FONTAINES D.C. Prove They are Going to be ‘Big’ at Stylus, 22/11/19

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It’s always interesting to see how a band with relatively little material will tour. FONTAINES D.C,, with only one album under their belt – Mercury prize-nominated 2019 banger Dogrel, which isn’t a massively long album in its own right – offer a short, sour, spectacular concert experience.

Stylus is packed to burst. The Dublin lads cut in abruptly with ‘Hurricane Laughter’. Behind swirling guitars there’s evidently some mixing issues; but the band teeth it through in time for gig-goers to funnel down the Stylus stairs into an already packed pit, soundtracked by lead, Grian, disinterestedly telling us about his lack of available connection. It’s blistering.

There’s no gimmicks, stage design, or theatrics here tonight. Only a steady supply of smoke, some low lights, and the lads garbed in charity shop sweatshirts and bedhead. That isn’t to say there isn’t energy. A Leeds United scarf is tossed on-stage; the boys proudly parade it around, to much cheer, before tying it to a mic stand.

Around the halfway point, only some twenty-fiveish minutes in, ‘The Lotts’ takes a sombre tone, and the crowd catches its breath. Grian’s voice is somehow both bored stupid and carrying boatloads of emotion, and the audience clearly adore it. It’s smiles and moves all round here; and notably, the first safe opportunity to take photos, as suddenly up come a sea of phones.

FONTAINES’ stage presence and performance stands apart from the majority of their punk contemporaries – like IDLES or Shame – with such a minimalist, restrained approach and attitude. The only time the band speak – at all – during the hour is just before the final performance; the punters are told there will be no encore, and it has incredible effect. With the cutting drums of ‘Big’ beginning, the pit holds no energy back, and the room celebrates the final two minutes; “My childhood was small,” Grian spits; “But I’m gonna be big.” Judging from the success of Dogrel, and the number of sold-out dates – here, Europe, and the US – FONTAINES D.C might just come to be.

Photography by Tom Weatherilt