Nudity, tequila, kamikaze fans, and, um, more nudity – Coventry’s punky upstarts hit the road, hard. Bouncers and strippers beware
Wednesday, January 31, 2am: The Cockpit, Leeds
OK, so we’re slumped on some nasty couch in a nasty strip club, surrounded by naked flesh but watching the walls melt as half a bottle of tequila squirms into our cortex, when The Enemy’s drummer Liam Watts starts dry-humping one of the strippers. In a blatant display of golden rule breaking he actually jumps up and starts rubbing his lusty teenage self all over one of these sacred cows! Shit. Nothing to do now but await the inevitable face-changing wrath of Leeds’ biggest bouncers as the age-old ‘no touching’ commandment smacks spectacularly into force. And yet… nothing. No punishment, no karmic retaliation, instead more tequila, and more girls.
Welcome to the world of The Enemy, where rules don’t exist – or rather, they exist only as a reverse-manifesto for how Coventry’s noisiest and nastiest new ruckers live. Welcome to a three-day bender, a tangled mess of beer and bodies that somehow manages to get itself out of town each night to rewind and start again in some other hapless place.
Tonight began at Leeds’ Cockpit and the start of their UK tour. It was sold out and rammed to the rafters, like most of the tour – no mean feat considering this lot didn’t even exist a year ago. From the first frantic notes of opener and debut single ‘40 Days And 40 Nights’ to the shambolic conclusion of ‘Had Enough’, it was relentless. Frontman Tom Clarke – blessed with a voice that’s equal parts cocksure Weller-esque snottiness and saliva-specked Strummer-like fury – barely paused for breath. When he did, it was only to incite more rioting from the crowd, most of whom were already up on the stage anyway. During the downright nasty terrace chant of ‘Aggro’ the battle lines are drawn. It’s The Enemy Vs Heavy-handed Security Co, and unlike the bouncers in the strip club later, this lot aren’t going down without a fight.
“That were fucking mental,” says bassist (and if we’re honest prime party animal) Andy Hopkins over his umpteenth beer afterwards, “people were getting thrown off the stage two at a time!”
Thursday, February 1, 10am: Outside London
On the tourbus to London, blackout from last night in Leeds clearing, and Liam’s talking to us: “I remember going downstairs for a lapdance, but I have no idea what happened when I got there. I just know it lasted longer than a tenner really should,” he winks. We’re heading to town for a flurry of promotional activity, rooftop nudity, and to see if the nation’s capital can equal Leeds’ in the kamikaze fans stakes. In fact, tonight’s show ups the ante even further.
This time, it’s no longer the audience crowdsurfing; it’s the band themselves. Midway through colossal anti-bourgeois riot-rant and new single ‘It’s Not OK’, Andy casts his bass aside and launches himself into the baying mob; it takes three security guards to drag him back. And while an eager pack of industry vultures have gathered en masse to see what all the fuss is about, down the front, the kids are as reliably loopy as ever. Half of them have ripped off most of their clothes, which, as Tom puts it “would get you a battering down my local”. But it’s not all about going off your head; The Enemy have the tunes to back up the swagger. ‘It’s Not OK’ might be your introduction to them, but the anthemic ‘Away From Here’ is the bottom line – it’s the song that’ll make them huge. “London,” exclaims Tom at the end, in between being dragged in and out of the moshpit, “Yous are fucking sound!”
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Saturday, February 3, 3am: Southampton Premier Travel Inn
Why did we put ourselves up for this? Why did we let the band’s guitar tech and part-time bartender Ollie pour that half bottle of vodka down our throat in front of 25 screaming strangers? And why can’t we get laid like The Enemy’s drum and bass section, who are currently shagging a pair of sisters nearby? Southampton’s previously genteel seaside air was turned blue tonight with fan chants as coachloads of Coventry natives descended on the city. It’s a long trek but again onstage the band demonstrate why the fans do it.
Tonight, ‘It’s Not OK’ again hit hardest and said it all. “It’s not OK to live this way/It’s not OK to be a slave” rings out in the ears of new recruits and die-hard followers alike. See, what you have to understand about The Enemy is that they’re a band born of necessity; it was either start a rock’n’roll band, or stay in Coventry flogging electrical goods for a paltry commission. And when you’re only 18 (although Liam could easily pass for 14), that’s tantamount to a life sentence. So perhaps it’s no wonder they’ve been embraced so swiftly by so many.
So insane does this final gig get, by the end of ‘Had Enough’, the band’s manager has darted on to the stage, leapt off it, and started crowdsurfing.
And so here we are, the final night of our nerve-shredding odyssey, on a Premier Travel Inn bed with the band and 30 other fans (invited back by the forever beer-dispensing manager), jumping up and down to Kasabian, Oasis and a thousand other swagger-rock classics when THHUNNKKKRACK – the weak, flimsy and frankly unprepared bed snaps in two, unable to take any more pounding. Time to call it a night, call it a week, call it a glorious mistake.Next time you’re sent to Coventry: beware.