At 7:30 I claimed a table up in the absolutely mandatory (if you're over 50) loft that overlooks the stage at The Truman. I watched as the crowd filled in. It was a mix of young diehard fans, the cool and staid, and the merely curious. I suspect I fit somewhere between the last two. I came as an earnest and hopeful fan interested in how the night might all play out.
Press releases tell me that opening act Faux Real are two bothers – Elliott and Virgile Arndt. Surely the publicist would have told me if they were twins, so I'll assume they're not, but they do look alike. Especially with the same shaven heads and the same white outfits from head to bare feet. And, after the third song, with bare chests too. It's just the two of them and a backing track, there's no artistic backdrop or stage props, and no big lighting cues to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Just two brothers on stage, performing dance moves that were no doubt first choreographed in a basement family room and then foisted on their parents after dinner. It's a little clunky. Somewhat disturbingly erotic. Each sings, and the duo often trades lines within songs. The backing tracks are synthpop. It's Bros. It's Erasure. It's 1989. During the set the band climbed over the barricade and into the audience. When they returned a fan was in tow. The fan humped the stage while the brothers draped across one another. After a bit, the interloper left the stage without help nor hindrance from the bouncers. The crowd was into it. Into the NSYNC-styled arm choreography, into the pop songs so infectious, into the energy and motion provided by the brothers, into the French they spoke between songs. And into the flute and saxophone that punctuated the night. When not in use, the flute was, of course, shoved down the front of Elliott's pants. Unreleased song "Walking Away from My Demons" was the energetic highlight until the duo once again crossed the barricade for its closer. During this mid-audience romp, the duo repeatedly ran at each other from forty paces out until they met in the center erupting in high kicks that would have spoiled Ralph Macchio's tournament. I was out of breath watching, but the duo remained in strong voice throughout its 30-minute opening set.
Headliner Wet Leg set the music industry on its ear the summer of 2021 with an infectious single called "Chaise Longue." The song ruled indie discos, the streaming services, the charts, and sent the band on a tour that hasn't stopped yet. It would be ten months before the band's first album would be released (debuting at #1 in the UK). For most of us outside of band's native Isle of Wight, the duo comprised of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers came out of nowhere. And that interests me. How odd is it for a band to tour the world and play festivals based on a single or two? Is it ready? What do audiences expect?
There's no need to draw the verdict out, Wet Leg were ready. The sometimes cloying and cute songs on the album roared on the stage realized by a gunning five-piece band. And the audience delighted in the rock show, jumping, dancing, singing, and shouting along. The band's short 55-minute set included eleven of the twelve songs from its debut album, with new track "Obvious" added to make the even dozen. Like many songs, "I Don't Wanna Go Out" traded some of its airy waft for a bigger rock sound, but the flourishes were there too. Specifically, the synthesizer lines in "Oh No" were divine, and the wiry guitar leads now found in "Piece of Shit" were revelatory.
Teasdale was a quiet frontperson, and I strained to hear the stories she told during two short breaks in the set. Her vocals made it to the audience though, and even if they hadn't, so many audience members were singing, the set would have gone on as scheduled. The audience was especially boisterous and on cue for the therapeutic scream during "Ur Mum" and, of course, for the "Excuse Me" / "What" call and response of finale "Chaise Longue."
Walking around the club, I saw a thousand smiling faces worn by the diehard fans on the floor, and up in the loft the band got a similar reception. The cool crowd were pleased to discover the little indie band with only one record could deliver a monster show, and the curious were shown that the duo has earned every bit of the praise that has come to it. As if often the case, the night didn't play out like I thought it might – instead it was exactly what it needed to be, and I walked home basking in that rush.