I’d never seen upstairs at The Bodega as packed as just before indie-rockers Sports Team graced its intimate stage for a sold out show on the second night of their UK headline tour. But that’s not to say the crowd were all there purely for them; the first support, Chappaqua Wrestling, were greeted by a decent amount of people who came down early- some clearly straight from work- and rewarded us with a mellow set of seemingly effortless indie.
Next up were Walt Disco, who instantly proved why it’s always worth turning up for the support acts- by the time they were 2 songs in, I’d decided that I’d definitely pay to see them again as headliners of their own tour. Their glam rock aesthetic and synthy 80s-style tracks are reminiscent of the likes of New Order and Bowie, but when delivered by a lead singer with one hell of a stage presence and propelled by the manic energy of the rest of the band, they sound modern and completely different to any other guitar music at the moment.
After a brief hiatus, the noise increase and gradual swelling of the crowd hinted Sports Team were due on. The lights went down, the room fell silent- and out of the speaker system came the dulcet tones of Robbie Williams belting out “Let Me Entertain You” as the band strolled onstage. Not the most conventional walk-out song to say the least, but the crowd loved it. The six-piece from Cambridge released their debut EP ‘Winter Nets’ in January 2018, and since then have established a firm fanbase off the back of their live shows. It’s easy to see why; their intense, slightly chaotic performance of “Beverly Rose” immediately inspired a mosh which didn’t let up for the duration of the set, to the point I was vaguely concerned about how much the floor was bouncing. Luckily, it held firm and instead of falling through into the bar below, the crowd continued to move as Sports Team launched straight into their next track and newest single, “M5”.
As a song about a motorway in south-west England, “M5” does well to set their dryly humorous take on life in middle-class England to an irresistibly catchy chorus which the audience took up with great enthusiasm. Embodying this strange contradiction is multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Ben Mac, who spends each and every live show staring into space, completely deadpan, while chaos ensues around him. For another fan favourite, “Kutcher” (yep, a homage to Ashton Kutcher), frontman Alex Rice hauled himself up to sit on the speaker and had a quick chat with us; what was really endearing was how genuinely delighted (and a bit baffled) the whole band seemed at the fact so many people knew- and loved- their music. Jumping back down off the speaker for the closing song, Rice leaned into the crowd, teasing us with the possibility of a crowd surf before suddenly jerking back to put all his remaining energy into “Stanton”.
It’s thanks to this manic, slightly disordered performance that comparisons have been drawn with Shame and Fat White Family, and deservedly so - admittedly the set was only 30/40 minutes, but they kept the fast pace and audience engaged throughout. Much to the disappointment of the crowd, the encore was non-existent, although the band made up for it by chatting down in the beloved Bodega smoking area afterwards. I first became aware of Sports Team through seeing them as a support act at Rescue Rooms, but after last night there can be no doubt that they know how to handle the spotlight themselves.
Photo credit: Lauren Maccabee