On Wednesday night, Bedford-based band Don Broco brought their unmistakable and more boisterous than ever brand of post-hardcore, nu-metal and everything in between to the O2 Victoria Warehouse in one of the most chaotic and heavy gigs we’ve been to in a hot minute.
And it was glorious — glorious, glorious carnage.
Celebrating ‘The Birthday Party Tour’ and more than a decade together as a group, the British rockers have been around a while now but, in many ways, are only just getting the kind of credit die-hards feel they’ve deserved for a long time.
Their highly praised set at this year’s Reading Festival certainly helped put them on the map to a wider audience, not only giving some extra air time to their unique sound but shining a spotlight on the incredible energy behind their live performances. That being said, we weren’t quite prepared for this…
It had been roughly eight years since we saw Don Broco live around the time of their second album — and not even in 0161; having to travel to Stoke on a random rainy night after their Manchester show sold out in the blink of an eye thanks to already fast-growing cult following.
They were incredible back then but having done some of their very best stuff since then, we were eagerly awaiting to see what those tracks would feel like in the flesh and they didn’t disappoint. Not even a little bit.
To give you an idea of how hard these lads go, frontman Rob Damiani walked out onto the stage donning a neck brace as well as sunglasses usually reserved for skiing. While we initially thought it was nothing more than a gimmick from a four-piece who are always happy to lean into the funny side of their music, he quickly confirmed it was legit and that he’d literally headbanged himself into whiplash.
Nevertheless, it didn’t stop him from jumping around and bobbing his head as firmly as he could get away with whilst whipping the crowd up into a frenzy of circle pits, moshes and a predictably chaotic wall of death. This sort of stuff can turn plenty gig-goers of a certain disposition off, but not this lot.
Within seconds of walking out to fan favourite ‘Gumshield’, the tone of the night was established right from the off: people stomping their heads off, screaming their lungs out throwing their often middle-fingered limbs up in the air and thrashing the floor of Victoria Warehouse to bits.
We barely spent a single second not bouncing all over the place and immersing ourselves in one of the biggest, sweatiest and most ridiculous pits we’ve probably ever experienced. Ridiculous in every sense of the word, by the way.
From just as many people wearing genuine United shirts as there were Broco’s own p*ss-take merch of the kit in honour of ‘Manchester Super Reds No.1 Fan‘ — another much-loved and heavily sardonic track — to people dressed up as minions, Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders, there was as much to see in the audience as there was on stage.
The KFC and Maccies mascots even got a shoutout on stage and a rapturous round of applause as they crowd-surfed to the front for their five minutes of fame, with people chanting their names just as loud as any lyric on the night.
The set was mostly populated by other tracks off their most recent record Amazing Things (2021), but they still made room for throwbacks like ‘Fancy Dress’ and ‘Yeah Man’ off their debut album, Priorities; ‘You Wanna Know’ and ‘Superlove’ from their sophomore entry, as well as fair few from Technology.
Broco’s sound might have changed plenty over the course of their career but as Rob and co. rightly recognised in a heartfelt interlude before their next rager, their fan base hasn’t just stuck with them but actively encouraged their evolution and embraced every step towards a more bonkers and often intentionally humorous approach.
Be it the comedic music videos, outfits and antics on stage or having everyone do press-up pyramids back in the day, they’ve always been unapologetically themselves and their love of so many genres (including the heftier, harder stuff they drawn from more recently), along with Damiani’s ever-divisive vocals means that once you’ve heard them, you can spot one of their tracks within seconds.
But beyond that, it was the sheer effort both from them and the crowd that stood out to us. After non-stop pits and being swept from one corner of the room to another, everyone in the room was so knackered that plenty were tapping out by the last song. They left everything out there and it felt like we’d all climbed a mountain together.
Manchester! The Broco Arms will be taking over The Dockyard pub today from 3.30 (Media City M50 2EQ) 🍺🦖 50 exclusive Broco Arms tees available first come first serve, see you soon for a coupla pints 🍻 pic.twitter.com/43xa6a8Zko
People had been looking for lost phones and flicking the sweat from every inch of their bodies long before we reached the summit but despite being literally drained within an inch of their life and losing valuable possessions, there was nothing but laughter and smiles on everyone’s faces.
Now that’s the sign of a good gig.
