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Wednesday 15 September 2021

A View From The Back Of The Room: While She Sleeps (Live Review By Megan Jenkins)

While She Sleeps, Hobos Bridgend, 12th September 2021.

I know say that I like a lot of things but While She Sleeps are genuinely one of my favourite bands and seeing them live was on my bucket list. On Sunday night, I finally got to tick it off the list. The anticipation surrounding this once-delayed tour to promote the bands fifth studio album Sleeps Society was extremely clear in the extremely cramped and sweaty venue that is Hobos in Bridgend.

I’d never actually been to Hobos before, so I didn’t know what to expect but waiting in the queue for doors to open looking in through the window of a tanning salon wasn’t exactly top of my list of “things I thought I'd be doing on a Sunday night”. There's something quite bizarre about waiting outside a venue like Hobos and seeing some of your favourite musicians (guitarists for While She Sleeps Sean Long and Mat Welsh) walk through Bridgend high street and say ‘hello’ to those of us that got there early. The venue itself is littered with posters encouraging attendees to join the 'Sleeps Society’; a members-only subscription service that the band run via Patreon that supports the band through monthly donations in exchange for exclusive merchandise, secret shows, play-throughs, and anything else you could possibly think of. The band have previously stated that we are in an age where “no one buys music anymore” and such an initiative has begun to pave the way for other bands to make music a full-time profession.

Support for the tour is provided by Liverpool-based Loathe (8) a band that has made waves over the last year with the release of their second album I Let It In And It Took Everything and a main stage set at the Download Festival Pilot. Frontman Kadeem France’s guttural vocals and energized presence made up for the sound – low tunings and small venues don’t often mix well and everything but the drums and vocals sounded like a wall of noise for most of their set, which is a real shame.

Then came the main act and the moment we were all waiting for. While She Sleeps (10) kicked off their set with the title track from Sleeps Society, beginning the show with a bassy synth riff that already had the crowd bouncing before the band themselves had even shown their faces on stage. And then the carnage began. Each member of the band brings something completely different to the table than the next and their live shows are evidence of this. Drummer Adam Savage is an absolute machine on stage. Yes, I understand that he’s a professional drummer, but he didn’t slack even once. His driving beats keep the crowd going throughout the set and he got to show off some more technical and fast drum skills in songs like Anti-Social and Four Walls

Mat Welsh takes the rhythm guitar spot and provides most of the backing vocals throughout the set, keeping everything in place and carrying the melody of the band. Bassist Aaran McKenzie uses his lack of backing vocal to his advantage and spent a lot of his time on stage riling the audience up from practically inside the crowd itself. Lead guitarist Sean Long spent a lot of the set with a furrowed brow concentrating on his pedal board and that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. He’s written some of the most complicated riffs that are at the forefront of a lot of their music – case and point: You Are All You Need – but when he didn’t have to be too focussed, he joined in with the rest and let loose. Charismatic frontman Loz Taylor knew he had the entire crowd wrapped around his little finger with his intoxicating energy. He spent most of the set practically hanging off the speakers that hung from the ceiling and throwing his half-drank bottles of water over the pitting crowd.

I never thought that I would be happy to be in a cramped little room with a couple hundred people who all have sweat dripping down their backs the same as I did, but after the last eighteen months I would take it in a heartbeat. There’s something so unbelievably special about hearing crowds shout along with the lyrics to songs like Silence Speaks or the cheer they let out when the acoustic guitar at the start of You Are We began to play. We’ve all been in exactly the same situation and I’m so glad that my first ‘real’ gig back was with While She Sleeps and the rest of the Sleeps Society, who really knew how to welcome us back to the pit.

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