“Two pints destroyer on the cobbled floors
No amount of whatever is gonna chirp the chip up
It’s ‘The Final Countdown’ by fucking Journey
I woke up with shit in my sock outside the Polish off-license”
It’s fair to say that the Nottingham-born duo consisting of vocalist Jason Williamson and producer Andrew Fearn tell it like it is. Renowned for their brutal, minimalist depictions of austerity-era Britain, the pair’s musical growling falls in the realm between UK hip-hop, lo-fi and spoken word poetry – taking elements of Wu-Tang, Joy Division and John Cooper Clarke to create a melting pot of angst and English working class frustration. With nine studio albums under their belt, spanning almost 10 years, the unique look of Fearn’s hapless pressing pause and play on a laptop, perpetually with a beer in hand as Fearn girates, spitting vile lyrics demonising the English political hierarchy harks back to the punk era and resonates with the Mods’ dedicated fan base. Named after a small town outside of Grantham, and with the neo-poetry spoken in the same dialect, it was an interesting sight to witness a Dutch venue packed out with loyal fans – but this in turn just solidified the chokehold Sleaford Mods have over an older demographic in a seemingly un-saturated music scene.
Opening the night was Mark Wynn, who’s hilarious set of frolicking around the stage, playing any music he could find on his beat up windows PC and constantly taking the piss out of not just himself – but members of the crowd as well – really warmed the punters inside the Melkweg up effectively. Constantly getting topless, re-shirted, taking off his belt, shaking his hips, sitting down to browse the internet under full stage lights and ending with a song entitled ‘She Fancies Me That One In Age Concern’ – his fusion of spoken word and gritty guitar instrumentals, coupled humour and provided an engaging watch.
With no entrance or introduction, Sleaford Mods casually waltzed onstage – Williamson with his chest puffed out, glancing around the crowd in a manner that in any bar situation would look like he was picking the biggest lad to fight. By his side Fearn, opening his laptop screen and pressing play – sporting the same tracksuit bottoms he’d probably donned for the plane journey over to Holland. With nothing but the full stage lights up, the duo created a ruckus – the average over 30’s crowd got stuck right in, with sing along lines such as “We’re going down like BHS/while the able bodied vultures monitor and pick at us”. Coupled with the odd dog bark from Williamson, the occasional ‘fuck off’ yelled back at the pair, and the veins visibly pulsalting from the front mans’ neck – it’s fair to say it was a master class in being a front man, a textbook performance.
The front of the crowd got hectic during the latest single ‘TCR’, with bodies dropping left right and centre – and most of the materia that followed was also from the most recent release entitled ‘English Tapas’. Stand-out tunes from the live performance consisted of ‘Cuddly’ – with its almost half-time, minimalist dubstep instrumental, triplet kick-drums and accompaniment of Williamson’s screaming “It’ll happen suddenly/you ain’t that fucking cuddly”. Also ‘I Can Tell’, an apocalyptic view of age, ignited the crowd. “Everything, is pulled apart and pushed, is pulled apart and bust” screamed the front man to the appreciative nod of Fearn in the background as the crowd in front of him scrambled over each other, either pushing the next sweaty individual out of the way or aiming to regain footing.
There’s something encapsulating about Sleaford Mods – and it’s fair to say to gain that crowd reaction, in a foreign country, with such sparse production, basic lighting and lyrical poetry is an impressive feat. The music is as relatable as it is fresh and interesting, and the cocky, ‘don’t give a fuck attitude’ is exactly what attracts people towards the Mods. It’s protest music – and it’s delivered in the rawest possible form through it’s minimal production and delivery in a rough east-midlands accent. After 10 years of business, it’s fair to say that The Sleaford Mods’ stance on ‘austerity-led Britain’ has never been more relevant than it is right now.