Friday 23rd February was a truly special night, a gig which one can only describe as an ‘I was there’ moment. The evening saw East London’s finest post punk triad, False Heads, officially launch their new single Retina, a track which has been sending shock waves through the industry. Following on from a series of tour dates with Strange Bones, False Heads have been playing up and down the United Kingdom for the last month or so, and Friday night saw them play their biggest headline gig to date at Camden’s Dingwalls.
I’ve been following this band live for around a year and a half now, seeing them progress from playing tiny support slots in 2016 to gigging at Reading festival for This Feeling and supporting Josh Homme at ULU for The Nick Alexander Memorial Trust; but nothing was more special than this Dingwalls headline gig. The venue was packed from the off, the room buzzing with a strangely apprehensive atmosphere, one of excitement and anticipation. False Heads have a renowned reputation for vigour and energy, the band being uncaring and abrasive in their live aura. Vocalist Luke Griffiths has a cocky reckless edge, his heavy guitar riffs complimented perfectly by the brutal spitting vocal he possesses. Live, his angst and energy translates across to the audience with ease, matched effortlessly by bassist Jake Elliott and drummer Barney Nash, both thrashing and angry in their own right.
The band opened with relatively new track Whatever You Please, a track delicately cutting and brooding, with a rough softness to it. The track has an element of build up to it, which makes it the perfect opening track for them. With ease it flowed into Fall Around, then Yellow and Twentynothing, each track packed with a crass and cutting punk grit. Yellow is a favourite of mine live, the fast upbeat chorus contrasting the thudding crashing nature of the verses. The next track the band played was Retina, which was released earlier on this month; the track has a vicious, mesmerising quality and is already a strong contender for the best False Heads riff. The lyrics are brutal and full of gritty angst, mirrored by the grungy bass line played by Jake which sets the tone of the track. Lines like ‘sew the other shut, mongrel or a mutt?’ and ‘set my retina off, tastes like metal’ have that raspy gritty bite integral to the band’s sound. Inspired by an acid trip and ‘manoeuvring your way through your mind,’ it’s the construction of Retina, and its flawless live execution, which give it such an exciting quality. The riff mid way through rips the track apart, Barney’s harrowing backup vocal gliding over the sharpness of Luke’s lead guitar. Live, the execution of this was intense, an electric spark embedded in it.
The band continued with Slew and Weigh In, the ending guitar note of Weigh In naturally turning in a heartbeat into the opening note of Wrap Up. Wrap Up is always thrilling live, and probably has the most evocative feel of explosive angst in their set. The performance of this saw Luke jumping into the audience and crowd surfing, before ending that killer guitar solo by recklessly throwing his guitar onto the amps and knocking them over, proceeding to jump onto Barney and the drum kit. The way they play live en-captures the essence of pure punk, their sound and live auras alike giving the band an old school sense of punk nostalgia. Getting the crowd to all crouch down as he screamed ‘and I had plans but they all fell through’ was a cleverly thought out move from Luke, as the entire audience followed this instruction, making for a blinding mosh pit as the chorus in Wrap Up dropped. From the very first track, the audience was dancing and moshing, the venue completely packed out; for a grassroots DIY band, this gig was blinding to say the least.
False Heads always put on a show as good as Friday’s was, yet this was the first time the audience was as receptive and excited as the band were, each member of the crowd feeding off the angst and passion the band were emitting. It was an honour and pleasure to see the band live again, and a reality check that their times of playing small venues is coming to a swift, and thoroughly well deserved, end.
Retina is out now, and available to stream/ purchase here
Purchase a limited edition red vinyl of Retina with b-side Said and Done (recorded at Parlophone Records) via Vallance Records here