Glasgow crowds have a pretty weighty reputation to uphold. Bands travel from all over the world to this small city in the knowledge that we are a true barometer of how good you actually are. We are all at once knowledgeable, reverent, praiseful and excited; psychotic with a penchant to drink, dance and jump around. We are both the best kind of crowd and the worst kind. Player beware – if we don’t like you, we will let you know about it.
Step up The Orwells – a group of late teen up and comers from the Chicago suburbs with a whole album and a few EPs to their name already who deal in melodic garage rock and an anarchic bad attitude in the vein of the likes of FIDLAR but without as much of the cutting, sarcastic wit. Their songs make you want to get drunk, jump up and down, bump into one another, sweat all over the place and pass out. As a sold out Broadcast should signify, The Orwells’ reputation precedes them – they like to make a lot of noise and a lot of mess. Fresh off some high profile media appearances and a word of mouth rumor chain along the lines of ‘you gotta see these kids, they’re mental’, this Glasgow crowd was packed into the dank basement of Broadcast, adrenaline high and ready for some violent rock music. Surely, that’s what The Orwells expected too, right?
Preceded by a support act whose lyrics seemed to be the product of a poetry class full of 7 year olds and cheered onto the stage by a crowd filled with manic moshers and wannabe groupies, The Orwells, a ragtag bunch of miscreants who seemed to have come straight from the street corner, strolled on stage with a nonchalance befitting a band of many years’ experience. These boys are barely high school graduates.
Their poppy sound means their songs are immediately recognisable in a sort of wail-a-long way – every song has a hook and a few vowel filled vocals that makes it easy to connect to them. For the first few tracks the band power through without very much chat or respite. This suits them well. They are like an American Palma Violets equivalent in more ways than one. Comparisons to popular and seminal indie rock band? Check. A don’t give a fuck what people think of us attitude? Check. A raucous energy permeating their live show? Check. Attracting crowds who go wild and adore them? Well, check – at least I thought so.
You see, this is where The Orwells’ visit to Scotland became problematic. Broadcast is a small place and the room was sold out, not something I’ve witnessed there for a while. There was bound to be overflow, pushing, headbanging, jumping around, even near earthquakes. I expected rowdiness and so, I thought, did The Orwells. It turns out they didn’t quite expect this. The crowd went positively native. Crowd surfers smashed their heads against the low hanging ceiling; insane dancing girls struggled to keep themselves from crossing the threshold between stage and audience space; microphone stands were knocked over and clattered against instruments. For me, the innocent bystander, this was morbidly fascinating…and a lot of fun. The Orwells, on the other hand, seemed to be increasing in irritation as the show went on. Even frontman Mario Cuomo – an intimidating and curious looking stage presence with his long blonde hair, deep booming voice and ‘kill yo self’ emblazoned shirt – usually an emotionless wall of rock ferocity, seemed to be getting actually annoyed at people for having a good time.
When you play loud, brash rock music with a tunefully pop kick, do you not expect the mentality of the crowd to mirror your sound? I’ve never been to an Orwells gig. Maybe the shows they’re used to in Midwestern America involve a lot of standing around and nodding, sipping warm beer and commenting politely on how good the band sounds. Maybe the madcap spiritual release that live music gives us Glaswegians was foreign and unfamiliar to them. I’m just not sure. But when they hit their career-thus-far highlights of ‘Mallrats (La La La)’and ‘Who Needs You’, the crowd’s behaviour until that point seemed reasonably tepid. Frankly, everyone went nuts. Guys rushed the stage, a large, brawny security man tried to curb the insanity and Cuomo, despite his clear anger at how impolite people were being, dove into the crowd with a rush of blood to the head in what might have been the worst decision in his short onstage lifetime.
That was the last we heard from The Orwells. One guitarist threw down his axe and stormed off while the band finished abruptly and followed suit. A staff member of some kind came on stage and informed the crowd that that was it, to a chorus of boos. At an early 22.15, some 45 minutes before curfew, the show was over. Perhaps it was past their bedtime.
The Orwells visit to Glasgow was a bad tempered and ill-conceived one. These youngsters definitely have a raw talent. While musically they are bright and fun though nothing groundbreaking, it is always admirable to see a group of young people hungry to make music and enjoy it while doing it. However, after this showing, The Orwells need to rethink what they want from touring in places like Glasgow. Put it down to inexperience or being taken aback by something they didn’t really know much about, but if you want to appear on the BBC, chucking yourself around to your music and being reckless, then don’t be annoyed when the people who witnessed you doing that want to do the same.