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Gallows, Anti-Flag and Fucked Up

Trouble’s afoot at the final NME Awards show…Astoria, London (February 29)

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Photo Gallery: Gallows

They’ve shone like stars ever since they poked their heads above the punk underground in mid-2006. But there’s a moment that occurs at the butt-end of Gallows’ set this evening, the final Shockwaves NME Awards 2008 show no less, that encapsulates the confounding territory in which the Watford five-piece find themselves circa early-2008. A year and a half of establishing themselves as a very big deal – 18 months that has seen them spend more time on a tourbus than in their own beds – is followed by an event that lasts only 60 seconds, yet juts into the
59 minutes of music that precede it like a knife between the shoulder blades. When it arrives, at the very end of their set – after closing tune ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ has ground to a close – it manifests itself as a very public show of frustration.“You haven’t made just one enemy,” rages singer Frank Carter, reprimanding a shamefaced figure buried within the swell of the crowd, rapidly trying to make sense of
an attempted throttling. “You’ve made 2,000.” He dusts himself down, continues his tirade. “The moment you put your hands around my neck you made the barrier between band and audience larger. You fucking… CUNT.” Even from a man as confrontational as Frank, such an outburst suggests the fraying of a final, tightly wound nerve. Nevertheless, he looks disappointed the evening has ended in such distasteful circumstances. He shakes his head. He thanks the rest of the crowd for their attendance and participation as his bandmates reciprocate his actions. Then Frank Carter leaves the stage with the minimum of fuss. The question of whether everything is OK with Gallows hangs heavy in the room. How brightly can this star burn before it burns out?

Two days before this show, Gallows cancelled their Portsmouth show after guitarist Steph Carter fell sick. One day before this show, at the 2008 NME Awards, bassist Stuart Gili-Ross complained to NME that Gallows were approaching exhaustion meltdown. “We just want to write some new songs,” he yearned. Sources close to the band have been echoing similar sentiments for some time; expressing bewilderment at their record label Warner Bros’ decision to release ‘Just Because You Sleep Next To Me Doesn’t Mean You’re Safe’, another single from their now 15-month-old debut record ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’. The band are toiling with their own inner conflict too. Let’s remember, they hail from a UK hardcore scene governed by its own confused codes of conduct, where it’s OK to walk on people’s heads but not to speak to mainstream music magazines, and while they’re ambassadors for their world (handpicking tonight’s support slots – the awesome Toronto five-piece Fucked Up and the ultra-earnest Pittsburgh politico-punks Anti-Flag), you get the impression they’re struggling with playing shows before folk who don’t understand the ethics inherent within the scene from which they hail (throttling is most definitely frowned upon, by the way).

If the sound emanating from the people closest to them is crying out that Gallows need some time out, then tonight’s show sees the band echoing said sentiments with a primal howl. Which isn’t to say they’re anything less than awesome tonight; exploding into their best song, ‘Will Someone Shoot That Fucking Snake’, you’d find anyone watching hard-pushed to name a better live band in existence, while ‘Come Friendly Bombs’ is an unparalleled display of power, rage and passion. The ubiquitous Lethal Bizzle joins them for their still-exciting Ruts cover ‘Staring At The Rude Bois’, which Frank dedicates to its author Paul Fox, who died of cancer last year, echoing the sentiments he displayed the previous night at the NME Awards – where he handed out daffodils in a moment of reflection for victims of the illness. Then they launch headfirst into first single proper ‘Abandon Ship’, and the band’s juxtaposition of tension and tunefulness is perfectly realised within three minutes of perfect punk fury. You know what happens to a star when it burns too bright? It explodes. It’s a phenomenon called a supernova. That’s a pretty good description of what awaits Gallows in 2008. After they’ve had a rest, of course…

James McMahon

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