Friends Birmingham O2 Academy
Gig 25: 12 May 2012
So this was the 3rd night of seeing hyped up bands locally and I was jaded after a week of work surrounding the gigs too. As such I decided to forego the support band tonight, sorry, and also to miss the queues outside for the Happy Mondays and Inspirals gig (on in the larger room and where if I am honest I may have rather been).
Arriving at the gig I knew 2 songs by Friends, as ever by way of finding out through listening to Radcliffe and Maconi and was interested to see them come on. It was a relatively poor turn out in the 200 capacity room, but when the band came on it was good to see that they put this to one side and cracked on.
The first thing you couldn't miss was that this was an arty band (well they are from Brooklyn) and each member of the band have their own clear identity. Singer Samantha Urbani was keen to get some involvement from the audience, and quickly, she kicked off with compliments, including that the Birmingham Audience (they would all try to pronounce Brummie better later) were able to scream better, after which she kicked off a combined scream for all in the room which (as amplified for the band) must have caused Shaun Ryder a raised eye as he polished his new teeth whilst waiting to go on.
The band also had a nice approach to their instruments, swapping them regularly, with the bass being passed around quite a lot. Lesly Hann the main bassist and backing singer was a very striking individual, standing mid stage, starting with an incredibly bright Eighties jumper and and going through 95% of the gig without providing any facial expressions at all. She cracked a smile only when the 'Birmingham' pronunciation contest kicked off.
Third song in and Friend Crush was unleashed on the audience, Samantha then popped down into the audience and had a proper dance with many, I ensured that I shuffled backwards with typical British restraint and watched the trendies dancing as groovily as they could to impress the band.
The songs were all pretty good, but I was captivated probably more by them because of the spectacle of the band, who with the golden Samantha and jumper stripped off Lesly were flanked by keyboardist John Belushi look alike, Shaggy from Scooby Doo on drums and a pirate with a 'Fat Possum Records Oxford Mississippi' T Shirt on, (looks a nice shop - Click Here!).
This was definitely a feel good gig, really arty songs that cracked along and I left with a big grin on my face, set list in hand, scrawled on the back of immigration form instructions for Australia.
Ranking the 3 gigs of Hyped bands, probably Howler, then Friends, then Alabama Shakes......all worth the entrance fee though.