10th November | Exchange
Photos: Ash Harnett
A strong community atmosphere prevails on the evening as Milk Teeth roll into town. The total, solitary crew of six bandmates, collaborators, and friends that compose the band and its two support acts – Cultdreams and Nervus – make no mistake of the tight bonds they have forged throughout their careers so far, shining a clear light on the necessity of such relationships.
Pre-doors arts & crafts, meditation and hang-out space for attendees hosted by the bands likewise showcase a shared commitment to the scene they perform in. The Exchange venue itself – a community-led enterprise for some years now – feels like the perfect location for such an event to take place, and is acknowledged in gentle stage banter to the crowd between songs by both Nervus’ Em Foster and Cultdreams’ vocalist for their past patronage and experiences here.
It seems surprising when Foster recalls an earlier Nervus show in Bristol where the crowd was much fewer. When you regard the great fun that everyone seemed to be having in the room, there’s disbelief that this band could ever be performing to empty space. There was such vibrancy in the Tough Crowd material, though a tough crowd is certainly not what Nervus had to contend with. Paul Eitenne displayed the most impressive energy I have seen from behind the keys, and Foster herself who was championed affectionately amidst attendees and by her fellow bandmates, bridged the gap between audience and performer with her quick wit and earnest rapport.
At one point, Foster took a straw poll of Tories in attendance – a lone glass is raised but not acknowledged. In a somewhat refreshing and balanced outlook, she elaborated that everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, though it doesn’t exempt you from being a “piece of shit”. Obviously, the band are not shy of their political opinions.
Highlights of the set such as ‘They Don’t’, which actively challenges the mythos that police genuinely protect the general public, and ‘Burn’ – the first and only song in the burgeoning “Camp Fire Punk Rock” genre (that I have on good authority will be massive) – addresses a previous generation’s irresponsibility and subsequent distancing from the fucked-up lot we’ve inherited. Still, the general mood is light.
Next up, Cultdreams take the stage for a half-hour set that feels much too short. But their place in the evening’s roster feels appropriate. To some, this was simply an interlude between the frantic energy of Nervus and Milk Teeth – the crowd generally stiff and less responsive – and it also appeared that many had ducked out during this time, making for some evident gaps in the crowd. Frankly, it seemed rude.
But I suppose if this is the case, the joke’s on those who missed it because the duo were on absolute form, especially with the new material from Things That Hurt. For next time they’re in town, check out ‘Repent, Regress’ and thank me later – or better yet, direct your adulation toward the band themselves. It’s a must listen.
Milk Teeth brought the evening to a close with a tight set that wrapped up significant singles and various odds and ends from their entire back catalogue. Kicking things off with the anthemic ‘Given Up’, the crowd were in the palm of their hand and could barely contain their excitement in these crucial first minutes. This energy didn’t peter out till the very last, either.
The fact that Foster on bass and Jack Kenny on drums had already performed a full set that evening in Nervus showed considerable stamina, that they were still just as engaging at this point in the evening and on consecutive tour dates to follow. But the love for this band seems to drive it – everyone singing, everyone dancing, everyone having (as the band were) “great fun”. It’s the dream for any band performing live.
Milk Teeth’s success may not be measured in sell-out stadiums, but through the full commitment of their audience. From the new material previewed, it only seems like these numbers could grow anyway, and you’d be hard pressed to find a collective of musicians that’s more deserving.
See the video for ‘Given Up’ here: