You weren’t there man.
That classic phrase that gets blurted out when referring to the Vietnam War is exactly what came to mind when sitting down to write this live review. In the case of Meet Me In St. Louis, the beloved Surrey post-hardcore/math-rock heroes, I wasn’t there. Technically, I was at their recent show in Leeds at The Brudenell Social Club, hence the review, but it was my first experience of Meet Me In St. Louis. I almost felt like an imposter; undercover in a room full of absolute die-hards.
Here’s a band that meant a lot to people. Eight years after knocking it on the head, the announcement that they were returning for a number of reunion shows lit a fire under people. Ticket demand was so high that the initial two show announcement got upgraded to a whole weekend’s worth, with their finale set to take place at this year’s ArcTanGent festival in August.
At the time of the announcement, drummer Paul Phillips spoke out about the reunion, stating:
“The planets have aligned and for the first time getting together to play these songs feels right. This opportunity may not come along again so we owe it to ourselves in this one life we have to do it, and do it to the best of our ability, and have a fucking good time in the process.”
Fair fucks – he was right.
Human pyramids, constant crowd surfing and singing along was the order of the day, and whilst I wasn’t initially into MMISL way back when, I could certainly pick up that spirit that engulfed the room. But rather than provide you with the musings of someone who wasn’t there, I thought i’d pass that honour onto the people MMISL touched the most. I spied a few friends of Birthday Cake For Breakfast dotted throughout the audience that night at The Brudenell, so reached out to piece together the evening through their experiences.
“The importance and vitality of a band like MMISL Is no less impactful and relevant today than it was a decade ago. Although to use the phrase “a band like mmisl” is in itself an oxymoron. There is no such thing. I remember first hearing their music at Sam (Manville)’s house around ten years ago. I was immediately gripped, yet simultaneously baffled. Which is, in my opinion, the greatest feeling that music can impart upon a listener. From that point onwards, having become personal friends and collaborating with various members, they continued to be a huge influence on myself as a musician but also upon the burgeoning scene that I became a part of. Unfortunately, due to them splitting up relatively early in their potential life span, I only really got to see them perform live a handful of times. So the news of their reformation earlier this year was fucking exciting.
Regarding the show. Firstly I have to mention that The Brudenell Social Club is, in my opinion, the best music venue in the UK. Especially when in conjunction with Matty and James from Dirty Otter. It also holds so many great memories for me personally from years of touring. So getting to see MMISL play there after a nine year absence was a pretty special experience. As for the performance, to say that they didn’t disappoint would be a huge understatement. They were every bit as dynamic, visceral and calculated as I ever remember them being the first time round. Mind blowing in fact. The sheer quality of their performance, coupled with the immense feelings of nostalgia I have regarding the band and venue, smashed me right in the feels. It was also great getting a chance to catch up/hang out/get drunk with the guys again after so long. All in all, a triumphant return for a great bunch of talented dudes.
I genuinely believe that if ‘Variations On Swing’ was released today, it would still sound as unique and relevant as it was ten years ago. Now how many artists or albums can you honestly say that about?”
– Steve Bachelor (To The Wall/Ex-Shapes).
“I can’t quite believe it actually happened. I’m still trying to come to terms with it. Before the Leeds gig, I was actually really nervous – I’m not sure why. Maybe I wasn’t sure they’d be any good. But fuck me, they were incredible. I never had the chance to see Meet Me In St. Louis back in the day. I got into the whole ‘math’ scene a couple of months after they split, so to finally be able to see them was a bit of a dream come true. Now we just need a Blakfish reunion…”
– Andy Crowder (Piles of Clothes/Musical Mathematics).
“I first discovered Meet Me In St. Louis in 2007 at college. Midway through a Youtube binge, I listened to ‘All We Need Is….’ and was instantly captivated. Their incredibly unique sound and personality was a breath of a fresh air through my ears and showed me that technical music didn’t always have to revolve around meat head dudes, finger tapping their guitars like they were typing out the bible on a typewriter.
I unfortunately missed them first time around when they were playing live, so the Leeds show at the Brudenell was a perfect opportunity to experience MMISL live for the first time. As soon as they took to the stage and blazed through their first couple of tracks, the charm, character and genuinity of the band that I had come to love over the years truly shone through. A technical delight, they still sound fresh and vital, which is what makes them such an important band and a band to be cherished. Thank you Meet Me In St. Louis for opening me to a life long obsession with clever and fun music.
“Maybe it’s looking back with rose tinted hindsight, but Meet me in St. Louis were part of a bit of a sort of golden age for a particular niche of music and to be able to step back in to that was pretty special.
It was like no time had passed since they split. The songs and the performance were absolutely perfect. Totally on point. I’m not sure you could’ve asked for much more from the show to be honest. Easily top five shows of all time for me.”
– John Helps (Maybeshewill).
“I think it’s been about seven years since I first heard Meet Me In St. Louis and I’ve been totally addicted ever since. I got into them too late to catch them live, so when they announced these reunion shows I lost my shit! The way they manage to combine the thrashy and the techy with so much melodic and passion just blows my mind every time I hear them!
Getting to see them was beyond awesome! They played with the utmost conviction and energy and whenever the crowd got excited, they got excited! It was just a perfect live show where everyone was feeding off each other. Everyone was smiling and singing and crowd surfing and just so happy that such a modestly excellent band would treat us one last time to such an influential set of songs and such an awe inspiring performance.”
– Ben Forrester (Peaks/Ex-Bad Grammar).
“I first stumbled upon Meet Me In St. Louis somewhere round late 2005, in a bar in Leicester which had, for some reason, turned the fourth floor into a venue. The venue obviously didn’t work out, but five minutes into the set I was hooked. I spent the next few years ripping them off and trying to get my own band on shows with them, successfully managing a few runs of shows where, I like to think, we became friends. Not only did they blow us off stage every night, they somehow managed to up their game with every show.
Predictably, they got picked up by labels and moved on to better shows, but I was always still there: transfixed. Their energy, their emotion and skill. That fucking skill. If they weren’t so damn good and nice, I’d have hated them. Then, as we all know, they split. I was gutted. Many copied but none (sorry) even came close. So, when the news broke that they were planning the two reunion shows, I was never gonna miss it.
I eventually made Leicester my home, so I opted for the Leeds show over London and I’m glad I did. Me and some friends got in a van and hot tailed it up the motorway – we didn’t need to discuss it, but the stereo was nothing but MMISL, Million Dead, Ycni:m, HIFH, Reuben…you get the idea. When we arrived at Leeds we, as men now in their mid-30’s, took our place near the bar ready to watch from a distance. Two chords in and I was in the pit screaming my lungs out. Two songs in and I had my shirt off and was stage diving, which (bearing in mind I have the body of a man in his mid-30’s too) is something I’ve not done in a decade. I don’t think I could have even helped it. Every single person in that audience was there for the sheer love of one of the most complex yet entirely accessible bands ever to exist. Whether it was nostalgia, familiarity, the fact that this is the first night my wife and I had out since my kid was born 12 weeks ago or simply that MMISL just fuckin’ ruled, I don’t quite know. But it was worth the five hour round trip. You know what – I’d have walked it.“
– Tiernan Welch (Her Name Is Calla).
Make it to the show yourself? What did you think? Birthday Cake For Breakfast would love to know! Comment on this post or any/all of these: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!
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