Live Review

La Dispute, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

As the band weave delicate, shoegazey melodies around poems of depression, mental health and social collapse, the misplaced crowd surfers keep coming.

A Saturday as sunny as this seems wholly inappropriate for a La Dispute show, their post-hardcore tales of darkness starkly contrasting with the tanned faces and wide grins of each member of the room. As the band plough straight into new material with ‘HUDSONVILLE MI 1956’ and ‘First Reactions After Falling Through The Ice’, it soon becomes apparent that this juxtaposition is going to define the night.

Inevitably, it is the older material which elicits the biggest response – particularly that of 2011’s ‘Wildlife’ – and the crowd reaction to ‘St Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues’ is fittingly more akin to a religious sermon than the grunge of the back alley on which Clwb Ifor Bach resides. Beyond that, though, the audience just don’t seem to ‘get it’. As the band weave delicate, shoegazey melodies around poems of depression, mental health and social collapse, the misplaced crowd surfers keep coming – a remnant of the hardcore influences La Dispute have always alluded to, but never emulated themselves. Even the solemn dedication of ‘a Letter’ to “anyone who suffers from a mental illness” receives an inappropriate cheer from the crowd.

Jordan Dreyer is a tempest, the frontman deftly flitting between the mid-song, frenzied persona of the tortured artist and the shy, awkward character that addresses the crowd. “I need to learn how to spin an equal amount of times in each direction,” he smiles, after a particularly vigorous rendition of ‘I See Everything’ renders his microphone wire a tangled mess. The band themselves perform with all the spontaneity and passion one would expect of a group whose reputation for catharsis precedes them, it just seems such a shame that this naturalness is lost on a crowd who seem to prefer imitating their favourite YouTube gig videos (or, of course, filming their own).

After a momentary fumble as their attempts at leaving the stage “to look cool” are thwarted by a lack of space, a trope as well trodden and predictable as an encore sadly ends the night entirely at odds with the artistic ethos of La Dispute. Nevertheless, the band return with ‘King Park’ – a tale of a child’s accidental death that is even less befitting to the seas of crowd surfers it is greeted with. A band whose poetry is somewhat lost on their throng exits the stage ostensibly satisfied, but spiritually struggling with their own reputation for on-stage madness.

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