality, the crewman probably spent more time front and centre on stage than Zac.
Following their brief performance, the Skinner Brothers invited their tour photographer to the stage. In my opinion, this was a cute and appreciative moment, plus he was wearing a personalised and pretty cool leather jacket with “Soulboy Tour 2022” written on the back. Throughout the show, I noticed that they sounded very different live than they do on record. I actually found it difficult to recognise some of the songs, and I know the songs because I reviewed their album, which resulted in it becoming my most-listened-to album…
Again, there was a four-minute (minimum) break in between songs, however this time they got a fan on stage. Again, I was in shock at what was occurring on a Tuesday evening in Manchester. The (male) fan comes on stage and doesn’t know what to do, so says something along the lines of “Let’s have it Manchester” and then stand by the mic for probably a minute in silence, whilst the band are drinking and have stepped away from their mics. To fill the gap, this Mancunian fan says the line again and then Zac takes his mic back and goes to start singing their next song. This poor fan doesn’t know what to do, so just waddles off stage looking extremely lost.
I note and criticize that there was too much chitter chatter and not enough music, but when they did play their tunes, they just did not sound like the tracks on the record, and they didn’t sound very good. From the slurring words to dropping his guitar, surely the only explanation is that they were unbelievably drunk.
After the song ‘Iconic’, there were more sexual comments. This time with Zac spotlighting the bassist, Perry Meadowcroft. Asking whether the “ladies in the crowd” fancy him, think they are “compatible”, to stating that “he quite wham isn’t he”, and (to Perry) “you might need to get a hotel room”, “you’re pulling tonight”. Again, it was just uncomfortable, unpleasant and unnecessary.
Regardless of this grim build up, Perry did start the song ‘Put Me Down as a Maybe’ extremely well. The build up from the bass made this the best song of their set/night, but again it did sound quite different to how on record. The sound stopped randomly and abruptly about two thirds of the way threw, with Zac stopping to chat again for over a minute and stating they only had two songs left. He lied. They had 1.3 songs left, because they finished ‘Put Me Down as a Maybe’ before the final song.
Zac ended his final chat break with “shoutout to Deaf Institute, shoutout to the supports, and shoutout to you [fans]”. It is always great to see bands and artists properly appreciating their fans. And then, of course and predictably, Zac ended with a final crowd surf/stage dive, but this time he leaped with his guitar whilst still playing.
I feel so mixed about this review, because I hardly feel like this is a music review with the lack of songs played and performed, let alone songs from the recent album. But the overall conclusion is this was not a good night at Deaf Institute, and actually a quite an uncomfortable one.
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