Noggins pulsing with serotonin, hearts ready for take-off, the throng draw a collective gulp of breath during a momentary mid-song pause, preparing for the euphoric release just a split-second away. BOSH! “I JUST DON’T THINK I’M COMING D-O-O-O-O-WN!” Craig Wellington’s impassioned shriek sparks the room into wild paroxysms of rapture and, suddenly, we’re no longer at a dingy students’ union, pint in hand, gawping at blokes with guitars – we’re pulling our freakiest dance shapes at an acid house warehouse party at the height of Madchester. Wa-hay! Ahem.
The irony that ‘Put You In Your Place’ is actually a tune about a comedown-inducing misery guts matters little tonight: Nintendo T-shirt-sporting Klaxons-lookalikes do their best jerky Bez impersonations. Knuckleheaded football hoolies affectionately bellow, “Yawksheer” at every available moment. And up there onstage, in-between pummelling their instruments, The Sunshine Underground, massive gurns spread across their faces, triumphantly punch the air in unison. It’s that sort of night. They’re that sort of band.
It’s not difficult to see why they provoke such pandemonium from the opposing tribes here, either – just look at them: guitarist Stuart Jones and drummer Matthew Gwilt are your typical unassuming-looking indie musicians, sure; but their bandmates – skinheaded bassist Daley Smith and hooded lead-yelper Wellington – look not unlike the shifty characters shuffling menacingly in the corner of the toilets. The only thing they need to sort us out with for now though, is a pulsating 45 minutes of indie rave.
That said, it does get off to a restrained start. Snaking a gloomy bassline around bounding Mondays guitar jolts, ‘Wake Up’’s brooding mood rock isn’t the most obvious of openers – but it soon becomes clear they’re just easing us in, as from here on in it’s a relentless assault on the synapses. ‘I Ain’t Losing Any Sleep’ sees them make like a British Rapture, wielding limb-jolting funk basslines to Wellington’s nonsensical yelps and staccato guitars. By the time the encore swings round they’ve taken the funk-punk rhythms a stage further, wigging out on a chaotic ‘Raise The Alarm’ like Led Zep gone new rave, seeing Craig finally down his guitar, bounce around the stage like a loon and whack a thrilling primal rhythm out of a cowbell and wood block.
It’s ‘Commercial Breakdown’ and ‘Put You In Your Place’ that are the real arms-in-the-air moments here, though. Sounding like a pack of slavering house bangers desperately trying to claw their way out of their dance-rock cages, it’s these tunes that suggest The Sunshine Underground will party on beyond the eventual, inevitable indie-dance comedown, as their sound moves in whichever direction the chemicals take them. Forget cheap sirens and shit ’90s novelty covers; The Sunshine Underground look like developing into new rave’s true heroes.