Live Review : SHVPES + The Five Hundred + Death Blooms @ Star And Garter, Manchester on February 2nd 2019

The Star and Garter is one of the true diamonds when it comes to Manchester music venues. It’s a Grade II listed building that oozes the kind of warmth and charm that can't be bought. I'm sat on a long row of seats where the cushion has worn down to nothing and there's burn marks here and there, a reminder of the days you could have a cigarette with your pint (I’m just about old enough to remember smoking in pubs and clubs, having clocked up 3 or 4 years of drinking underage). Tonight we're here for SHVPES, the band I spent November raving about.

First up are our very own home grown (i.e from Liverpool) Death Blooms. The band move as a solid entity on the tiny stage, and I wonder if the amps will fall on Johann’s head at any moment. The 4 piece are incredibly tight and a terrific opener. There's no subgenre to file them into as they play pure metal at its best, with no gimmicks. Stand out tune of the set is ‘Sick; the tag is “I don't want to be sick anymore" which captures a feeling of chronic desperation in the face of an ongoing struggle. I suspect Death Blooms will continue to climb the ladder of success over the next few years.

The middle slot is for Nottingham’s The Five Hundred. These guys sound absolutely savage; a face melting wall of metal. I am on the edge of the mosh pit but manage to hold on to my drink (these are the important details after all). There are moments here and there that the guitars exhibit an almost Glassjaw quality, but the overall effect is much more brutal and heavy.

The night very much belongs to SHVPES though. With their unique fusion of metalcore, melodic hardcore and hip hop, it takes all of 5 seconds for the crowd to erupt into a huge moshpit.

Here is an incredibly important detail... somebody punched me in the right ear and sent most of my pint sideways over the guy next to me. If you're reading this, I am sorry. Turns out it was a guy much bigger than me opening up the mosh pit who punched me when my back was turned. Niiiiiiice. I'm only mad over the loss of my pint though.

Nursing a sore ear and shuffling to the side of the pit I turn to see the crowd is rowdy and loving every moment of it. There's a significant amount of genre-bending going on, with frontman Griffin bouncing and rapping his way through the set list.

I am defeated by the mosh pit and shuffle to the back of the room, with the most metal of all drinks – a bottle of water! Taking a step back to observe the band, I am able to see a tangible passion for the music they are playing. It’s always exciting to see young bands going from strength to strength, and SHVPES have come a long way in recent years.

Stand out tracks of the night both come from latest album ‘Greater Than’ in the form of ‘Afterlife’ (which I picked up on in my last review as well) and ‘Calloused Hands’ which closed their set.

I stuck around after the set had finished for a quick selfie with Griffin, and another bottle of water. I am incredibly metal. I manage to have a quick chat with bassist Grant on my way down the stairs into the pub, and tell him how impressed I have been with SHVPES every time I have seen them. Maybe I come across a little fangirl-like and giddy, but it’s hard to suppress when you recognise such an excellent force in music. Unfortunately, that tends to lead to me babbling like an idiot, but Grant was ever the gentleman.

Last year in my review from Of Mice and Men, I’d said I had hoped SHVPES would go on to do some excellent things this year. Shortly after our review was published the band announced that they are going to be playing several major festivals in the USA this summer alongside some of the biggest names in rock and metal. With any luck, their time in America will help propel them to new heights in their career.

Downstairs the pub is full of local characters and sweaty gig goers, the bar a buzz with chatter and the Smiths blasting out on the speakers. It’s hard to put in words why I love the venue so much. I can’t even try, so I skate out into the bitter night for the last train.

Until next time Manchester…

Words by Sarah Cummings
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki