Remember that fake band Threatin? They returned to London last night and it was as weird as you could imagine

Last year Threatin made headlines for playing a tour of empty shows. Exactly one year on from the band’s appearance at The Underworld Camden Jered ‘Threatin’ Eames is making his return. We headed down to see what the viral trickster had planned for the evening, and to see if anybody turned up this time…

If you don’t remember the story behind Jered “Threatin” Eames, here’s the abridged version. Late last year, the American musician travelled to Europe to play a 10-city tour with his band Threatin. Half way through the run of shows, though, bookers and venue workers realised something unusual was going: the shows were consistently empty. Several of the promoters say they were told that hundreds of tickets had been sold by Threatin’s team, only to see handfuls of people actually turn up on the night. His touring band quit the tour half way through, before the last few dates were cut completely. The tour eventually went viral, with Threatin himself claiming that the entire thing was a “publicity stunt”. It was never clear whether it was entirely intentional or, as his brother Scott Eames said, a “failed attempt at entering the music industry”.

One year to the day on from Threatin’s now-notorious show at The Underworld in Camden, he’s back, and so are the same support acts. London metal band Evyltyde were here this time last year, though they weren’t initially meant to be on the bill. They got offered the show as a last-minute replacement, and when they heard what venue the show was being held at (and realised it fitted in nicely with their tour), the band immediately said yes. It was only after then they started to dig into the history of Threatin that they realised not everything was what it seemed. “At the time I said ‘it’s really weird, it’s either going to be really good, or there’s going to be nobody there,’” the band’s guitarist Danny Merton recalls. “And it was the latter…there was literally three people in the audience, and they were all people we’d invited.”

When I arrive at The Underworld tonight for the first support band By Design’s set, there are about 20 people in the venue. Charlie, who works in booking at The Underworld, tells me the show has been on sale for months. “I think it went on sale two weeks after it happened last year,” he says. They can’t reveal how many tickets have been sold for the 500-capacity venue but says: “There’s definitely people in the building. It’s not a busy night, but it’s not going to be empty.” Are they worried Threatin just won’t turn up? “Even today they were about an hour late, so staff have been thinking ‘oh it’s happening again, only this time he just won’t show up.’” Charlie says. But Jered is definitely here – he just completed his soundcheck.

By Design, a three-piece metal band from Derby, are the only new addition to the line-up from last year’s show. They were aware of the controversy around the show last year, but if anything that made them keener to be involved tonight, they tell me. “A lot of people questioned us for it, even warned us off,” guitarist Harry reveals.

“It obviously had a lot of backlash and there’s that initial reaction of ‘God, that’s ridiculous’, but there’s that moment where you’re like…actually. He’s both picked up on an incredible flaw in our music industry at the moment in the reliance in certain aspects that he was able to manipulate, at the same time as fooling everyone,” frontman Rob says. “It is more clever than stupid,” Harry adds.

Heading through the sparse crowd at the show, I find myself chatting to fans here to see the support bands, other journalists and a members of various camera crews. There’s also a handful of punters, who have mainly come down to the show after following the story last year.

For some it was an absolute no brainer that they were going to head down. “When it all blew up, I saw it happening in real time before the press picked up on it,” Richard, who’s come down from Birmingham for the show, tells me. “I tipped some people off to it, and it just felt right to be here. We’re a bit disappointed so many people are here – we thought it might just be us at the back.”

“It was interesting to watch something that was a personal joke between us hit the news,” adds his pal Joe.

Sam and Jamie are here from Newcastle. They’re in a band called Creature and their manager Alan bought tickets for the show as soon as they went on sale, but a year on he couldn’t go so gave them to them. This isn’t the first time they’ve seen Threatin, however. Last year they saw him at Trillians in Newcastle after Jered contacted them on Instagram and offered them free tickets: “It was quite bizarre because we were basically the only people who were there, and we talked to him afterwards and he gave us some free t-shirts,” Jamie says. After they saw the show they almost expected it to go viral, as there were so many venues he’d hoaxed.

“I’ve got nothing against him, he was really nice to us and gave us free stuff. It’s a very strange thing he’s got going in, it’s this fake ego type persona like a character,” says Sam.

Evyltyde speak similarly about him. “He was a legitimately nice guy,” bassist Noah says, “they weren’t wankers, they were nice. They weren’t your typical diva band from the States who thinks they’re all that.”

“They watched the support bands,” vocalist Hannah adds.

The show itself is a total pantomime. Before Threatin take to the stage, a makeshift curtain of black material is put up. A pre-edited audio clip of (what sounds like) journalists talking is played out, which morphs into a quasi-political montage about ‘fake news’ media.

The music then starts and the curtain drops revealing several creepy, animatronic mannequins decked out in t-shirts that read “Fake Band”. They sluggishly move about the stage, brandishing their cardboard instruments as Threatin song ‘Impulse’ plays over the PA. There are a few moments of confusion where the small crowd (there can’t be more than 60 or so people) wonder whether Jered is actually going to turn up, but midway through the song he finally walks on stage, flanked by a band wearing t-shirts saying “not real”.

As the song concludes he tells the crowd: “You are all invisible”. This is the only time he talks to the crowd throughout the entire 45-minute performance. During the next song (‘Fade Into Never’) he presents an ongoing joke where he points the microphone to one of the mannequins and keeps going to take it back and sing…before stopping himself. The schtick wears thin pretty quickly. Later he brings out a blow-up doll wearing a shirt that reads “BBC News”, and in markedly unfunny move mimes the doll giving him fellatio.

Musically, the show is littered with technical difficulties – the microphones work intermittently, and at one point his back-drop comically starts to fall down. Jered is clearly an accomplished guitarist (his vocals, less so) and his band for the evening are slick, but due to the complete lack of crowd interaction and Jered’s wannabe rockstar swagger, it makes for an uncomfortable watch, even without all the ridiculous pre-cursors. Clearly too uncomfortable for some, as the crowd noticeably thins out throughout.

After 45-minutes Jered finishes the show by smashing up the stage – ripping down his banners and decapitating the mannequins – and then giving a mock bow before walking off stage. That’s the last the crowd and I see of him. When his band and team go to pack up the stage, he’s nowhere to be seen. I ask to speak to his musicians, but they say they’re too busy packing up and say they chat in 15 minutes outside the venue. They never show up. I then speak to what appears to be his tour manager, who turns down my request to speak to Jered, and when I ask again to speak to the singer, she says he won’t talk but does take my contact details and availability for the future (at the time of writing this, she’s not been in touch). I wait for an hour after the show (both inside the venue, and at the stage door), and despite speaking to several of the support bands again, I don’t catch a glimpse of the elusive Jered Threatin.

Before I head home I speak to Richard and Joe again. “It was amazingly terrible, it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen and simultaneously the best thing I’ve ever seen,” Joe tells me after the show, before adding: “It was dreadful and I’m so happy.”

“I’ve been live tweeting it and dozens of people are so glad that somebody is here. I did it so other people didn’t have to,” Richard grins, before Joe gives the kiss-off: “I would come again.”

See you November 1, 2020?