Manchester's Pink Room doesn't know what's hit it as Militarie Gun come out like they have a point to prove
California’s Militarie Gun formed as a studio project during lockdown, and their scrappy punk was all the more intense for it – like an animal charging at its cage. When they were finally let loose on the hardcore punk underground, they made it count, turning into one of the genre’s most exciting touring bands. This year they released their debut full-length album, Life Under The Gun. Here, their sound got bigger and more polished, proving that their incendiary punk energy was matched only by their anthemic pop sensibilities. It was possibly the year’s best rock album.
The band’s packed-out headline show at YES’s Pink Room is their fourth time in Manchester, but their first headlining (two were appearances at the massive hardcore gathering Outbreak Fest, and one was in support of fellow melodic hardcore scene-leaders Fiddlehead). When they arrive on stage, the five of them packed in pretty snugly, frontman Ian Shelton is instantly demanding energy from the crowd – whether instructing them to bounce, or encouraging them to get up and stage-dive. Shelton’s doing his part up there, clearly pouring his all into the performance; he jumps around like a madman, screws up his face as he barks his vocals, gets completely sweat-drenched by about ten minutes in. The band’s sound may not be strictly hardcore, but they carry the genre’s essence with them in their pursuit of communal, physical catharsis.
When you combine that drive with MG’s knack for a poppy hook, it makes for an excellent live experience. The highlights of the set are the catchiest numbers – ‘Pressure Cooker’, ‘Return Policy’ and the transcendent set closer ‘Do It Faster’, which is accompanied by an exuberant stream of stage-divers. It helps that a lot of their songs expertly rest on straight-to-the-point singalong slogans; “I’ve been feeling pretty down, so I get very high,” is the chorus of ‘Very High’, and it gets one of the biggest reactions of the night. Shelton’s trademark “Ooh-ooh!” grunt gets enthusiastic echoes throughout the set too.
Yet the dynamics are plenty varied, and the twists make for memorable moments too. ‘Disposable Plastic Trash’ ramps up the punk intensity, all tightly-wound paranoia with a wiry riff. The drumless ‘See You Around’, meanwhile, is the slow-down moment. “This is a vulnerable one, it’s hard to do live,” Shelton admits before it begins, and you can feel the passion as he belts out the choruses. ‘Never F*cked Up Once’ is one of the most anthemic moments, and it’s singularly emotive; the chorus, which calls out for empathy for others’ mistakes, is delivered almost as a plea. When the set finishes, Shelton remains on stage to hand out setlists and chat with the grinning moshers. Militarie Gun’s songs may sound ready for bigger stages, but tonight it’s clear that’s not the point.