‘I’ve heard Nottingham has nice shoes. Do you have nice shoes? I want you to use them.’ Midway through Crystal Palace duo JOHN’s ferocious Bodega headline set and the first inclination of crowd movement rises to the parapet. Taking the mundane spirt of their name as a chosen manifesto, the post-punk two-piece, consisting of John Newton (vocals, drums) and John Healey (guitar) have received notable support from the likes of BBC Radio 6 in the past couple of years which goes a long way in explaining the diversity of the crowd packed into the iconic Nottingham venue.
JOHN, also known as JOHN (timestwo), offer a relentless live dynamic that has made them a cult force on the live circuit, support slots for the likes of IDLES, Pulled Apart By Horses and Metz bolstering their following show-by-show. The duo’s debut record God Speed In The National Limit, released towards the end of 2017, bears testament to their hardened yet direct approach, whilst 2018’s sophomore record Out Here on the Fringes offers an idiosyncratic view of the mundane aspects of everyday life.
Stopping off in Nottingham for the second leg of their eleve-date UK headline tour, JOHN’s set offered a glorious punk-inspired maelstrom of noise that made listeners feel as if they had been hit be a freight train at 1000 miles an hour. Stepping out to play Squad Vowels, the intent and intensity of the rhythmic synchronisation of the dual-pronged wedge of drums and guitar took its hold on the audience.
"A roaring single with steely vocals and a chugging guitar riff, [Future Thinker] acts as a refreshing solution to an ever-predictable industry."
An unremitting demeanour washed over the face of John Newton as he introduced a string of tracks from the band’s second album. Standard Hauntings, Future Thinker, Out Here on the Fringes and Western Wilds conjured a wall of sound to match Newton’s introspective lyrics, spat with fervour at the bristling crowd. Future Thinker has slowly transitioned into a vitriolic anthem for the band, a roaring single with steely vocals and a chugging guitar riff that acts as a refreshing solution to an ever-predictable industry.
The stamina of the duo was commendable, with Healey bouncing around the stage at every possible moment whilst Newton battered the crash cymbal with the same relentless intensity as going twelve rounds with a heavyweight boxer. Yet there was a bittersweet dichotomy between audience and crowd throughout the gig. The hell that was unleashed onstage by the band failed to spark a similar passion within the crowd, who at best, transitioned from placid swaying to speedy head-bopping.
"The duo take no prisoners, and do not offer the chance for second guessing."
For a band like JOHN, their sound demands active listening and participation. The duo take no prisoners, and do not offer the chance for second guessing. It is pure, unadulterated volume and reverb, the drenching wash of noise emanating around the venue and filling any gap of silence, almost compensating for the emptiness of the stage.
As the band launched into a selection of tracks from debut record God Speed In The National Limit, Newton recognised the momentous occasion of the night, thanking fans for turning up. JOHN’s last show in the city was at tiny venue JT Soar, and to fill a prestigious venue such as The Bodega filled the singer’s face with pride.
Towards the latter half of the show, Newton’s guttural vocals, which at times transitioned into more of a death growl, swiped vicious incisions into the audience. An assembly of eclectic sorts which had flooded the venue, lapped up the likes of High Digger and 2015 early offering Dust from their second EP Validation. Silver streaks of middle age men merged with fresh faces only just discovering the vitriolic genre that has bolstered JOHN’s status in recent months, and in similar vein to the genre’s biggest hitters, the duo took the time to recognise the importance of independent venues as well as promoting the Safe Gigs for Women campaign.
There are few certainties in life, especially in the fragile post-EU society Britain finds itself in today. But given the rapturous applause following the conclusion of set closer Solid State, one thing is clear: it is a great time to be a post-punk band, and it is a better time to make noise without consequence.