By Tom McGlynn
Punk, in particular D.I.Y and hardcore, is not a genre currently blossoming in Leeds. With the rise of pop punk in the area in recent years as a result of Slam Dunk Music, the city has been somewhat deprived of the modern artists adding a heavy twist to the roots of punk and the more intimate, critically acclaimed, and if we're being brutally honest, professional genres that initially sprouted up after those roots. Overseas in the states, musicians such as Jamie Lenman would potentially be reeling in crowds at much bigger venues than The Key Club, as we've seen with his effective counterparts in the likes of Jeff Rosenstock and PUP, but the younger audience that the Leeds alternative scene hosts today prevents this small venue from even selling out.
This isn't a problem for Jamie Lenman, it would seem.
Last Friday was, arguably, the heaviest gig that The Key Club has hosted since its late 2014 opening. Lenman emerged onto the stage just before 9 o' clock on Friday night, powering straight into brand new single Waterloo Teeth, which would probably make my prior comment regarding the night's heaviness a bit of a joke if he wasn't to charge straight into Fizzy Blood, one of the most crushingly powerful tunes the 34-year-old multi-instrumentalist has to his name.
It's not the reckless heaviness or the fact that drummer Dan Kavanagh actually ended up covered in his own blood from literally going too hard that made this night stand out as a particularly mad one, however. Before Jamie Lenman went solo he was the frontman of Reuben, a huge punk outfit that lid the foundations for Jamie's dedicated fan base and present day success. After powering through the first heavy section of the night, Lenman sees right to treat the crowd to some Reuben classics - Blitzkrieg, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, Best Enemies and finally finishing on Cities On Fire. Bringing old fans closer to the new, Reuben's easy to pick up, anthem-like choruses resonating out over The Key Club was really something to behold.
Between banter, heavy tunes, pits and thrown alcoholic beverages, there's also a more emotional element to Lenman's set on Friday. In 2013, Jamie Lenman released an incredibly intelligent album called Muscle Memory. It was an album split directly down the middle - one half was blisteringly heavy, the other tame, melodic and emotional. Several tracks were also played from the latter, creating a deeply atmospheric feels-fest among fans that have been by Lenman's side since he first started playing with Reuben. As the beautiful waves of I Ain't Your Boy, It's Hard to Be a Gentleman and Shotgun House filled the air, the 250-odd crowd were united as a singular being, echoing Jamie's every word as he prepared for the night's final two movements - The Six Fingered Hand, and Reuben classic Cities on Fire.
If you know Jamie Lenman, you know just how infamous The Six Fingered Hand is. The crowd knew what was coming, and Lenman knew exactly what to expect as a huge beaming grin began to form across his face. What came next was exactly 3 minutes and 27 seconds of limbs thrashing about everywhere you looked, intense, rough sound and the single greatest breakdown in hardcore punk. Check it out.
All in all, not only was this the single heaviest gig hosted by The Key Club since its opening date, it was also one of the most special. To have a gentleman as accomplished and critically acclaimed as Jamie Lenman in one of the most intimate, community-fueled venues in the area is really something so many people missed out on.