Birthdays, London, Tuesday, August 27
For a few minutes, as the intro tape of Joe Esposito’s ‘You’re The Best’ fades out and the crowd surges, it looks as though The Cribs have hired another new member. A hulking great man with a face of thunder stands centre stage to scowl at the front row, a Jarman concealed behind each rippling pectoral. But before word gets out that they’ve replaced Johnny Marr with a very angry Carl Cox, the security guy gives up the ghost as ‘Hey Scenesters!’ sets off Dalston’s least ironic mass pogo ever. The Cribs are in their natural habitat – playing roaring punk squealers to a sweaty basement club full of maniacs – and only a bouncer with little care for seeing their family again would stand in its way.
Reeling out tracks “we haven’t played for years”, there’s a tangible sense of the band relaxing into the familiar comforts of a tiny club gig. Ryan asks, “You’re all old-school fans, right?” before launching into the punkoid knees-up of ‘Martell’, then spews forth a story about a girl going behind his back at an end-of-school party as introduction to a particularly vitriolic ‘Cheat On Me’. Gary declares, “No other band has got a song they absolutely hate but everyone else loves – I fucking hate this song,” before an explosive ‘You’re Gonna Lose Us’, and at one point Gary and Ryan have an in-depth discussion about how shit mods are (“even their drugs are from the fucking doctor”) to wind their way to recent single ‘Leather Jacket Love Song’.
“We may not be the biggest band in the world, but the people who care about The Cribs really care about The Cribs,” says Gary, capturing an ineffable connection that drips from the ceiling tonight – the crowd request songs by gang-chanting the riff and the band instantly comply with ‘I’m A Realist’, ‘Another Number’, ‘Men’s Needs’.
There’s a sense of indulgence for the band too, as they race through debut album tracks – ‘The Watch Trick’, ‘Direction’, ‘The Lights Went Out’ – with melodies that seem to crowd-surf over their own chords. “I feel like The Beatles in The Cavern,” says Gary before the screefest of ‘City Of Bugs’ and “old school” closer ‘Third Outing’ see Birthdays’ flimsy bouncer power swept aside as a crowd invasion consumes the stage. “As long as we don’t go on to influence Britpop or something,” Ryan retorts. Yes, we’re past the point where Cribsrock might capture the world’s imagination like a twerking Miley Cyrus, but they still ignite a rare mania.