Live Review : Of Mice & Men + Loathe + SHVPES @ O2 Academy, Liverpool on November 13th 2018

There's a wintery chill in the air as I make my way to the legendary venue that is O2 Academy. I've got some stories about this place... but I’m not here to reminisce. I’m here tonight to review what promised to be a “wild" night. 

Maybe it’s traditional to review things in the order they happened.

I’m not a traditional person.

Tonight's headliners, Of Mice & Men hail from Orange County, CA, and have offered up an absolutely flawless set. There are pits and walls of death galore as I try to keep my £4.90 pint from spilling all over my chubby semi-goth ass.  After 5 songs I admit defeat and move to the back. My knees haven't been right since moshing like a loon at a gig last week. 

The band opened with ‘Defy’, from their latest album. The track proves a worthy opener and sets the tone for their next offering ‘Warzone’, which is undoubtedly one of my favourites. It’s a loving throwback to the vibes that made the later years of Nu-metal as adored as they were for those of the right generation (e.g. me).

It was after ‘Warzone’ the band admitted to having some minor technical difficulties. Upstairs houses a sold out Dead Daisies gig which appears to have played havoc for us downstairs. The bass isn't working. The band handle it like absolute pros making light of the minor setback. The sound is restored in no time and they launch solidly into “Unbreakable". 

The crowd for Of Mice & Men has been unrelentless. There's a guy who is about 9ft tall who I desperately want to take down in the pit. There's a girl who is dragged out the mosh pit almost sparked out. The tunes keep coming and the audience keeps moshing. Yes. This is what we love about a live gig. The frenzy, the sweat, every drum beat hitting your core. Of Mice & Men has had enough time and enough gigs to perfect their craft, and perfect it is. 

My only real criticism of the night was how unbearably short a set they played. I could have done with another 5 songs. Being the sneaky bitch I am, I'd sneaked a peep at their set list earlier in the night and knew I'd be disappointed with the seemingly abrupt ending. 

“10 more songs!!! 10 more songs!!” chant the crowd.

And I'm totally with them. 

Prior to Of Mice & Men, we had been treated to homegrown heroes Loathe. Let me tell you something about Scousers. The Scousers love Scousers. There's a pride that beats through the heart of Liverpool unlike anything I've found travelling around the UK and Europe for various festivals and gigs. Loathe were superheroes on the stage tonight. 

Delivering an energetic performance, vocalist Kadeem France manages to whip the crowd up nicely ready for the headliners. The sound has the quality I find myself craving in a live setting. It’s heavy and it's precise. There's no messing around with prolonged synth or tedious drum fills. Loathe get straight to the point with their music, fusing elements of metalcore, djent and industrial. I highly recommend checking these guys out if you get the opportunity. And that's not just because my roots are here in Liverpool.

Finally... the best was first.

SHVPES opened the night and have managed to climb onto my “Ones To Watch” list. The band is riding the release of their second album ‘Greater Than’ (if you haven't heard it, what are you waiting for?) and seemingly loving every minute of it. For those who haven't had the pleasure, SHVPES are a 5 piece from Birmingham who have won praises throughout the rock community for their ability to mash together metalcore, electro, and hiphop. Quite simply, they like lots of genres. They are going to fuse them all. The result is nothing short of wonderful. 

I feel the openers at any gig always have the toughest job, but SHVPES bounced their way through their set with a tenacious energy, and the audience bounced with them. To see a sea of people so into the opening band is rare, but in SHVPES we have an exciting new force.

Whilst the entire set was blinding, particular attention needs to be paid to the song ‘Afterlife. This song predominantly stood out purely for how well it works live. There's often a danger of music being over produced in the studio and falling short of expectations when you finally get to hear it live (I cant even count the number of times I've witnessed that f**kery), but SHVPES has no way fallen into that trap. The band is tight, and the vocals are spot on. Here's hoping 2019 brings further success for the Birmingham band.

As promised by the poster I'd seen for Of Mice & Men last week, I did have a wild night. 

My knee is not happy with me.


Words by Sarah Cummings
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki