“I hate everyone that I meet but I’m getting better,” laments Mike Duce to Cambridge Junction. It’s a pretty customary greeting from the Lower Than Atlantis front man but tonight especially these words are music to my ears. If there was one thing that put a stopper in my social anxiety and dragged me out of the house tonight, it was knowing that I’d find empathy in the front man’s begrudging lyrics. And it only takes opener ‘Had Enough’ to put me at ease and for the wave of adrenaline coursing round the venue to hit me.
Judging by the palpable air of excitement, there’s not a punter in the room unaware of tonight’s special occasion. Lower Than Atlantis have long been considered big hitters in the alt-rock scene but tonight they bring their arena-sized show to the intimate confines of Cambridge Junction. There’s no indication of them downsizing though. A wall of custom Marshall amp stacks line the back of the stage like artillery, with sticksman Eddy Thrower sitting at the helm, aiding the salvo with his mammoth drum sound. The band are armed for a seismic show and that’s exactly what they deliver.
From ‘Had Enough’ into ‘Play Dumb’, the band maintain a tone and pace that doesn’t let up. Growling guitar tones and mosh-inducing breakdowns abound, it’s hard to imagine that cuts from their recent album ‘Safe In Sound’ weren’t specifically crafted with the live setting in mind. Then again, the indie bop of ‘Emily’ from their self-titled effort goes down just as well with the zealous audience. Pints are chucked and mosh pits are continuous, with Duce acting as a ringmaster for the chaos: “Run around…like a group of dickheads,” he roars in call to arms ‘Work For It’. But the energy doesn’t reach fever pitch until the front man clambers into the crowd with his guitar to play a vocal-less version of early cut ‘Far Q’, while a circle pit churns around him.
Though Duce takes up residence in the crowd for the next song too, it’s to take things down a notch. After swapping his choice of weapon, he plays an acoustic and unplugged rendition of ‘Sad Song’ while the now seated crowd sing along campfire-style. It’s an intimate moment, and a necessary breather that allows the band to kick-start the pace again with ‘Love Someone Else’ and ‘(Motor)Way of Life’. Pint-chugging contests ensue and crowd-surfing is encouraged, ensuring every box is ticked for gig-goers tonight. The set draws to a close with ‘English Kids In America’ and ‘Here We Go’ but not before Duce thanks the crowd for coming: “A lot of our mates’ bands have peaked or plateaued but we seem to be doing alright still,” he offers sheepishly. But it’s clear from the deafening roar of the crowd in front of him that this is, in fact, a complete understatement.