Review: Waterparks – KOKO, 04/03/2018
Fresh from finishing their biggest UK headline tour to date, Dead! were the heaviest band on this line-up and they took advantage of that fact from the word go.
Kicking off their set with The Boys The Boys – a song reminiscent of Kids In Glass Houses’ Animals – their energetic live performance flooded their new material with a vibrancy which is sadly missing from the recorded versions. Frontman Alex Mountford pushed his signature showmanship to the next level, swaggering around the stage, striving to outperform himself from song to song.
The moshing began during Enough Enough Enough and refused to pause for the entirety of their set, the attendees embracing their heavier sound as they crowd surfed near constantly (and rather dangerously, starting before security were in place on the other side of the barrier and forcing the photographers in the pit to put down their cameras and help them out).
However, songs like Skin and The Golden Age of Not Even Trying don’t lend themselves easily to such explosive crowd participation, causing a disconnect between the way the fans were behaving and the sound of the songs themselves. Did Dead! encourage them to let themselves loose, or were they going to do it no matter who was on stage?
Things did get a little too rock ‘n’ roll during closer You’re So Cheap, with guitarist Sam Matlock leaping up onto a speaker to perform a solo… and unplugging his guitar. It was an awkward moment that vastly dampened the impact of the closing track, but you live and learn. Shout out to their guitar tech, who raced onto the stage and resolved the problem within a matter of seconds, allowing Matlock a few seconds to shine in the spotlight.
Petrol & Anaesthetic still sounds exactly like My Chemical Romance’s Planetary (GO!), a comparison made all the more obvious in a live setting, but Dead! don’t have the same pull as the legendary emo-rockers yet. Yet. That’s the important distinction to make. Dead! are on to something, and they are going to be huge one day, but they’re taking their time getting there. It’s going to be a while before they can headline KOKO themselves.
The Boys The Boys
Enough Enough Enough
Petrol and Anaesthetic
Up For Ransom
The Golden Age of Not Even Trying
You’re So Cheap
Although Dead! had such an explosive crowd response, the night belonged to Patent Pending, who – no offence to Waterparks – really should have been headlining this shindig. The most experienced band on the bill (formed an entire decade before the headline act!), the New York punks certainly know how to work a crowd. From the moment hyperactive frontman Joe Ragosta bounds onto the stage, your eyes are glued to him, and it’s impossible to drag them away for even a moment.
Bursting onto the stage with I Already Know (She Don’t Give a Shit About Me), Patent Pending’s focus on the fun factor was instantly apparent. Ragosta danced to the front of the stage, encouraging the crowd to get excited for Waterparks set, shouting “When I say Otto, you say ohhhhhhh!” and instantly causing a round of girlish giggles (most of which came from his band mates!). The song closed before one crowd surfer could make it across the barrier and Ragosta paused for a moment, allowing the girl to scream with joy before quipping, “Give it up for people who crowd surf with no music! She is so fucking stoked!”.
If you’re looking for a band who know how to interact with and amp up a crowd, look no further than Patent Pending. Second song Anti-Everything was an explosive medley of memorable moments that startled, shocked and thoroughly entertained the crowd. From a coordinated dance to a cheeky kiss, you’d think things couldn’t get any more interesting… And then Ragosta directed the crowd to turn their eyes to the balcony at the back of the room, where their guitarist was casually riffing away. How did he get there? What the heck just happened? The audience was filled with puzzled yet utterly joyous faces, loving every moment of the quintet’s 45-minute stage time.
There was a brief reprieve from the endless excitement during Let Go, during which Ragosta introduced the drummer who was standing in for Anthony Mingoia: Gav Gateson from Boy Jumps Ship! With a few people in the audience shouting out requests, Ragosta used Gateson as an excuse to turn them down, joking, “the fill-in guy doesn’t know that one!”.
But things got even crazier during Psycho in Love, which Ragosta began by yelling, “Put your pirate hooks up!”. Demonstrating what he meant, he was happy to see a large amount of the crowd obeying him, but when he looked to the balcony he shook his head. “Balcony people. I know you’re only here because your kids are down here, but PUT YOUR PIRATE HOOKS UP!” he screamed, and – unsurprisingly – his energetic request was obeyed, every single person in the room holding a least one ‘pirate hook’ above their head.
