Arriving at Manchester’s O2 Apollo in the back of that Uber was a mix of excitement and nerves as either tonight would be one of the greatest gigs to be witnessed or a night filled with a lacklustre performance, overpriced drinks, boredom, regret and the taste of another man’s sweat in your mouth. 

Getting out of the Uber outside the prestigious venue, we joined the back of an empty queue in the pouring, drizzly rain, then I soon felt the nerves dissipate and the excitement course through my body like a beer I would soon be drinking. After being frisked at the door and presented our tickets, we were corralled into the foyer with all the other hungry Yard Act fans, like a pack of wild punk dogs, we all immediately forced our way through to the bar, as a collective, you could see our jaws drop and wallets run away in unison as pints cost nearly eight pounds each, but still, that was not enough to put off buying the sweet nectar of the night. After financing a few pints, we made our way through to the spacious stalls. We managed to be only a few lines off the front from the stage because people were keeping their distance from each other like they were still following COVID-19 guidelines. 

First on the bill, at 7.15 p.m., was a small solo musician called Hang Linton who came out in a white mesh tank top, this slash-style top hat and did a short thirty-minute energetic set, filled with homemade beats, light distorted guitar work, lots of energy and points barking and howling like a dog… trying to get the crowd involved with a dog themed call and response but backfired and just weirded all of us out.  The songs had strange topics such as being a shop owner and shouting that everything was on “SALE!!!”, then the aforementioned dog barking was to do with another song “Mad Dogs”, which he wrote for his kid’s obsession with them. He was a great opening act for that evening because he greatly warmed up me and the crowd with his, sometimes strange, call and responses getting us engaged, the high-octane energy he brought, the groovy, infectious homemade beats and his eccentric personality all bundled together perfectly and made it an enjoyable half an hour. Not personally what I’d choose to listen to, but he made the live performance entertaining and unforgettable. 

After fifteen short minutes, at 8 p.m., which was a perfect moment to grab another pint but unfortunately, many showgoers had the same thought and it was a race to get your hand to that bar first so you wouldn’t be trapped in a queue four deep. Then after that, the night’s second performance emerged on stage, Gustaf. A five-piece post-punk outfit from New York, consisting of 4 women and a man playing the guitar. The group played like clockwork and were so tight, perfected in New York’s club scene. I can tell you I hadn’t heard of the group before that day and by the next, I was a fan. The performance itself was phenomenal, the lead singer had such a large stage presence and a killer voice, the guitarist nailed those distorted bar chords and the drummer was so gifted and kept up with the fast pace like a cakewalk. The great and intriguing part of their show was the fifth member, who was playing all sorts of random objects and instruments, such as a kazoo, spoons, a wooden block, a whistle, and a triangle, to name a few. This completed their show for me because she added to the show uniquely, I can’t say I’ve heard another post-punk band do this. But didn’t steal the thunder of that lightning performance. They had such a punk sound and certainly on stage a punk presence, this worked for the crowd to get them to the right energy level just before the reason why everyone was there coming onto that stage in thirty long, sweaty, hot, claustrophobic minutes. It was incredible to see how many more thousands filtered into the arena during this performance, going from not being able to touch the next fan with your arm fully stretched out to not being able to move your arm without elbowing someone’s expensive drink out of their hands.   

Then at 9.15 p.m., the lights dimmed…a burst of orange eclipsed the stage and blinded me and the crowd, like the sun, then Yard Act emerged on stage in this orange haze like worshipped gods, hailed by the crowd. My nerves about whether this gig would be amazing, or shit was answered already. The band played such a tight and electric gig like they’d been locked in a room practising for a month, starting with the opening track off their new album, ‘An Illusion’, which set the tone for the night, such entrancing vibrancy from the band and especially James Smith who had the stage presence of a man four times bigger and had the energy of an early 80’s David Byrne running around the stage’s nooks and crannies, this presence and energy never dwindled as the performance progressed. The band played a mix of amazing tracks from ‘Where’s My Utopia?’, ‘The Overload’ and their first release the ‘Dark Days’ EP, seemingly changing albums after each track like them playing ‘We Make Hits’, ‘Pour Another’ then ‘Fizzy Fish’. During the great rendition of ‘Fizzy Fish’ James started throwing fizzy fish sweets at the crowd, everyone wanted to be the chosen one who catches the sweets thrown. The eighth song they played was unique to that gig because the band got a fan from the crowd to come up on stage and spin a wheel of what song to play next, pumping us up and getting everyone to shout the song they wanted to hear the most, eventually landing on ‘Fixer Upper’ from the EP, and it got the whole crowd singing along like a fifth member of the band, this was such a highlight of the show and especially for the lucky fan chosen to be up there with the band. After this the mega performance didn’t stop, continuing to play from a mix of albums, playing more hits and crowd favourites like ‘Dream Job’ and ‘The Overload’, getting the fans involved and chanting and mosh pitting, ending the gig on such a high the band left the stage… causing us all to shout “encore!!” and like Déjà vu they came back on stage and as a huge fan I really couldn’t have asked for a better encore set. First really hyped the crowd up with one of my favourite songs, “100 % Endurance” and I sang every word of it at the top of my lungs. Then to sum up and end the performance of a lifetime the band played ‘The Trench Coat Museum’ and the whole band started going wild on stage, especially the backup singers who just let their bodies groove and vibe however they felt, like an affliction. Gustaf and Hang Linton joined them on stage again and went mental, they even pulled a member of the crowd on stage who started dancing like Bez and all of us went crazy for it, moshing and bouncing with the little room they had. All in all, the song probably lasted ten minutes but felt like two. 

One of the best live shows I’ve ever been to and so worth the measly thirty pounds per ticket. My original nervousness about whether they were going to be good was answered in full, they were one of the most entrancing, tight, electric bands touring and a worthwhile night for any post-punk fans out there. It made me feel like it was the only thing happening in the world during those few hours. I even had to get myself a T-shirt to commemorate this night and think just how amazing it was whenever I wear it. Next time Yard Act go on tour again I will be one of the first to buy tickets, no matter what.