Rival Schools : Bristol Fleece & Firkin

...every reason to be pleased...

Looks like the youthful anger which fuelled Rival Schools lynchpin Walter Schreifels’ past bands – Quicksand and Gorilla Biscuits, as if you needed reminding – has long since dissipated; tonight he just can’t stop beaming as he bounces around the stage.

Maybe it’s because the first date of Rival Schools‘ biggest UK headline tour so far feels like a valediction. Their sturdy post-Nirvana rock, spruced up with a side order of indie jangle and emo dynamics very obviously means a lot to most of the people here: tonight ‘High Acetate’ and ‘Good Things’ are received like anthems.

Because the band spend most of the set tearing from one song to the next at thrillingly high velocity, however, there’s a slight danger that it might all start to sound a little formulaic. As a result, the most rewarding moments come when Rival Schools fuck with the formula, allowing dubwise basslines to coil themselves around slower numbers like ‘World Invitational’ and ‘Everything Has Its Point’. The spacious dynamics of these tunes offer a respite from the wall of guitar noise which dominates elsewhere, hinting at what the band are capable of.

Some of ‘United By Fate’ suffered from sounding too polished, but tonight Rival Schools strip the stadium rock gloss from their sound, allowing the songs to unravel and reveal their genius. Future strop-rock classic ‘Used For Glue’ sounds particularly immense in this small venue, provoking more lunatic grinning from Walter. He has, after all, got every reason to be pleased.

Olly Thomas