Blood. Sweat. Tears. Ok, so the blood was down to inappropriate footwear and the tears were mostly a reaction to all the sweat in my eyes, but still.
For those in the know, Counterfeit are the new(ish) kids on the block tearing the European rock scene a new one. For those not in the know, they’re still tearing new ones across the continent, so go check em out on one of their remaining dates.
I’ve been a fan for a couple of years, seeing the band through some lineup shuffles and a rebirth from The Darling Buds to Counterfeit. So I decided to go with the whole package- the VIP experience. For an extra couple of quid the band will do your laundry, homework and drive you home after the show (disclaimer: this might not be 100% true). But no, I got to enter the venue an hour or so early, meet the band (selfies and signings) and then roam the venue aimlessly waiting for the bar to open.
First up were Monarks, a British four-piece who had, as first support, the toughest job of the night. Electric Ballroom are notorious for having early stage times with early curfews, I guess because the place doubles up as a club even on gig nights, so no crowd is likely to be 9pm enthusiastic (or 9pm drunk) at 7. Monarks smashed it though, setting the tone for the whole night and converting hundreds of people to their particular brand of good ‘n’ heavy rock ‘n’ roll. (I wanted to get a picture for this article but I was stuck behind some very tall people).
Next came Bellevue Days. This is the kind of band really cool, edgy people listen to, so you should listen to them if you want to sound cool and edgy as you stand in a bar in Soho and talk about all the best new music on the scene. They kind of made me feel like I was at a Dave Matthews Band arena show- probably because they’re destined to be playing arenas in the not-too-distant future. They’ve balanced the serious stuff with the ‘we’re real people too’ stuff, with anecdotally clever songs like ‘Ripped Jeans’ that make you smile when they start off but have you kinda singing along by the end.
I squeezed my way a little further into the crowd as Bellevue Days left the stage, feeling the crowd tighten and thicken in anticipation for the main event. Counterfeit are loud and brash and very in-your-face, so I wasn’t expecting them to take to the stage quietly. The stage was bathed in purple light as Prince’s Purple Rain was played prior to the band’s taking the stage. It was a touching, fitting tribute, felt and experienced in a powerful way by everyone present.
It’s rare I go to a gig and don’t document the details for writing-up later. I can’t help it, the aspiring music journalist in my HAS TO DO IT. So it’s a real testament to Counterfeit’s performance that i have but two blurry pictures and vague memories of my favourite songs being played. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited two days to do the write-up, either, but my ears have only just stopped ringing.
Jamie Campbell Bower is a name you may have heard already, he’s done some acting and stuff, but don’t hold it against him- he is one of the most energetic and charismatic front-men I have ever seen. Unafraid to jump into the crowd with reckless abandon, ambitiously climbing railings to rally the crowd into a tumultuous frenzy- he is a hazardous ball of pure energy.
A key moment, and one I’m sure will remain in the minds of everyone present, was the performance of Letter to the Lost. Jamie came down into the crowd, guitar and all, and after the mad crush of hysterical fans desperate to get a closer look at their idol, they settled down, forming a loose circle around him, whilst he explained the meaning behind the song. After losing a close friend to suicide, he wrote Letter to the Lost, and began volunteering for CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, which aims to help prevent male suicide. The emotion of the song was tangible, in the raw vocals and gritty guitar somewhere between a ballad and a lament.
Counterfeit ripped through their most-loved hits, Come Get Some, Hold Fire and Family Suicide- reminding the crowd of their criminally short EP (hint, hint). But we were also treated to some ‘Live-Only’ exclusives; Addiction, For the Thrill Of It and the catchily named ‘Untitled'(side note: you may think that’s a work in progress but these guys don’t play by the rules, so we may be stuck with it). They exited the stage to screams, pleas, maybe even some threats, and it was clear they couldn’t wait the mandatory 5 minutes or so before regaling us with an encore. Launching back onto the stage long enough to grab a mic on his way through, frontman Jamie leaped into the crowd to deal the killing-blow to the crowd in the form of their latest single, and show closer, ‘Enough’.
This is a gig that will go down, in the minds of many, as the moment Counterfeit really made us pay attention. There were moshpits, circle pits, crowd-surfing and a lot of jumping. I entered the crowd feeling nervous and excited- excited to see Counterfeit live and nervous that they couldn’t live up to their hype. I left baptised into a new family- drenched in the sweat of the strangers around me, (normal) and missing both my shoes (not normal).
TL;DR- Counterfeit is more than a band- it’s an experience, and you can’t really ‘review’ it in terms of setlists and ticket sales. You gotta get yourself down to a show, and judging by the reception in London, they’ll HAVE to be back out on the road pretty soon.