Clearly emotional in bugging up the incredible support acts in Ocean Grove and Trash Boat and thanking the crowd, they informed their army of loyal subjects that they’d been going away for a while but that they’d be back with a new album and more appreciation an unquestionable truth: music is a powerful lifeblood that can see a light break through even your darkest days.
With that in mind, Don Broco signed off their first Manchester gig in ages in the most fitting way possible with what has become a post-pandemic tradition, as countless fans pulled off their tops and outer layers to swing them around for the mental health anthem that is ‘T-Shirt Song’.
It was one of the most magical moments we’ve had at a gig in a long time and one we’ll never forget. In case you were under any illusions that they’re still an up-and-coming rock outfit, you’re wrong: they’re absolute pros and fully serve to be packing out arenas across the world. Now time for a 10-year nap.
Hello Cosmos wow Stockport on a night where the venue shone just as bright as the music
We had the pleasure of going along to see Hello Cosmos play a special one-off show at none other than St Mary’s Church in Stockport town centre on Friday night, just the gig the building has ever seen and given how incredible an experience it was, we hope there’ll be many more.
Picture the scene: it’s a frosty Foodie Friday night in Stockport with people wearing beer jackets and sharing hot street food to keep warm as the tunes ring around the marketplace; then you spot some light off in the background and notice the windows of the old town centre church glowing.
Not only was that our signal to get a move on, finish our scran and head over to the intimate gig, but it was also a beacon of light for other punters to go and check out as they looked for any excuse to come in from the cold.
And that’s pretty much how it happened. Our three-man party was full of SK natives who wanted to see what it would be like to have a church we grew up with turned into a gig venue, so we were always on board, but plenty of other locals had the pleasure of simply stumbling upon tickets at the door.
We don’t think we’d be putting words in their mouths to say they will have been glad they did, as within a few seconds of walking into the oldest parish church in Stockport, we had never seen the already ornate and historical site look so stunning.
This wasn’t just a case of plonking some speakers and some drums near the altar like some half-arsed church fête, the roof, windows, pillars and various arches were all lit up by various multi-coloured projectors and strobes and it all felt pretty surreal.
If you’ve ever watched any kind of performance at Manchester Cathedral or a similar venue, you’ll know this kind of set-up is nothing new per se, but it did feel like something different for Stockport, especially when one of our party’s last memories was standing at the pulpit to read the Christmas story.
Then the music kicked off and we have to start by saying we were pretty impressed by the two support acts, Fondabath — fellow Stopfordians who were probably just as surprised to be in St Mary’s as we were — and Big Society, also local lads, both of which gave plenty of reason to go away and listen to more.
Then came the main event, Hello Cosmos, spearheaded by frontman and bass player Ben Robinson, who along with his jumpsuited bandmates wasted no time in transporting the crowd to what felt like a little pocket of space in some alternate reality.
Having had a few drinks and being given kaleidoscope glasses on arrival certainly helped, but it really was a truly audio-visual experience, from the various coloured jumpsuits and neon hula-hooping to the truly mesmerising light show that lit up the church throughout the set.
It all felt rather fittingly though when you take into account that Robinson is not just a musician but the founder of both Kendal Calling and bluedot Festival — I mean, even their sophomore album Golden Dirt has a glowing spaceman walking through a sea of sunflowers.
If you’ve never heard them before, think post-punk spoken word and almost Yard Act vibes, only if Christopher Ecclestone was on vocals instead. But their sound is truly sprawling, with ‘Fuse’ from their debut record giving the harder-hitting sounds and ‘Loud is Beautiful’ showing how they best intertwine electronics, keys and those oh-so-good horns from sax player Elara.
Be it jumping up and down in unison as the electric violinist played or Ben dropping to his knees to scream his head off, hopping off stage to walk around the crowd with a megaphone or releasing a sea of balloons from above for the big finish, this ‘Live at St Mary’s’ one-off special had a bit of everything.
It went from a little gig on a random winter evening in Stockport to an unforgettable one that SK-born gig-goers like us never thought we’d see in this particular borough of Greater Manchester whose culture and music scene are clearly thriving.
We really hope this is among the first of many — Hello Cosmos helped make it a success and we can seriously see the Live at St Mary’s series taking off if it continues to get the backing.