That wasn’t all, though. Towards the end of the song, Ragosta paused to introduce the “crowd swimming championship”, splitting the crowd in half so that he and bassist Corey DeVincenzo could make their way to the back of the crowd and compete to see who could swim back to the stage fastest. DeVincenzo was lifted up instantly, but Ragosta had a bit of trouble, yelling, “Hey! This kid just called me a fuck!” while being elevated above the crowd.
Patent Pending’s crowd swimming championship
The night wouldn’t have been complete without a cheeky cover, and Ragosta introduced Cascada’s Everytime We Touch by quipping, “I wrote this song, that’s how I managed to buy my own house! This is what rich people look like!”.
Following it up with fan favourite Hey Mario, the bright and cheerful tune had the entire crowd off of their feet, bouncing up and down and waving their arms around. Who doesn’t love Mario? (Or a frontman who performs Mario jumps EVERY SINGLE TIME the little sound effect bleep is played?)
Patent Pending performing Hey Mario at KOKO
If you aren’t familiar with Patent Pending, please give them a go. They deserve much more attention than they get, and they should be headlining venues of this size both here and in the States. Next time they tour, don’t pass on the chance to see them: they’re bound to put on one of the most fun performances you’ll ever see.
I Already Know (She Don’t Give a Shit About Me)
Psycho In Love
Everytime We Touch cover
After selling out their entire headline tour last September, Waterparks didn’t hesitate before returning to the UK to promote second full-length album, Entertainment.
Despite it being a Sunday night (in the middle of a snowstorm which caused half of the country to completely shut down) KOKO was stuffed to bursting. The audience was filled with screaming fans, crowd surfers and moshers in equal measure: no small feat for a band who first set foot on our shores less than two years ago.
The blondes are done with fun
The focus was solidly on Entertainment, with the band almost performing the album in full (missing just one track, Rare). Despite the fact that their sophomore album had been released just over a month before, it would have been easy to assume that it had been out for much longer. Everyone at the show seemed to already know the lyrics to all of the tracks, shrieking them back to frontman Awsten Knight and often completely overpowering him.
The reaction to older track Crave was just as explosive, the crowd showing their appreciation for multiple phases of the band’s career, but it seems as though the Texan trio are taking a step away from their roots, fully embracing the development that has led them to their new sound.
And what an eclectic sound it is.
Blonde and Tantrum are both vitriolic, showing Knight roaring into the microphone and pushing his otherwise angelic voice to breaking point. They contrast sharply with Not Warriors and Sleep Alone (bouncy and upbeat, perfect to dance to) – and the wistful We Need To Talk – which Knight called “a song we have that makes me sad”.
A particular highlight was Lucky People, which Knight performed alone with his acoustic guitar. Their sound tech wrapped himself up in Christmas lights in a nod to the music video, while the crowd all got their phones out, waving their flashlights in the air and illuminating Knight as he seemed to struggle with the emotions that the song evoked.
Awsten Knight performing for the Lucky People of London
The reason that the band can get away with performing Entertainment in its (near) entirety is because it features a little dash of everything. Although the majority of the material they played came from that one album, the set still featured the rises and falls, peaks and troughs that come with a brilliantly crafted setlist pulling from decades worth of material.
This trio know what they’re doing. Their set wasn’t as fun as Patent Pending’s and their performance wasn’t as energetic as Dead!’s, but their carefully constructed setlist made up for both of those things. Despite being on stage for just under an hour they made the crowd feel every emotion: bubbling joy, uncontainable happiness, devastating despair. It was the definition of an emotional rollercoaster, and it made for an unforgettable evening.
Squeezing Crybaby into the encore was questionable – it’s subdued and repetitive, and Knight trying to convince the crowd to bounce along just didn’t work – but it was the only damp moment in an otherwise flawless night. Following it up with Tantrum emphasised the brutal, kick-in-the-teeth nature of the latter track, making a complementary yet confusing end to the show.
Waterparks are the next big thing, and that’s undeniable. Their trajectory has been explosive so far, but it’s certainly not slowing down. Knight shared that this show was their “biggest headliner in your entire continent, ever!”, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stay that way for long. They’ve leapt from selling out Camden Underworld to the heady heights of KOKO within six months, and their growth shows no signs of stopping. It’ll be very interesting to see where they land this time next year.
Take Her To The Moon
We Need To Talk
Stupid For You