Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Review: Superfood say farewell with emotional London show

Birmingham’s own indie boys, Superfood, play a smashing sold out show farewell to London’s Scala on 22nd April

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‘Farewell show announcement tomorrow x’, came the Instagram caption from Birmingham indie royalty, Superfood on 7th March. Despite a very quiet year after the release of their second album, Bambino, the news still came as a shock to fans, who, if they were expecting any kind of announcement, would have bet on it being about album number 3. Alas, as they explained on Instagram, ‘the cogs of Superfood have slowed down and it’s time to go away and get clear heads before we can give you something we’re truly happy with’. So, it may not be forever, but they had decided to say farewell for now, and announced ‘what could potentially be our last show for a long time’ at London’s Scala for Monday 22nd April.

Superfood seem to be the last of Birmingham’s era of indie-boy wonderbands, once happily joined by Peace, Jaws and Swim Deep, all of which have slowed down in production or quality (or both) in recent years. Once the glimmering hope of Birmingham’s music scene, especially because they have got better and better over the years, Superfood’s parting is especially hard for those of us who were drawn to this city because of bands like them. Moving here in 2014, I just caught the end of the lovingly nicknamed ‘btown’ era of the city, a hay day of indie bops and inappropriately heavy moshpits for the music that was actually being played. It was lovingly pretentious, in its own way, with swathes of unwashed twenty-somethings taking the stage, playing twangly guitars to swathes of unwashed late-teens and students. There are bands that still fill this gap, of course. But they are not Birmingham’s, they are not ours. And that’s why making the pilgrimage to go and see Superfood in their last hurrah was so important for me, my friends, and many other people who feel connected to this era – it’s a part of admitting that we’re growing up.

At no point was this more obvious than when the show kicked off with the glorious Bambino opener, ‘Where’s The Bass Amp’. Standing on the lower level of Scala, we were immediately propelled into the aforementioned mad moshes that Superfood gigs always produce. This should have been expected, being my fifth (and final, whelp) time seeing them. The way fans react to their music is just so wonderfully off-kilter, the relatively chill beats and wavy vocals in no way created for headbanging and pit-creating. But this has always been the case with Superfood gigs, and it’s a fantastic testament to their energy and the hold they have over fans. We, however, did have to retreat to Scala’s upper-levels, not quite as willing to endure the bruises and hair-pulls as we may have been 4 years ago.

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‘We’re gunna play lots of old songs tonight!’ Dom shouts to the crowd after ‘Where’s The Bass Amp’ and fellow early Bambino track ‘Unstoppable’. They then launch into a selection of tracks from first album Don’t Say That, ‘You Can Believe’, ‘TV’ and ‘Like a Daisy’, which, if possible, provoked and even more intense response from the crowd. These are absolute anthems of many of our late teenage lives and singing and dancing along to them was an unmitigated joy. Evidently, crowd control were not feeling the love in quite the same way, as security guards desperately tried to control the mosh with stern looks and a bright flashlight. Thus the constant battle between security and crowd began, and continued for the whole gig, Dom and Ryan at a loss for what to do. At one point, they ask security ‘can you at least turn the flashlight off’, attempting to salvage the fun that the crowd is having. This was met with a chant of ‘turn it off! Turn it off!’ from the crowd. Of course, security must do their jobs and we must respect them for it, but it did put a slight damper on the whole affair. It was possible to get out of the mosh – I am living proof! And Scala allows for lots of different types of partying, the lower ground for the mosh, with ascending levels for those who still want to be close but prefer a little more space and less bruising.

It was obvious that the Superfood boys were getting frustrated with security, but with a casual ‘well I guess we’re just gunna carry on fucking playing,’ from Dom, they continued with tracks from first EP MAM, ‘Bubbles’ and ‘Houses on the Plain’. Though these are a trip down memory lane, they really didn’t go off quite as well with the crowd as tracks from the albums. This is a testament to how much the duo have grown musically throughout the Superfood era. They flit between albums, with the early EP tracks followed by Bambino’s ‘Raindance’ and ‘Need A Little Spider’. The irresistible call and answer of ‘waiting / waiting’ in ‘Raindance’ and the chorus of ‘Need A Little Spider’, arguably one of Bambino’s best moments, has the crowd screaming at the ceiling.

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‘Right On Satellite’ is always one of the duo’s most anticipated tracks live, and they always draw it out, playing an acoustic rendition for most of the song, pulling the crowd along with them until they are aching for the drums to kick in. The teasing is almost cruel, and you can see parts of the crowd starting to jump too early in sheer anticipation. It is, without a doubt, one of their best tracks, and the drop is worth waiting for with the crowd screaming and jumping like they haven’t jumped all night (and that’s saying something) when it finally comes.

‘We’re gunna do something crazy now,’ Dom says, ‘we literally decided to play this track yesterday, and we haven’t played it the whole time that Bambino has been out… This is Mood Bomb’. Part of Superfood’s appeal is that they’re so rough and ready. There’s not slick transitions from song to song and their last minute choice to play an absolute classic is testament to their flexibility. There are no gimmicks – just them, their instruments, and their raw energy. Despite two successful albums, they’re still playing tiny, intimate gigs, they still have true love for their fans. They seem wonderfully thankful to have been on this journey, as Dom says ‘thank you so much for coming out tonight, I don’t know what to say apart from that I love this guy’, indicating Ryan. They share a hug before launching into ‘Double Dutch’ and ‘I Can’t See’.

‘Double Dutch’, the sample heavy, moody, hip-hop inspired first single from Bambino was the start of a new era for the band, and now we’re seeing it end and it feels way too soon. After an emotional singalong to ‘I Can’t See’ they leave, and then immediately return, of course. After playing ‘Natural Supersoul’, Dom stops. ‘I feel like I need to say something poignant now,’ he says. ‘Thank you for all the good times we’ve had so far. We’ve gotta be good to each other and love each other. So, for the last time in quite a while, we’ve been fucking Superfood, this is a song called Superfood’.

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Both Don’t Say That and Bambino are truly fantastic albums, the latter being a particular creative high point for the duo, who proved that they weren’t just an average indie band with two guitars and a drum kit. Hopefully they will carry this creative energy onto their new projects, whatever they may be. It’s exciting, but it’s also melancholy, to see a band that so much epitomised a certain time in your life moving on to other things. ‘You’re always hungry,’ the crowd sings along to the last song of the set. And we will always be hungry for more Superfood. But I suppose we all must move and change, and Superfood’s bops will always be there to welcome us home.

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Holly Carter

Music lover, beanie wearer and vegetable enthusiast.