Sports Team / Wet Leg, Brixton Academy, 25th November 2021
The phrase "sports team" induces an automatic shudder for me. I am instantly whirled back to standing, waiting to be one of the last to be chosen for a sports team at school. Any sports team. The actual sport had little bearing. I was basically useless at all of them. More importantly, I also did not give a jot, too busy daydreaming about the latest band I had discovered or Star Wars. In hindsight, I can see why they didn't pick me. But the phrase instills a sense of dread...
Sports Team the band however are rather splendid. Hailing from London, having formed whilst most of them were at Cambridge University, they have a few EPs and one album under their belt so far. The latter, Deep Down Happy, was released to acclaim back in 2020, securing a Mercury Prize nomination.
Their songs celebrate the mundanities of middle England, referencing Aldershot Municipal Gardens, Margate, Ubers, carveries, pretentious students who go to Goldsmiths and dye their fringes....oh, and also Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Obviously.
The tunes are fast, furious and embrace their middle class status with aplomb - why deny the undeniable? Far better than middle class graduates claiming to be struggling artists...(hello Radiohead). Their single Fishing caught my attention, its shouty chorus is a riot of fun.
They are preceded by Wet Leg, who I missed supporting Inhaler. This time, we get the full set - repetitive but insanely catchy vignettes from the Isle of Wight duo, riding a current wave of acclaim and interest.
Chaise Longue and Wet Dream, their two singles to date, are the standouts, but there's more here, sadly let down by terrible sound, the peril of the support band. Can't wait to see them headline in 2022.
Blasts of 90s indie fill the gap between acts - Oasis's Don't Look Back In Anger is belted out by an audience who were largely not born when it was released. More 90s Britpop is screamed along to, the fans young yet strangely dressed as 80s casuals - Sergio Tacchini tops are awash, while other hipsters wear their woollen hats like Badly Drawn Boy meets the Flumps. One arse in front of us lights a fag, as if his man-bun hadn't already convinced us he was a twat. Brixton Academy security arrive at speed and he is dispensed, his twattery replaced by a compliant meekness - so much for youth and rebellion. Sadly, his man-bun is still intact as he is kicked out.
Arriving on stage like Jamiroquai meets a pro-Trump Capitol Hill rioter/Proud Boy, with quite the most ridiculous hat I have ever seen, Alex Rice is a born frontman. No racism here, he is ironic, or just dressed madly. No Trumpism despite the similarity. He's soon stripping down to leather trousers and a sleeveless top that's part deckchair seat, part Compo from Last of The Summer Wine's pullover. It's a strong look.
The songs come thick and fast, less punky than I expected, but catchy as hell, with Alex pausing only to thank their crowd for their support and shout outs to people who helped them on their journey to their biggest headline gig. It's sweet. I like him.
Like Brett Anderson a couple of weeks ago, he has studied hard from the book of Rock Star moves. Crawling the stage like Iggy Pop, surfing the crowd with abandon and weirdly at one point, prancing across the stage like a skipping Mick Jagger - his only misstep, as he looked more like Freddie Starr's Jagger impersonation (I am really showing my age here).
Don't get me wrong, that's just a tease, he is a great frontman, backed by a tight as fuck group. The audience are totally enthralled, clambering on each other's shoulders at his command and everyone seems to know every word of every song. There is even a surprise belt out of The Wannadies' You And Me Song, which is greeted rapturously, but the set is focused on their debut album, Deep Down Happy.
The Races sounds like Bon Jovi as played by Wire - quite spectacular. Songs are accompanied by cannons blasting confetti, jets of dry ice and a huge light show.
Standouts are the aforementioned Fishing, Here's The Thing and Kutcher - for the latter, Alex is up on the speakers, perusing his audience with glee as he sings "I just wanted to be your mid-noughties MTV star“. Definitely will see them again, they have so much energy, but they will need to find another gear - however, they are talented, funny, adoring of their fans and really put on a show. Young Guns having some fun. Perfect.