Written by: Heather McAleavy
Tickets for their show in London HERE.
It’s been three years since Tennessee emos Free Throw first graced a UK stage, but tonight marked their debut appearance in Manchester. Having just recently supported Trophy Eyes – currently one of the biggest names in pop punk – expectations were high.
Accompanying them across the pond were indie rock quartet Dryjacket from New Jersey. The minor vibe of the setlist gave the assumption that the whole set would be performed with a low mood, however the band’s attitude was a complete contrast, as well as infectious. When performing, their chilled vibe worked wonders as the crowd were at ease throughout even the gloomiest tracks such as ‘Epi Pen Pals’ and ‘Spelling Era’. Although, between songs when the dreaded ‘crowd interaction time’ came, their awkward conversation diminished any kind of bond that the last song formed. Despite consisting of the most raw lyrics in Dryjacket’s sad, abstract catalogue, closing track ‘Bill Gates’ Ringtone’ was the most upbeat part of the set. Featuring big choruses and gang vocals from the audience, they ended on a definite high.
Free Throw’s entrance was, quite frankly, a rollercoaster. Opening with slow acoustic track ‘Open Window’, the anticipation in seemed to drain from the room and it felt rather anticlimactic as just the sound of vocalist/guitarist Cory Castro could be heard. However, when the second half of the song kicked in it felt like a completely different band and the crowd immediately got on board. What others may see as a risky move, this was just Free Throw’s way of showing their extremities from the start. From that moment on the crowd were transfixed and went along with every mood, pace, and beat the four-piece had to offer. From huge chants accompanied by the audience in ‘Tongue Tied’ and ‘Hope Spot’, to slow, dark numbers such as ‘Such Luck’, both parties seemed perfectly in synch. Castro’s interaction with them came with such ease, it felt almost personal due to the intimacy of the venue and the stage being barely a few feet high. At times he and fellow vocalist Jake Hughes were drowned out by the audience’s (very loud) energy, implying just how long many had been waiting for this tour. “This one’s about getting drunk – aren’t they all though?” pretty much sums up Free Throw’s entire ethic as they burst into pop punk banger ‘Randy, I Am The Liquor’, at the crowd’s immediate delight. When the set came to a close, they were begged for an encore, to which explosive and emotional punk track ‘Two Beers In’ was repeated. Castro handing the mic stand out to crowd for the majority of the song allowed the whole band to take a minute to appreciate their fans’ enthusiasm as their words were screamed back at them.
Tonight was a reminder of why gigs of this genre are the most fun and easy-going, as well as confirming: the more intimate, the better.