Wednesday evenings at The Craufurd Arms are encapsulated by pints of their Marston-brewed own-brand ale – the aptly named Craufurd Skull – and in-pub Vegan burgers, the chit-chatter of the Wolverton locals lost in the haze of the mid-week blues lays firmly over a soundtrack of pop-punk hits, past and present. You wouldn’t expect to exit one of the pub’s doors to find yourself at the entrance of its extension, the hidden gem of a music venue tucked away in the heart of Northamptonshire, and you most certainly wouldn’t have expected to have found Stroud’s grunge-punk connoisseurs MILK TEETH taking to the stage, and yet, here we are, waxing lyrical about one of Britain’s brightest hopes playing at one of its finest independent venues.
Riding off of the wave of breaking into the UK Rock Albums chart with second record Everything Dies, NERVUS deliver a sing along-heavy message-disguised-as-a-dance-a-thon to a growing albeit it disappointingly small number of punters, most of tonight’s crowd still filling up on food in the adjoining room. For those suffering through food comas, NERVUS take us on a tour of their two albums, with recent cuts The Way Back and It Follows holding their own and shining above fan favourites such as Bones. Frontwoman Em Foster has the potential to become a powerful ringleader in rock music, proved by her ability to wake up a room of half-alive zombies and lead the entire room through a powerful arena-ready whoa-oh-oh, all the while keyboardist Paul Etienne provides the moves to the grooves, making the stage his own. It won’t be long before NERVUS are headlining a venue this size.
Away from the alt-rock punk of NERVUS, Ireland’s FANGCLUB channel MTV in the nineties to such a degree it’s as if you’re watching NIRVANA, had they grown up as millennials in a time where Grunge had already existed; they look, they act, and they sound like them. Admittedly, opener Better To Forget feels like a misstep; the crowd can’t quite get it and nor can the band by the looks of it. It’s only when they drop new single All Fall Down a third of the way in that they truly hit their stride, the sheer ferocity of their grunge idolisation collides with the intensity of a solid right hook, a chorus you won’t forget suddenly strains your vocal chords as you sing along. New song Knife and the infectious Bullet Head are certified bangers, letting the grunge revivalists stomp their way off the stage.
As concert-goers awake from their burger-induced food-comas, the Craufurd comes alive with a mid-capacity crowd filling up its floor, a sea of t-shirts spelling out tonight’s mission statement loud and clear: this crowd is here for one band and that band’s name is MILK TEETH.
Hitting the road back home in the UK, only weeks removed from a solid five weeks touring across the pond in the states with the ENTER SHIKARI massive, MILK TEETH are riding on a jetlagged train of adrenaline, last years’ Be Nice and Go Away EP’s the focal point of tonight’s mid-tour stop. Single Nearby Catfight kicks things off swimmingly, several dozen people singing ‘…there’s pink sick in my hair’ coming off far more amusing than imagined, but it isn’t until the double-attack of Vile Child cuts Brickwork and Burger Drop that the crowd clicks and from that moment on heads bang, legs dance, and everyone sings along, word for word, note for note, scream for scream. Early showings of Go Away’s standout’s Lillian and I Stabbed You First pack a punch, hitting the crowd with hooks honed for the arenas of the isle, showcasing the bands progression as both songwriters and performers in the short space of time between their debut full-length in 2016 and last year’s EP releases.
Guitarist Chris Webb messed up his ankle the previous night in Birmingham, so he’s confined to his side of the stage, however Billy Hutton and Becky Blomfield more than make up for it, dominating the Craufurd’s stage like it’s the last one they’ll play, with Chris still conquering each and every chord, whilst drummer Oli Holbrook decimates his drum kit with the full-force of an adrenaline junkie; the energy infectious, the professionalism astounding.
Billy’s inclusion in the band has been a blessing to their presence as a live act, often riling up the crowds to get involved at a level previously unseen, bouncing off of Becky’s charm. The contagious chemistry comes off clearest during a mid-set breather in the form of the heartstring-pulling tear-jerking emotive rollercoaster that is Kabuki, followed by a joyous full-room sing-along to Sad Sack fan-favourite Melon Blade in all of its acoustic edition glory, complete with a FOO FIGHTER’S-stolen Everlong interlude.
Whilst the tour has ushered in the new, it’s also sending off the old, with MILK TEETH dusting off a different oldie each night, playing it live one last time. The Craufurd is treated to the pulverising post-hardcore shoegaze of Smiling Politely opener Leanne, Billy delivering a solid showing of it despite self-confessed struggles learning it.
Live staple Vitamins and last year’s stand-out single Owning Your Okayness close out the show as pits erupt, bodies jump, and the room shakes as yet another set of sing-alongs reverberate like earthquakes. The Craufurd may only be half-full tonight, but MILK TEETH play with such power and precision that their impalpable energy infects all those in the room, making it feel like its packed to the rafters.
Departing the Craufurd, walking down Wolverton’s long, narrow streets, the comedown never happens, minds lost in a haze of speaker-induced fuzz and the honour of witnessing some of Britain and Ireland’s finest musical hopes in one room.