There is no better stage for Yak than the likes of The Polar Bear: a claustrophobic space, where you’re just as likely to be stifled by sweat and swilled pints as you are the trio’s particular brand of scuzzy garage-rock. A little party never killed nobody, as they say, but there came a point where frontman Oli Burslem’s hedonistic lifestyle threatened to drive Yak into a comedown of no return. Thus began the year-long hangover as Oli, in the confines of his van that became his permanent home, curated the album that would be the band’s ultimate salvation, ‘Pursuit of Momentary Happiness’. It was the record that would see them tour venues from the famous to the unlikely.
With a megaphone wrangled to his microphone stand casting a red glow onto his lips, Oli warms the crowd up with a voice that sounds like a guzzling fly, droning over neurotic instrumentals. The pink baseball cap he wears isn’t meant for long, as the band plunge in. The cynical lullaby which shares the same name as their second album sees him tear it off during a bombastic crescendo, waving it with a showman’s instinct, ending in a tender, drawling sentiment: “It would be easier if nobody felt a thing / no love no loss nothing / if nobody felt any pain / but that just isn’t living.”
The crowd is whipped up into a storm as Yak head full-force into their most electrifying circuit of songs. ‘White Male Carnivore’ has its teethed primed for ripping into the jugular as Oli dives into the crowd. Yak feed off the energy of the pit - their lock-ins with the crowd as heady as those between guitars and drums. Sweat-drenched and feral, confined in this tight space, one punter tears off his t-shirt, lassoing it and leaping up and down to ‘Blinded By The Lies’.
Oli leaps off the stage and spies an opportunity: he starts rattling off tunes on The Polar Bear’s old piano, the audience swarming with captivation. “What you got / is what you make it!”, they chant, their arms around each other, swaying in unison. The crowd, with every self-made circle pit, never relent for a moment - and neither do Yak. The energy of the show is an effort of two.
“You’ve gotta leave when the audience wants more,” Oli croons. He’s quite right if the cry of, “Get back on your fucking drum kit!” is anything to go by. Yak leave us with the feeling all great bands do: dizzy, and grinning stupidly, because for one show, our own pursuit of momentary happiness had come to an end.
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